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Donna Miles, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
The White House expressed regret yesterday over a photo opportunity involving Air Force One that stirred up confusion and fear in New York City.
The Presidential Airlift Group flew the VC-25 presidential aircraft, escorted by an F-16 fighter jet, over the city between 10 and 10:30 yesterday morning, said Gary T. Strasburg, chief of the Air Force's Environmental Public Affairs.
The mission was conducted "in conjunction with normally scheduled continuation training for assigned aircrew members," and coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration, Strasburg said.
This mission was coordinated for the Upper New York Bay, south of the Holland Tunnel and in the Newark Bay north of the Staten Island Expressway, he said.
But New Yorkers who observed the flight found it all too reminiscent of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that took down both World Trade Center towers.
Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, expressed regret yesterday over approving the mission.
"I take responsibility for that decision," he said in a written statement.
"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," he said. "I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."