The FAA says the jumbo jet flying low over Manhattan this morning was “photo op” — something having to do with the branch of the military that takes care of Air Force One.
However if you read the account from the WSJ — which got the official statements — you’ll see that none of it makes any sense.
Sections like this are particularly unhelpful:
In a written statement Monday, the Air Force confirmed that an “aerial photo mission” had been carried out Monday in the area of New York City by the Presidential Airlift Group, which is described on the White House Web site as being part of the White House Military Office and responsible for maintaining and operating Air Force One. The Air Force statement described the mission has having been carried out in coordination with the FAA. The FAA referred additional questions about the matter to the U.S. Air Force.
“This mission, involving the VC-25 and an F-16, was conducted in conjunction with normally scheduled continuation training for assigned aircrew members,” the Air Force statement 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 between the hours of 1000L and 1030L.”
We’re not 100% sure, but the English translation is: “Oh crap, we really screwed up, so we’re going say a bunch of words without saying anything.”
Here’s more arse-covering from the NYT:
Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said “the photo op was approved and coordinated with everyone.” Notification was made in advance to the mayor’s office, “including its 911 and 311 operation centres,” the New York City Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the United States Park Police and other agencies, he said.
Later on Monday morning, the Police Department acknowledged that it had been notified about the event but said it had been barred from alerting the public. “The flight of a VC-25 aircraft and F-16 fighters this morning was authorised by the F.A.A. for the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it but to direct any inquiries to the F.A.A. Air Traffic Security Coordinator,” the Police Department said in a statement.
What!? So everyone in the government knew that a jumbo jet would be weaving in between skyscrapers this morning, but they were barred from alerting the public? Um, why? Were they afraid office workers were going to open their window and shoot spitballs at the plane?
Did they really think that the uninformed public would simply look up, see a plane and not evacuate their offices in a panic?
The bottom line here is that there was either a) a massive communication failure or b) a massive error in judgment. The most charitable interpretation of the government’s obfuscation is that they’re covering for someone’s professional error.
Unless there’s a really good explanation, that person probably deserves to be fired. Now, we just need to figure out who it is.
(photo via a NYT reader)