The Federal Aviation Administration turned down a U.S. Navy request to fly a patrol aircraft past Manhattan on Monday, two weeks after a nerve-racking Air Force photo shoot over the Statue of Liberty caused a brief panic.
The agency said it refused clearance for the flight down the Hudson River because the Navy had given it only a few hours notice of its plans.
The P-3 Orion reconnaissance plane from the U.S. Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine. was to have flown past the city, then headed back north, sometime around 10:30 a.m.
FAA officials said the four-engine, turboprop admittedly had a low probability of attracting attention. It was to have flown at around 3,000 feet, well above New York's tallest skyscrapers, in an air corridor where planes of a similar size are a common sight.
But after city officials were informed and higher-level FAA officials learned about the request, they declined permission for the flight, saying unannounced military flybys were a bad idea.
Two weeks ago, some office workers near the World Trade Center site and across the river in New Jersey ran for cover when a Boeing 747 sometimes used as Air Force One circled the harbor at 1,000 feet with a fighter jet in tow. The photo shoot became a scandal and led to the resignation of the White House official who authorized it.
This time, authorities took no chances.
After the FAA alerted the mayor's office in the morning that the flight would take place, the city sent out a public notification warning that a military plane would be in the air.
Shortly thereafter, the FAA told the Navy the mission was off.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city did not ask for the flight to be canceled, but did tell the FAA they would have preferred more notice.
"We did get on the phone with them and said we'd prefer to have had a little more time to notify everybody," he said.
Bloomberg said it was his understanding that the flight was for "some Navy guy who was retiring after many years of service, and they wanted him to take one last flyby."
A spokesman for the U.S. Naval Air Station in Brunswick did not return phone messages.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the air station had gotten in contact with the agency about the planned flight some time ago, but hadn't been specific about when it might take place until just hours before the flight Monday.
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, whose city lies across the Hudson from Manhattan, said it was right to cancel the flight.
"This was a mistake that would have repeated the whole stupid and alarming process that occurred two weeks ago," he said, referring to the April 27 Boeing flyover near the Statue of Liberty.