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May 05, 2009

Why Won’t Obama Release the Pictures of Air Force One’s NYC Fly-by?

The NY Post is Reporting that the Obama White House has “not technically classified” the photos taken of the VC-25A aircraft circling the Statue of Liberty last week, but has no plans to release them to the public.

The $328,835 snapshots of an Air Force One backup plane buzzing lower Manhattan last week will not be shown to the public, the White House said yesterday.

"We have no plans to release them," an aide to President Obama told The Post, refusing to comment further.

The sole purpose of the secret photo-op, which sent thousands of New Yorkers running for cover, was to take new publicity shots of the presidential jet over the city.

"The photos . . . are classified -- that's ridiculous," Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., said.

The photos have not technically been "classified," a White House aide said, but they are being kept from public view.

New Yorkers said they could not understand how a president who shares intimate snapshots from the White House could justify keeping these secret.

"So we're not gonna see the fruits of this cruel joke?" said Frank Antonelli, 39, one of the Wall Street traders spooked by last week's flyover.

"I'm not surprised. Obama . . . wouldn't further all the bad publicity by putting out those pictures."

Actually, I think I know why

Outside of the bad PR experienced as a result of the poorly executed photo op, I suspect there was a deeper “Subject” of the photos than is being acknowledged to the public for fear of even further cries of pandering.

Allow me to explain…  On the day the VC-25A was tooling around NYC, she was not alone.  In close formation was an F-16, two actually, but “dash two” was flying more of a high cover, …or was it?  I suspect that “Dash Two” was also the real photo bird.  Meaning the intent was NOT just to get photos of the VC-25A Presidential bird, bit to actually get the F-16 flying formation on the 747!

FAA Memo outlining the event: [PDF]

You:  So What?

Well normally I wouldn’t attach any significance to this and assume the F-16 flying the wing was indeed “Just the photo plane” however I (and a number of other aviation aficionados) noticed a specific Tail on the F-16 that has historical significance. 


This particular F-16 had a Red Tail (not normal camouflage painting for a tactical fighter) identifying this plane as belonging to the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing.


The significance of this is that the “RED TAILS” are representative of the World Famous “Tuskegee Airmen” an all African American fighter wing known for flying P-51 Mustangs in WWII with a Vermillion Tail (AKA the RED TAILS).

 “To bomber crews of the Fifteenth Air Force-who owed them a particular debt-the men of the four squadrons of imagethe 332nd Fighter Group, the 99th, 100th, 301st and the 302nd, were the Red Tail Angels. Flying P-51 Mustangs with tails painted vermillion, they had by the end of the war won for themselves the distinction of not only having damaged or destroyed 400 enemy aircraft, but of never having lost one of the bombers they escorted on missions over Europe-a rare achievement. [more] 

The Alabama National Guard pays reverence to the Tuskegee Airmen by painting the Tail of (at least) one of their F-16s red acknowledging the storied history of these Alabama based African American airmen.

So, as much as I hate to point out what for all appearances seems to be possibly a photo op that may be, possibly, motivated by connecting two racially ground breaking events (first African American Aerial Squadrons and the first African American President), I am led to wonder if this was not the image happy White House’s gratuitous motivation.  The F-16 flying wing on the aircraft used for Air Force One was actually meant to be INCLUDED in the images taken that day.  This was not a photo op just for Air Force One, rather it was a Photo Op for the White House to connect to another Historically great stride in African American successes in our oft racially troubled history.

Paint me suspicious, and yes very skeptical of this particular photo Op.  IMAGE IS EVERYTHING when it comes to staged events like this, so NOTHING is present by coincidence or accident, they know damn well what they were up to, and this was not just a “bad idea” on the part of the Office Of Military Affairs.  In reality it is looking more and more like the OMA was scapegoated.

May 5, 2009 in Aviation, Current Affairs, Idiots on Parade, Military, Politics | Permalink


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Not to nitpick, but I thought the entire tails of the 332nd were completely red, not just the flaps as seen in the photo of the Mustang with the F-16? (the painting photo of the redtails doing their bomber escort, though, shows the 332nd in the full red tail, which I was taught to expect).

Posted by: P51 Fan | Jan 25, 2011 11:12:18 AM

Well I figured I had to acknowledge my error since I was skeptical of the whole thing.

And I have absolutely no doubt the President was aware. You don't have 30-odd people (including at least one brigadier general) on multiple inter agency briefings over 3 months without this bubbling up in some form or another.

It's still possible there are photos of the two acft together. I would have liked a tighter formation, personally, because the F-16 is going to end up pretty small in a photo that has to capture a VC-25, an F-16D in echelon, and a wide expanse of the city skyline.

That said it would have been a wicked photo op if they'd announced it beforehand. Even if the object was to include the AL tail. Tuck it in close like an air show "Heritage Flight" pass, have it close to somewhere the civilians can take good shots, and you've got a priceless memento.

They turned a big plus into a big screaming negative by trying to keep it under wraps.

Posted by: Chris Taylor | May 8, 2009 11:49:55 AM

Thanks for the confirmation Chris. I found it curious in some of the Videos I see the F-16 slide to the inside of the turn placing himself between the Statue of Liberty and the VC-25A, this is where I began to suspect that the Red Tail was to be included in the image.

I do not suspect it was to be a Hollywood stunt of sorts, prolly more of a planned photo gift. And with using the AL ANG bird in the image I suspected that a possible link between the admin and the Tuskegee Airmen was in part a thanks for all the turn out of the Tuskegee Airmen at the inauguration.

I'll take the word of your buddy about the 113th that it was a coincidence... but I reserve the right to be still somewhat skeptical that POTUS was ignorant of the entire event.

Thanks again for the addition.


Posted by: John Carmichael | May 8, 2009 11:06:26 AM

I have confirmation from another Viper pilot who knows the 113FW pilot of the D-mod camera bird. It was a 187FW tail, but for not for any known Hollywood shoot, just logistics.

113FW didn't have a D-bird available at time of the shoot, so they borrowed one from AL ANG. Not that unusual as Guard units share and swap assets and personnel fairly regularly.

The other 16 wasn't a D-mod so it won't have any pics of the vermillion-tail + VC-25 together.

Posted by: Chris Taylor | May 8, 2009 10:36:35 AM

Dear readers,

I was surprised at the following from the FAA pdf:

"The Public Affairs posture for this effort is passive. No media or press releases are planned. Please direct all media inquiries to the FAA Air Traffic Security Coordinator at (202) 493-5107.
Due to the possibility of public concern regarding DOD aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies, emergency operations centers and aviation units has been accomplished."

First you read that "The Public Affairs posture for this effort is passive. No media or press releases are planned"
But The Law knew! (And kept mum.)

Let me just say that the FAA has a funny idea of the words 'Public concern" and "Accomplished."

So much for priorities.

Tell me the USA still is a democracy, by and for the people and all that, please?

Posted by: vnccc | May 7, 2009 4:45:19 PM

Boola Boola - J.Cas
I've looked at the pic above and others on line. The F-16 in tight w/ the VC-25 is AL ANG. Color & markings do not match any military T&E squadron.
Very nice idea to honor both, but very poorly executed. I doubt very much a White House military aide is the only one who/knew/approved this event. I feel sorry for the Col. being thrown under the bus by some Chicago-machine thug, his career is over.

Posted by: Ken | May 5, 2009 5:33:25 PM

Other than the extremely badly handled notification and the subsequent "need" for someone to blame, I don't see this as a bad idea in itself. Seems like two aircraft of historical significance in front of Lady Liberty is a good theme to me. We need some uplifting images these days. Too bad nothing seems to get done without drama.

Posted by: Tom | May 5, 2009 12:59:24 PM

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