Low-Flying Planes Spur Panic In NYC

New Yorkers had quite a scare Monday morning. Workers in lower Manhattan looked out of their office windows to see a low-flying 747 followed by a fighter jet.

It turns out it was an Air Force photo-op featuring one of the planes used as Air Force One.

Even seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some New Yorkers still flinch whenever they see a low-flying plane.

So imagine how they felt when it appeared that the military was chasing a passenger jet down the Hudson River.

People in Jersey City, N.J., flooded 911 with calls. Workers at the New York Mercantile Exchange — near Ground Zero — ran out of their building. One worker says people gathered outside until a security officer told them it was a planned exercise.

The Federal Aviation Administration had given permission to the military to take pictures of a back-up version of Air Force One as it flew around the Statue of Liberty.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg couldn't believe it.

"Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo-op right around the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination," Bloomberg said. "Poor judgment would be a nice way to phrase it."

It turns out the FAA warned the New York Police Department last week, but told police to keep it quiet. No one told the public or the mayor.

"First, I was annoyed — furious is a better word — that I wasn't told about it," Bloomberg said. "It did have the normal language that this is sensitive information, should be distributed on a need-to-know basis, that they didn't want to have any publicity about it. Which I think is ridiculous and poor judgment."

All day long, no one in the military wanted to take responsibility for that judgment.

Even the Obama administration said it didn't know what was going on with the planes.

But late this afternoon, the director of the White House Military Office took responsibility.

Louis Caldera wrote in a release that he had approved the mission over New York.

He said it's clear that the flight created confusion and disruption, and he apologized to the people of New York and New Jersey.

On the positive side, the pictures probably turned out great. It was a beautiful blue-sky day in New York. Just like the weather on Sept. 11.

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