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Air Force One Backup Rattles New York Nerves - NY Times

Sub_Guy

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Jammer said:
Why would this not be passed in newspaper adverts somewhat in the same manner the we do before a range goes live close to population concentrations.

It's not the Air Force's problem, if they notified the FAA and the Mayor, then the problem should be with the Mayor.  He is the one who failed to notify his peeps people of the flight.

Damn that VC-25 paint job, couldn't they make it more unique so people won't get it confused with a commercial jet.
 

rampage800

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Hey, speaking of sarcasm

Thanks for the info about the financial woes of of the USAF and your insight about the CoC for the Presidential Air Wing.

Either way, it doesn't really matter to me, just pointing out the obvious.
 
A

aesop081

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Jammer said:
Seriously though, why would they use a VC-25 for a low level photo run just for PR reasons,

If you want pictures of a VC-25 flying over notable sites in NYC, do you use a KC-10 ?
 

tomahawk6

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This is standrad procedure for Obama to claim he was in the dark when controversy errupts. The White House directly controls the use of the 747's that may be required to take him at short notice somehwere. There is a schedule that is kept. The aircraft most likely was involved getting footage for a future campaign spot. I guess they havent heard of photo shop in the White House.
 

a_majoor

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The Administrations explanation unravels (what a surprise). Why was the plane over NYC? Rides for campaign contributors? Make a news item to deflect attention away from real issues like nationalizing GM and the Banking industry, or the fact the Administration was caught by surprisse by the Mexican Swine Flu outbreak? Other purposes?

http://www.joeydevilla.com/2009/04/28/chris-taylor-on-the-air-force-one-fly-by/

Chris Taylor on the Air Force One Fly-By
by Joey deVilla on April 28, 2009

Photo by istolethetv, found via Chris Taylor.

I am only a casual military buff, and my interest is largely in military aircraft. When it comes to dropping serious military science, my neighbour Chris Taylor is the the go-to guy, and his blog, Taylor & Company, is chock full of good bits about the topic. His most recent blog post may have the best title about the  recent Air Force One incident: A 380,000 pound, 4-engine airliner will be zipping around the Statue of Liberty at 1500 feet, but you have to keep it a secret.

Damn, that’s funny.

Chris also left a great comment to my earlier post about the incident. I thought it was worthy of elevating to a full-on article, so I’ve included it below:

The White House, FAA and Air Force need to be a little more forthcoming.

First of all the FAA didn’t issue a NOTAM for ZNY ARTCC, which would have told any interested civil pilots., whose route might take them nearby, that a 747 variant would be zooming around the Statue of Liberty at 1500 feet. Sometimes presidential flights have their NOTAMs released at the last minute (or in secret cases, not at all). A picture shoot should not rate the same level of secrecy as an actual president-is-aboard flight.

Second, F-16s as a still camera platform? It’s doable, but not when you are trying to maintain formation with a manoeuvring flight lead. The F-16 is a single-seater, after all. They would have to have specifically sent up a two-seat trainer, which would put the combat cameraman in the back.

Which leads to the third problem. Most of the footage we have seen involves the F-16 flying echelon right (or in trail), with the VC-25 as lead. That means most of your pics are going to be from three-quarters behind, which don’t make for the best airplane glamour shots. Especially when your camera guy is in the back and most of his forward perspective is obscured by the guy flying the fighter. Typically you would want a side profile or oblique view from the front (compare existing VC-25 shots here). The F-16 should have been out in front (leading the VC-25) most of the time, or his shots are going to suck.

When civilians do this stuff, say for airline commercials (where you see the 747 roll into a hard turn, and peel off to the left like a fighter jet) they hire a larger, more stable—but still very nimble—camera platform, like a Gulfstream business jet, have it fly in formation with the airliner—typically ahead of it—run through it a half-dozen times, taking the shots they need, and then go home. A NOTAM would be published, that part of the airspace would get closed for a specified period of time, ATC would keep other air traffic well away from it.

Now, since the Statue of Liberty is already part of an existing TFR area, the airspace is already closed. But publishing an additional NOTAM, plus allowing the local authorities (who did know, but were instructed not to publicise it) to get the word out, could have avoided this whole mess.

As for the other points… there’s no doubt good and entirely ordinary explanations for them, but keeping it all under wraps makes the whole thing look much worse than it actually was.

After reading it, I began to wonder why they didn’t do the opposite of keeping it a secret: why not make a big announcement about it and treat it as a mini-air show?

If the response to the air show we have at the Canadian National Exhibition here in Toronto is any indication, it would be a big hit. People, especially in the States, love air shows. If it were me, I’d see if I could get a team like the Blue Angels (they’re Navy – who’s the Air Force equivalent?) to fly in formation behind the big bird.

In fact, a pre-announced Air Force One air show might even garner an extra PR boost from the additional “viral marketing” that would come from people posting their Air Force One photos taken from New York’s many good vantage points on their Facebooks and on Flickr. It’s the sort of social media thing for which the Air Force has shown a considerable amount of savvy.

and

http://lawhawk.blogspot.com/2009/04/following-up-on-air-force-one-nyc-flyby.html

Following Up On Air Force One NYC Flyby

New York area newspapers are having a field day with the headlines. The Daily News headlines: Plane Stupid. The Post has Scare Force One.



Mayor Mike Bloomberg was pissed off that the public wasn't notified of the flyby. He said that the NYPD was informed, but was told not to inform the public. The White House has apologized, with the mea culpa coming from the White House Military Liason

The FAA said that only those who needed to know should be alerted to the flyby, which was being done to update file photos of Air Force One near US landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty. The lack of notification sent panicked office workers scurrying for the exits on both sides of the Hudson River as the VC-25, a military version of the Boeing 747, which serves as Air Force One when the President is on board, flew at rooftop levels and swept around New York Harbor to get the photos with a F-16 fighter aircraft trailing.

An F.A.A. memo last week said information about the exercise “should only be shared with persons with a need to know” and “shall not be released to the public or the media.”

The breakdown of communication went deeper. Mr. Bloomberg said he first learned of the exercise when his BlackBerry started buzzing with messages from people asking if he knew what was going on.

“First thing is, I’m annoyed — furious is a better word — that I wasn’t told,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo-op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination,” he said. “Had I known about it, I would have called them right away and asked them not to. It is the federal government, and they can do in the end what they please, but I would have tried to stop it.”

He said that the Police Department and an official in his administration — he did not say who — had not advised him of the exercise.

White House and City Hall officials later said the notice had gone to the director of the city’s event coordination and management office, which handles permits for events like block parties, street fairs and parades. The director, Marc Mugnos, was formally reprimanded for failing to notify his superiors, said a senior city official, who was given anonymity because this was a personnel matter.

As the uproar reached Washington, dozens of officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the Department of Transportation rushed to find out who had authorized the flyover.

The White House did not issue a statement, or a formal apology, for more than six hours. At first, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, dismissed questions, saying: “You might be surprised to know I don’t know of every movement of Air Force One or what happens to it.”

Later, aides told reporters that President Obama was furious about the flyover when it was brought to his attention. The White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, conveyed the president’s anger in a meeting with the director of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera, who issued the apology.

“Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision,” Mr. Caldera said. “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 apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
It should be noted that New York City did send out two notifications about 20 minutes later via the NotifyNYC email system:
10:36 am - MON, April 27, 2009
Planes over Lower Manhattan
Planes observed flying over Lower Manhattan were part of an approved federal activity.

10:21 am - MON, April 27, 2009
Notify NYC - Notification
Notification 1 issued (04/27/09), (10:20 a.m.)

Planes observed flying over Lower Manhattan were part of a planned Federal aerial activity.
Those notifications should have come much earlier, and would have been far better if they were supplemented with local radio and television reports indicating that Air Force One would be in the region for the photo ops.

Newsday reports that the photo op was done in conjunction with a training mission to save money, but what was so pressing that the file photos needed to be updated in any event given that the Statue of Liberty and Air Force One remain unchanged since the current fleet of VC-25s has been in service since 1990. Let's hope that the Administration doesn't screw up future photo ops in a similar fashion.

UPDATE:
Felony stupidity and crass insensitivity, is how Fran Townshend, who served in the Bush White House described the flyby. She's not alone in describing the flyby in less-than-glowing terms.

Even President Obama has had to agree that it was a mistake. He has apologized for the error in judgment.
"It was a mistake," he said in response to a reporter's question. "It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again."

He did not respond to a question about whether the White House staffer who organized the flyover should keep his job.
Obama is once again failing to take responsibility for actions done in the name of the Administration. The buck always stops with someone other than him.

UPDATE:
Do we need more apologies, or just heads on a platter? The FAA apparently knew that such a flyby would cause a panic and the FAA threatened sanctions against anyone who leaked details of the flyby?
In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.

What are your feelings on federal officials demanding the NYC flyover be kept secret by the NYPD and the mayor's office?

"To say that it should not be made public knowing that it might scare people it's just confounding," Sen. Charles Schumer said. "It's what gives Washington and government a bad name. It's sheer stupidity."

The flyover -- apparently ordered by the White House Office of Military Affairs so it would have souvenir photos of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty in the background -- had President Obama seeing red. He ordered a probe and apologized.

"It was a mistake. It will never happen again," President Obama said.

The NYPD was so upset about the demand for secrecy that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly vowed never to follow such a directive again and he accused the feds of inciting fears of a 9/11 replay.

"Did it show any insensitivity to the psychic wounds New York City has after 9/11? Absolutely. No questions about it. It was quite insensitive."
These kinds of decisions get the green light from high level officials in the White House. That means that Obama is ultimately responsible for these actions. By the same token, Ray Kelly is out of line for saying he would never follow such a directive again. There could be good reasons not to inform the public of certain kinds of flight activities, but ultimately this puts government in a real bad light that they would not trust the public to know that the White House and the US Air Force were conducting a flyby of Air Force One over national landmarks like the Statue of Liberty.

UPDATE:
Instapundit notes that there are still loose ends, including who exactly was on board the plane and who ordered the flight. I wouldn't be taking the White House word on this, as they're all too likely to evolve their response.

If, as some are suggesting, campaign contributors were on board, the public has a right to know. If the White House wont say, perhaps someone will be intrepid enough to seek out the logs at Andrews Air Force Base where the VC-25s are maintained and based.

UPDATE:
There are reports that the cost for the flight was $328,825. That might be the cost to the taxpayers, but it was hardly the only cost. There was lost productivity at those businesses affected by evacuations in Jersey City and Lower Manhattan, along with the police response and 911 calls that came in throughout the region.

Still, what was so damned important that this flight was kept secret from everyone in the region.

It's not like we haven't had Air Force One come overhead here before.

Joey Devilla, meanwhile, quotes Chris Taylor who seems to have come across a very curious line of questions - why was a F-16 chosen as the platform from which to take the photos, given that the F-16 is normally a single seat aircraft - there is a two-seat trainer version, but the plane doesn't appear to be that version. More to the point, the F-16 was repeatedly shown trailing the VC-25, meaning that they wouldn't be getting the most prominent view of the plane.

They wouldn't be getting optimal versions of Air Force One flying near the very landmark they were trying to supposedly photograph.

Joey explicitly comes out and says what I've been musing on now since the incident; if they wanted the photos, why not make it a mini-air show and attract a huge audience. They definitely would have gotten one, without nearly the amount of grief.

Something stinks rotten here.

 

a_majoor

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PJTV on the flyover:

http://www.pjtv.com/video/PJTV_Daily/Issue_of_the_Day%3A_How_PJTV_Could_Have_Saved_Taxpayers_%24357%2C000_in_the_White_House|AF-1_Kerfuffle/1844/
 

a_majoor

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The true reason?:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2009/05/air-force-1-flight-over-nyc-cant.html

Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Air Force 1 flight over NYC can't possibly have been made for the purpose of taking that photograph.

Perhaps others are already saying this, and I'm just pointing out the obvious. But here goes.

The official story is: Botched photo op, now fully compensated for by the resignation of Louis Caldera (the director of the White House Military Office):

Caldera submitted his resignation yesterday and to no surprise, it was promptly accepted. The White House wants the memory of this fiasco to fade — and fast....

The White House review of the incident shows that Caldera was informed of the mission but missed numerous chances to stop it from happening, failed to alert senior White House officials about it, nor did he even recognize that the public might have a reaction to seeing a jumbo jet tailed by military aircraft swooping down on the city.

But look at the picture. Why would people going to all this trouble and expense to get a photograph that looked so awful?

Thanks to my commenters on last night's post for forcing me to think about this. First was rhhardin said:

It's not easy to take pictures when you're steering a fighter with your knees.
Presumably, the picture was taken from the cockpit of one of the F16s that flew alongside Air Force 1. Here's what the cockpit looks like. There's no passenger seat. There's no room for a professional photographer. How does it make any sense to do a big photo shoot without a professional photographer?

Peter V. Bella said:

It took this long? Guy should have been fired the next day.
Maybe it took so long because the story is more complicated.

JAL said:

Yeah. If they truly wanted to "update" the photos for PR purposes (??) why not do it *right*. Shooting out of a fighter plane window (while piloting said plane at only 1000' over a densely populated area) and including either a shadow or a portion of the fighter plane (lower right corner) in the picture is $328,000+ worth of amateur photography.

They didn't get our money's worth.

So - who all was IN the big plane?
Maybe the pilot took a photograph, but that can't have been the purpose of the flight. So JAL has the right question: Who was in Air Force 1?

Palladian said:
That's a poorly composed photograph. Positioning Liberty Island below the plane in that manner makes it look like the plane is a shitting bird and that the island is the pile of shit. Also the color is murky and excepting the Statue of Liberty, the scenery is a depressingly industrial swath of New Jersey. And the garbage barges or whatever they are in the harbor don't add any majesty to the photograph. The supergenius Obama kidz couldn't remove those with their mad Photoshop skillz? And what is the white streak in the upper right of the photograph, near the nose of the plane? It looks like reflection from shooting through a window.

This is what we got for $357,012? Classic.
That's a great description of what a crappy photograph it is, but instead of exclaiming over how stupid they were to take such a bad photograph, I think we need to advance to the assumption that the flight cannot have been for photography purposes.

rhhardin said:
In defense of the incompetents, they're not allowed to photoshop anything.
Some military rule?

Charles said:

rhhardin: That photo was photoshopped. It has the distinctive tags "JFIF", "Ducky", and "Adobe" in the header.

They apparently used Photoshop to remove the EXIF information from the file, lest we see that the photo was taken as a souvenir by the pilot with his $150 point-and-shoot.
I don't understand all that tech talk, but I think I want to say: Aha!

Yes, I know. I've moved into conspiracy theory territory. It's not my thing, normally. But this is just staring me in the face, and I feel required to say what I see. The pieces don't fit. I want to know more. The Caldera resignation does not turn the page. Who was in Air Force 1?

(By the way, what are the 9/11 Truthers doing with this story?)
 
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