NEW YORK (AP) — In a city understandably wary of low-flying aircraft, New Yorkers and tourists alike watched with joy and excitement Friday as space shuttle Enterprise sailed over the skyline on its final flight before it becomes a museum piece.
Ten years after 9/11, people gathered on rooftops and the banks of the Hudson River to marvel at the sight of the spacecraft riding piggyback on a modified jumbo jet that flew over the Statue of Liberty and past the skyscrapers along Manhattan's West Side.
"It made me feel empowered. I'm going to start crying," Jennifer Patton, a tourist from Canton, Ohio, said after the plane passed over the cheering crowd on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the floating air-and-space museum that will be the shuttle's permanent home.
"I just feel like to have a plane fly that low over the Hudson, right past New York City, and to have everyone cheering and excited about it, shows that we don't have fear, that we have a sense of 'This is ours.'"
Onlookers bundled up on the blustery spring day along the piers on the West Side, cameras slung around their necks. The roar of the aircraft could barely be heard over the howling winds. In truth, the camera angles on TV made it seem as if the shuttle was a lot closer to the buildings than it really was.
The low-altitude flight was well-publicized, and few people were caught off-guard. Not one person called 911 to report a low-flying plane, police said.
That's a striking contrast to what happened in 2009 when the Pentagon conducted a photo-op flyover in lower Manhattan by a passenger jet and F-16 fighter. The sight of the aircraft flying past the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan's financial district set off a flood of 911 calls and sent office workers rushing into the streets in panic.