Tuesday, April 06, 2004

CNN article says "Nerves rattled by military jets over Capitol: Flights part of recruitment campaign".

I saw the fly-over at work ... I was walking to the cafeteria. It startled quite a few of us who were there on the sidewalk: two f-16s, a jetliner, and a learjet. Our collective first impression was that the jetliner was under military escort for a terror alert. Several of us swore in surprise.

They were flying quite low, directly overhead of us. Low flying aircraft are nothing new for us ... we work under the flight path of Regan National Airport. But we'd not seen a jetliner in formation with military escorts.

Inside the cafeteria, the TV was showing live footage of the flyover, but the sound was down too low for me to hear as I stood in the cashier line. I walked over to a woman near the TV to ask about the footage just after it finished, and she just said it was part of some National Guard campaign. I didn't get from her that it was a recruitment campaign.

And I'm not clear on how a fly over works as recruitment.... even if it had been better publicized. Capt. Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for the D.C. Air National Guard said the event was well publicized (to whom????). CNN reports:

Smith expressed surprise when told some witnesses said they were taken by surprise and had thought of 9/11 upon seeing the military jets.
"We always have planes in the air; people should be used to seeing F-16s in the air above Washington," he said. "But we apologize for any alarm."

Well, I can vouch for witnesses being surprised. Those F-16s may be up there routinely, but believe me they are not a common sight at 200 feet, nor a common sight in escort formation with a jetliner.

On the other hand, that element of surprise and concern is very effective for publicity ... it caught people's attention. If those fly-overs were common, we wouldn't have noticed. And the fly-over wouldn't have been water-cooler talk for the day. So the fact of NOT publicizing it perfectly in advance gave his cause (recruitment) a GREAT hit of publicity AFTER the fact. Let's see if he keeps his job :)

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