An Air Force flyover that caused panic among some people in New York last month cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $357,000, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a letter to Sen. John McCain released on Friday.
Gates, providing details McCain demanded in the wake of the incident, said the cost of the jumbo jet used as the president's Air Force One was estimated at between $300,658 and $328,835.
The cost of two accompanying F-16 jets was $28,177 for a total of $357,012, Gates said.
The flight over lower Manhattan for a photo shoot scared some New Yorkers who remember the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 involving hijacked airliners. Some people panicked and evacuated office buildings when the jumbo jet and the F-16s flew over during the April 27 event.
The Air Force's presidential airlift group planned the flight in part to get pictures of the planes flying with the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline as a backdrop.
Gates said in his letter that the reaction to the low-flying planes was understandable and "we deeply regret the anxiety and alarm that resulted from this mission."
President Barack Obama was said to have been furious about the incident and had ordered an internal review. White House military aide Louis Caldera, who had approved the mission, apologized.
Gates said the photo shoot was only part of the planes' mission, which also included practice instrument approaches and landings at Atlantic City International Airport.
The entire mission had been coordinated with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and air traffic control representatives in the New York area, he wrote.
"I am concerned that this highly public and visible mission did not include an appropriate public affairs plan nor adequate review and approval" of senior Air Force and Department of Defense officials, Gates said.
Defense officials are reviewing the incident carefully, he said.
McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the incident an "Air Farce 1 photo op."
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