Formation Photo Shoot Panics Bostonians

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In another time, Boston residents might have thrilled to the sight of Sean D. Tucker leading a formation of four aerobatic aircraft on a photo shoot overhead. But in the post-9/11 world, office workers stream outside not for a better view but because they think they might be under attack. Such was the case last Friday when the flight, all properly approved by the FAA, was launched to provide publicity photos for a local air show. At least 50 people fled the Prudential building's 23rd floor and about 100 gathered on the ground after the planes flew by. "Give me the name of the person who sanctioned this so I can become a crazy person and call them four times a day and demand an explanation," said one worker who asked that The Boston Globe not identify him. "We're all still on edge. We don't need this. Pilot Brian Norris, of Salinas, Calif., said he and the others were in constant contact with air traffic control. "We do this because we're aware of how sensitive things are since Sept. 11," Norris told the Globe. "But any time we do it, we know somebody's going to get a phone call." Local police stations got a rash of calls but because they hadn't been told about the flight in advance, couldn't reassure callers. Meanwhile, AOPA President Phil Boyer has called on the federal government to improve communications between air traffic control and security agencies. Last week, the FAA issued a NOTAM banning aircraft with non-functioning transponders from the Air Defense Identification Zone around Washington. The NOTAM came after a plane (with a malfunctioning transponder) carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher sparked a panicked evacuation of the Capitol building. Boyer says the NOTAM is another way to shift responsibility for the communications foul-up that caused the D.C. panic to GA.