The White House apologised after one of Barack Obama\’s presidential planes flew alarmingly low over New York city, sending residents into a panic and triggering fears of a new 9/11.

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“While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it\’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption,” said Louis Caldera, director of the White House military office.

“I apologise and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused,” he said in a statement, adding that he approved the mission over New York – described by other officials as a photo opportunity – last week. “I take responsibility for that decision,” he added.

The mea culpa could be seen as extraordinary, given the infrequency of public statements by the White House military office and the bluntness of the apology over the bungle

. Caldera described it as an “Air Force One flight over New York,” although that designation is strictly used to describe the specific plane on which the US president is flying. The White House said Obama was not on the flight

. The jumbo, escorted by low-flying fighter jets, roared over southern Manhattan and the Hudson River for about 30 minutes, prompting panicked New Yorkers to evacuate office buildings.

A livid New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had not been warned and called the lack of notice “ridiculous and poor judgment.”

Stunned office workers who failed to spot the presidential markings feared facing a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks in which two hijacked airliners smashed into the World Trade Centre, killing almost 3,000 people.