Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wire: Investigation Not Over in Air Force One Fly-By


Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2009 -- Newswires reported today that the Pentagon and Air Force are reviewing whether officials may be to blame for a $328,835 photo-op of a 747 jumbo jet used by the president soaring above New York City that has already forced the White House military director to step down.

The Associated Press reported that former Army Secretary Louis Caldera, the White House official who authorized the flyover, resigned Friday as the Obama administration tried to move past the embarrassing incident that sent panicked workers running into the streets amid flashbacks of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

AP noted that the White House released the findings of an internal review that portrayed Caldera as out of the loop in a cycle of missed messages and questionable judgments as plans for the photo shoot proceeded.

AP said, however, the White House investigation is hardly the end of the matter.

AP noted the following details:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a review at the Pentagon; the Air Force is conducting its own review as well.

In a May 5 letter to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Gates apologized for the incident, saying "we deeply regret the anxiety and alarm that resulted from this mission."

McCain posted the letter on his Web site Friday.

"I am concerned that this highly public and visible mission did not include an appropriate review and approval by senior Air Force and (Defense Department) officials," Gates wrote.

{. . .]

According to the findings released Friday, Caldera said he didn't know the jet — known as Air Force One when the president is aboard — would fly at 1,000 feet during the April 27 photo session. He also failed to read an e-mail message describing the operation and seemed unaware of the potential for public fear, the findings said.

Local officials had been notified in advance. But it was a shock to New Yorkers who looked up to see the Boeing 747 and its fighter jet escort flying near the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan's financial district, a terrifying reminder of the terrorist attacks in which jets brought down the two towers of the World Trade Center.
According to officials, the flight came in as low as 1000 feet to 150 feet above the city as it made a large circle over Manhattan, Staten Island, and New Jersey.

The photo-op cost $35,000 in fuel alone for the plane and two jet fighter escorts. The Air Force estimated the photo shoot cost taxpayers $328,835.

The purpose of the flight was to update the official photo of the president's jet.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Aide resigns over NYC flyover; probe continues
White House Official Caldera Resigns Over Air Force One Photo Fiasco

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