One week ago, New Yorkers were captivated, and unnerved, by a 40-minute long military exercise in which one USAF C-130 and several HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters could be seen circling at very low altitudes above Manhattan. While the US military kept silent about the overflight, U.S. Air Force Col. Nicholas Broccoli, the vice commander of the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, said the aircraft were conducting "standard military training." However, one look at the flight pattern of the plane shows there was seemingly little that was "standard" about a C-130 making dozens of circles over midtown Manhattan.
Seeing multiple reports of a USAF C-130 and several Black Hawk helicopters circling low (3,000 feet) over Manhattan.
No, that is not normal pic.twitter.com/DaFByrAX3O
— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) December 13, 2016
A video of the plane that's been circling Manhattan pic.twitter.com/Bsj5ANEeW1
— Alp Ozcelik (@alplicable) December 13, 2016
Today we learn that the overflights were far more than simply "standard military training." According to DNAinfo, the military airplane and two helicopters doing loops over Midtown last week were conducting an “emergency relocation” planning mission in case they needed to extract President-elect Donald Trump during an emergency or attack.
Citing sources, DNAInfo said that the flyovers were part of an “emergency relocation drill” designed to identify locations, primarily in Central Park, where a chopper could touch down near Trump's home inside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, and safely evacuate Trump and others from the city.
“It was the military doing their homework,” one source said. “They were making plans how to remove him, mapping plans and strategizing,” added a second source.
In the event of an emergency, the president would be whisked by the Secret Service north to the park, and then flown in a helicopter to the nation’s capital or a secret government site in Virginia or West Virginia, sources said. The aircraft models spotted during the exercise can fly long distances without refueling and can also refuel in mid-air if necessary, sources said.
Surprisingly, the NYPD was given only short notice about the flyovers, and were never informed that the military would be using a plane as large a C-130 with its 130-foot wing span. “They should have told people they were doing recon, and going to fly at low altitudes, instead of keeping it a secret,” a law enforcement source said. “People were scared, and rightly so."
“Trump is the president and people would understand that they are doing a recon mission for an emergency,” the source continued.
One day after the flyover, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill told reporters that the city was working on improving notification procedures. “Usually when there is a flyover, we get something through our Operations unit. It’s sent out to everybody," O'Neill said last Wednesday at an unrelated press conference. "That notification is supposed to go out through OEM [the Office of Emergency Management], so I know OEM is working with the military to make sure the proper notifications are made. [OEM Commissioner] Joe Esposito is going to have to make sure he stays in contact with the military for future notifications.”
“The public should know about that. What’s transpired in New York City over the last 15 years, we need to know that,” O'Neill added.
DNAinfo further adds that according to a federal agent who witnessed the circling aircraft, and who spent most of his career protecting presidents, “the park is the closest place to land, even if they keep a Marine 1 helicopter up here in the city, or in base in New Jersey." The ex-agent said last week’s aircraft basically conducted a dozen loops from 42 Street west to Riverside Park, then headed to the East River and south back to 42nd Street.
“I have never seen a military training maneuver in the city,” the agent observed. “That type of rescue work is usually done by the NYPD, the FDNY, or the Coast Guard, not the military.”
The C-130 which was the airplane confuicting the drills, travels up to 300 mph, is fundamentally a cargo transport plane that can be filled with everything from armed personnel to armored vehicles, including presidential limousines. The plane can also land on short runways.
Meanwhile, the military continued to deny the purpose of the exercise: a spokesman for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs said last week only that the maneuver was part of a “routine training mission” that originated from the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach on Long Island. He reiterated the same today. A spokesman for the US Secret Service in Washington did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. As a matter of policy, however, the agency routinely says it does not discuss specifics of Presidential security.