Recriminations continued today after a White House photo opportunity saw a low-flying plane skim New York’s skyline, provoking fears and memories of a 9/11 type attack.
The jet, which serves as Air Force One when the president is on board, spent half an hour circling the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s financial district yesterday morning, leading to concerned office workers evacuating buildings.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the stunt “insensitive”, while President Barack Obama was said to be “furious”.
The idea behind the photo opportunity was to capture the Boeing 747 with a historic landmark in the background, in this case the Statue of Liberty.
It was carried out by the Defence Department, but officials have been criticised for not giving enough notice to relevant authorities in New York.
The director of the White House military office, Louis Caldera, yesterday apologised for the ill-judged photo op.
He said: “Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision."
Mr Caldera continued: “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.
“I apologise and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
The flyover took place at about 10am on Monday morning. The Federal Aviation Administration had informed the New York Police Department of the plans to fly the jet at around 1,500 feet above lower Manhattan. But it said that the information should not be released to the public or the media.
As a result workers began to leave buildings at the time of the flight, concerned of a repeat of the September 11 attacks which destroyed the World Trade Centre in 2001, resulting in the loss of about 2,750 lives.
One of those kept out of the loop was Mr Bloomberg, who has since been heavily critical of the stunt.
Mr Bloomberg said: “Why the Defence Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Centre catastrophe defies the imagination.
“Poor judgment would be a nice way to phrase it. Had I known about it, I would have called them right away and asked them not to.”
It also appears Mr Obama was not told of the plans. A White House source has said the president was “furious” when he was informed of the flight.