Air Force One Flyover Frightens New Yorkers

An aircraft that would have been “Air Force One” except that President Obama wasn’t on board staged an ill-fated photo op in New York City yesterday morning.

It was supposed to be a photo opportunity, a showcase of Air Force One alongside the sweep of New York City skyline. But as the low-flying Boeing 747 speeded in the shadows of skyscrapers, trailed by two fighter jets, the sight instead awakened barely dormant fears of a terrorist attack, causing a momentary panic that sent workers pouring out of buildings on both sides of the Hudson River.

“I thought there was some kind of an attack,” said Paul Nadler, who sprinted down more than 20 flights of stairs after watching the plane from his office in Jersey City shortly after 10 a.m. “We ran like hell.”

In fact, the blue and white plane with “The United States of America” emblazoned on its side was one of two regularly used by the president. It was soaring above Lower Manhattan, Staten Island and Jersey City so government photographers could take pictures near the Statue of Liberty for publicity purposes.

Aides to President Obama, who was not on board, said he was incensed when he learned of the event Monday afternoon. The White House later issued a formal apology.

Witnesses described the engine roar as the planes swooped by office towers close enough to rattle the windows and prompt evacuations at scores of buildings. Some sobbed as they made their way to the street.

Methinks Obama needs some better PR people, stat.   And New Yorkers need to lighten up a bit; it’s been more than seven years.*

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*To be clear: I don’t begrudge momentary alarm at seeing a plane where it isn’t supposed to be.  But breaking down sobbing is a decided overreaction.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Whatever else might be said of these events, the reaction of the people of NY/NJ clearly shows that unlike the Obama administration, they remember that 9/11 happened.

  2. Bithead says:

    And, look, haven’t these people who wanted this photo-op ever heard of photoshop?

  3. odograph says:

    FWIW, Louis Caldera, the guy who apparently made the bad call, has a pretty good history of service.

    He made a bad call, but I expect it to be over-frothed on the right. It becomes another example of empty attack, from a party without answers to our real problems.

  4. andrewkfromaz says:

    This strikes me as the worst idea ever. No one wants to see images of Air Force One flying in close to NYC anyway!

    The jab about NYers needing to lighten up is uncalled for, on the other hand. The trauma that these people experienced on 9/11 should not be underestimated.

  5. KVC says:

    Doesn’t everyone know the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are just memories of “days gone by” and the fly-by photo-op should have been over the Rio Grande River.

  6. Bystander says:

    They had better be careful flying AF1 so near the Statue of Liberty – I see the New York Times has a political cartoon of Ms Liberty brandishing a torture lash of some sort.

  7. dms says:

    My brother is a survivor of tower 1 of the WTC. It’s hard to “lighten up” when you wake up from nightmares of buildings falling on yourself, your friends and your family. Even after 7 years…

    I wonder if we should tell vets with PTSD to “lighten up”? The Vietnam war was over 30+ years ago.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Wasn’t Obama angry over the AIG bonuses he knew were coming? Funny how Obama gets angry when the very stupid things he does do not get perceived the way he would like. No wonder he quit as a community organizer. Bet money Obama does not take responsiblity for this. I would have thought he would have more backbone, if only to hold up his somewhat oversized head and ears. Not to mention his ego.

  9. Brandon says:

    How much did we pay for this photo shoot? It’s not like we’re in a recession or have trillions in debt hanging around our necks. And what do we need to publicize? “Hey look everyone, We’re America!”

  10. Joe R. says:

    It becomes another example of empty attack, from a party without answers to our real problems.

    Funny; if you substitute “gesture” for “attack”, that’s what I was thinking about the photo op.

  11. But breaking down sobbing is a decided overreaction.

    Or PTSD.

    Consider how traumatizing 9/11 was for those of us hundreds of miles away and then consider what it must have been like for the people who were actually running for their lives instead of watching it on TV.

  12. Michael says:

    An aircraft that would have been “Air Force One” except that President Obama wasn’t on board

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t that describe any USAF plane?

    And, look, haven’t these people who wanted this photo-op ever heard of photoshop?

    I’m with you here. They could have gotten much nicer images if they’d just posted a “photoshop this” thread on Fark.

  13. James Joyner says:

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t that describe any USAF plane?

    As a technical matter, yes. But there are two luxury planes specifically outfitted for regular presidential use and this was one of them.

  14. just me says:

    How much did we pay for this photo shoot?

    And this would be my burning question. Why in the world do you spend money on a photo op that is completely an totally uneccessary and pointless, when our economy is in the tank and our deficits are going lower?

    It also speaks to the fact that those in the administration may have gotten beyond 9/11 and moved on, but the people of NYC haven’t. This was about as sensitive as an hour of Jerry Springer.

  15. Drew says:

    Hey Louie!! Where the fx is Air Force One?

    I don’t know, I thought you had it. You don’t have it??

    No, I don’t got it. Well, who who signed it out?

    I dunno. I mean, Obama’s sayin’ they heard about this flyover thing when everybody else did.

    What?

    Yeah, they didn’t no nuthin’ about it.

    Well, I didn’t just sign it out to some gypsies com’n through.

    Really?

    No, they was legit.

    So who was they? I mean, no one in the Administration knows shixt about this. Obama, Press Secy, Napolito or whatever the b’s name is. No one says they knows nuthin’. Maybe some Calderey guy or sumthin’ picked it up??

    Listen, Louie. You an me gotta stick together on this thing, see? Those suits are gonna pin this shixt on us……

  16. Matt says:

    I’m with you here. They could have gotten much nicer images if they’d just posted a “photoshop this” thread on Fark.

    That was my first thought too..

  17. odograph says:

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t that describe any USAF plane?

    As a technical matter, yes. But there are two luxury planes specifically outfitted for regular presidential use and this was one of them.

    One of the PBS shows did an inside look at a Presidential trip aboard airforce one. I remember a room full of uniforms in planning sessions.

    You almost make it sound James like ol’ Joe Biden dusts off his pilot’s license and throws a white scarf around his neck.