A White House official apologized Monday after a low-flying Boeing 747 spotted above the Manhattan skyline frightened workers and residents into evacuating buildings.
The aircraft was a White House plane taking part in a classified, government-sanctioned photo shoot, the Federal Aviation Administration said. “Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision,” said Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office. “While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption.” Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle over the Upper New York Bay near the Statue of Liberty before flying up the Hudson River. It was accompanied by two F-16s. “I was here on 9/11,” said iReporter Tom Kruk, who spotted the plane as he was getting coffee Monday morning and snapped a photo. Kruk called the sight of the aircraft low in the sky “unsettling.” Watch the White House respond to questions about the scare » The incident outraged many New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “First thing is, I’m annoyed — furious is a better word — that I wasn’t told,” he said, calling the aviation administration’s decision to withhold details about the flight “ridiculous” and “poor judgment.” “Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center defies the imagination,” he said. “Had we known, I would have asked them not to.” Linda Garcia-Rose, a social worker who counsels post-traumatic stress disorder patients in an office just three blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, called the flight an “absolute travesty.” “There was no warning. It looked like the plane was about to come into us,” she said. “I’m a therapist, and I actually had a panic attack.”
iReport.com: Flyover was ‘unreal’
iReport.com: ‘I was furious’
iReport.com: Witness criticizes “stunt”
WABC: Video, photos of the flyover
Garcia-Rose, who works with nearly two dozen post-traumatic stress disorder patients ages 15 to 47, said she was inundated with phone calls from patients Monday morning. “They’re traumatized. They’re asking ‘How could this happen’ They’re nervous. Their anxiety levels are high,” she said. Garcia-Rose is considering filing a class-action suit against the government for sanctioning the plane’s unannounced flight. “I believe the government has done something really wrong,” she said. Capt. Anna Carpenter of Andrews Air Force Base said local law enforcement agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration had been given notice of the exercise. New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said the department had been alerted to the flight by the federal agency “with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it.” Sen. Chuck Schumer echoed the mayor’s sentiments in a separate news conference Monday afternoon, saying the Federal Aviation Administration should have notified the public to avoid panic.
“It is absolutely outrageous and appalling to think that the FAA would plan such a photo shoot and not warn the public, knowing full well New Yorkers still have the vivid memory of 9/11 sketched in their minds,” the New York Democrat said. Schumer said the FAA’s decision to not announce the fly-by “really borders on being either cruel or very very stupid.” Building evacuations also took place across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.