Sheriff — September October 2011
...I could see Air Force One accelerate toward me and...takeoff....
On September 10th and 11th, 2001, then-Sergeant Kevin Kenney was assigned to fl y the Sarasota County Sheriff ’s Office helicopter in support of the President’s motorcade during his two-day stay is Sarasota. Accompanied by a Secret Service Agent, all went well on the afternoon of September 10th.
The morning of September 11th, Sarasota was experiencing heavy fog and the weather conditions delayed my fl ight to pick up the Secret Service Agent in order to cover the motorcade from the President’s overnight location on Longboat Key to the Emma Booker Elementary School.
While waiting for the weather to clear, I watched the breaking news coverage of the plane fl ying into the first tower. I immediately made contact with Detectives that were co-located with the Secret Service detail and informed them of the news coverage. Remarkably, the response was that they were not aware of the incident at that point. Immediately after the second plane hit the remaining tower, I again contacted our Detectives and was told that the Secret Service was requesting that I launch immediately and respond to the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport to provide aerial surveillance for the President’s motorcade to the airport.
Although still “sketchy”, the fog had lifted to a point where I was somewhat comfortable to take off . While enroute to the airport, I was monitoring Tampa Approach Control and could hear Air Traffi c Control operators rushing to prevent air traffic in the vicinity of Sarasota/Bradenton Airport and grounding other air traffi c across the state. It was apparent that this was already a “big deal.” I was in contact with our Detectives via radio and they were relaying directives from the Secret Service. As required, I contacted Sarasota Bradenton Control Tower advising them of my intentions to enter their airspace and was promptly denied. I asked the tower operator if they had a Secret Service representative in the tower and they replied that they did. Utilizing the discreet call-sign provided during operations on the day before, I again requested permission to enter the airspace and was immediately approved. As I arrived over the south end of the terminal complex I observed the President’s motorcade rounding the terminal on the tarmac headed for Air Force One. I fl ew directly over Air Force One as the President’s motorcade came to a stop near the plane. In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea! I was given the directive to provide surveillance of the perimeter of the airport, especially the departure end of the runway. I observed that numerous civilian vehicles were already responding to the vicinity of the airport and gathering along the roadways in the proximity. I continued to relay information to the Secret Service detail and local agencies that were dispatching patrol units to those areas.
As Air Force One was taking the runway to the south of my location I was directed by the tower to “step to the west” for their departure. As I moved locations, I could see Air Force One accelerate toward me and conduct the steepest takeoff I have ever witnessed for an aircraft of that size. The rest is history.