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This image taken with a cellphone by Jason McLane shows the primary presidential aircraft, a Boeing 747 known as Air Force One when the U.S. president is aboard, flies low over New York Harbor, followed by an F-16 chase plane, on Monday. ((Associated Press/Jason McLane))

U.S. President Barack Obama says it was "a mistake" for one of his official airplanes to be sent zooming past the New York City skyline for a publicity photo shoot, alarming thousands of Manhattan workers and residents.

In brief comments Tuesday, he said Monday's error will not be repeated.

"It was something we found out about along with all of you, and it will not happen again," Obama said.

The president commented after reporters asked about the flight as he prepared to meet with FBI director Robert Mueller at agency headquarters.

On Monday, one of the Boeing 747s used by Obama and an F-16 jet circled the Statue of Liberty at the start of the work day, startling people in Lower Manhattan who feared a nightmarish replay of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The flight was carried out by the Defence Department. The director of the White House military office has also apologized for the incident.