Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Err Force One

Lower Manhattan and low-flying jets: there's a history there, and not a good one. But in a decision oddly insensitive to the Sept. 11 attacks, a White House official approved an April 27 photo shoot that sent an Air Force One backup plane and two fighter jets low over the Statue of Liberty and downtown New York City. The result: panic and lots of people fleeing office buildings in Manhattan and northern New Jersey. The White House Military Office, which approved the $330,000 flyover, had alerted local authorities, the FAA and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office (though not the mayor himself), but a bureaucratic mix-up prevented the public from being notified as well. Scrambling to control the damage, Bloomberg and President Obama both expressed anger at being kept in the dark about the plan. Military Office director Louis Caldera immediately issued an apology, acknowledging that the flyover caused "confusion and disruption." Saying sorry wasn't enough to save his job, however; less than two weeks, later he was out the door.