* White House office apologizes for causing confusion
* Statue of Liberty flyover causes jitters in New York
* Incident evoked memories of 2001 hijacked-plane attacks
* NYC mayor criticizes "poor judgment" of planners
(Adds White House apology)
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, April 27 One of President Barack
Obama's official planes flanked by an Air Force fighter jet
flew low over the Statue of Liberty on Monday for a photo
opportunity that reminded startled New Yorkers of the Sept. 11
The White House Military Office apologized for the mission,
which infuriated New York City officials and prompted hundreds
of financial professionals to flee their office buildings.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the
federal government and his own administration for failing to
warn the public, which was shocked by the image of a jumbo jet
flanked by an F-16 flying near the World Trade Center site.
"The good news is it was nothing more than an
inconsiderate, badly conceived and insensitive photo op with
the taxpayers' money," Bloomberg told reporters.
"They should know how sensitive people would be if they had
low-flying planes down around the World Trade Center site,"
said Bloomberg, adding that he was "furious."
New Yorkers remain sensitive to any incident evocative of
the 2001 attacks, which involved hijacked airliners that
destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
The U.S. Air Force said the "aerial photo mission" involved
an F-16 fighter jet escort and one of the Boeing 747s
designated as Air Force One when the president is aboard, which
he was not. Police and the Federal Aviation Administration said
three aircraft were approved for the mission.
Police said federal authorities told them not to disclose
the information and to direct any inquiries to the FAA.
Bloomberg blamed a breakdown in City Hall communications,
saying he would have protested had he known in advance.
Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office,
said in a statement he approved the mission and took
responsibility for the decision.
"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," Caldera said.
Employees at the New York Mercantile Exchange, Goldman
Sachs, Merrill Lynch and other institutions evacuated their
buildings, and hundreds of others called the 911 emergency
response line, City Councilman Daniel Garodnick wrote in a
letter of complaint to the FAA.
"Thousands of people filled the streets in lower Manhattan,
fearing the worst. If we had had advance warning, we could have
advised our constituents not to be alarmed," Garodnick said.
Dominick Caglioti, an independent commodities trader who
works next to the site where the Twin Towers formerly stood,
said, "We took it upon ourselves to leave the building. We
asked police downstairs about it, and they said they didn't
know anything. It could have caused some real panic."
(Additional reporting Mark Egan, Ellen Freilich, Robert
Gibbons and Michelle Nichols in New York and David Morgan in
Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eric Beech)