- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday ordered a review of the “mistake” that sent the plane sometimes used as Air Force One flying over Lower Manhattan for a photo opportunity and spooked New Yorkers who feared a terrorist attack was imminent.

Mr. Obama vowed “it will not happen again,” and the White House called it an inappropriate use of government funds. The operation cost about $35,000.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president’s advisers - including himself - had no idea until after the fact that the White House Military Office had planned for one month the photo opportunity to get a beauty shot of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Military officials would not disclose for what purpose the photo was taken.

Louis Caldera, who on Monday took responsibility for the operation, was excoriated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel after the flyover prompted evacuations and panic.

Mr. Gibbs said Mr. Obama has asked Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina to “conduct a review as to how the decision was made to conduct the flight, to understand … why that decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again.”

Mr. Gibbs would not say whether Mr. Caldera’s job was in jeopardy, adding only, “The president will look at that review and take any appropriate steps after that.”

Air Force officials told the Associated Press that the cost of the three-hour trip from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and back was $35,000 for the flight of the Boeing VC-25 presidential jet and the two accompanying F-16 fighters flown by D.C. Air National Guard pilots. Most of that amount would be for fuel. The large jet - a Boeing 747 - carried only military personnel, the White House said.

Mr. Gibbs said the fighter jets were doing “two training missions that in the end became a picture mission.”

When naming Mr. Caldera to the post Dec. 2, Mr. Obama said, “I know he’ll bring to the White House the same dedication and integrity that have earned him the highest praise in every post.”

Mr. Caldera served as a California State Assembly member and served in the Clinton administration as secretary of the Army. He also was president of the University of New Mexico and served on the board of directors of IndyMac Bank.

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