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Air Force One Photo-Op Cost $328,835 -- Here's How the Feds Could Have Gotten Their Picture for $6

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So my question is, why does Air Force One need a new portrait? Is she buffing up her resume in case there are layoffs? Whatever the purpose, photographer and Photoshop guru Scott Kelby knows how to save the government $328,829.

If you missed the news, on April 27, two fighter planes escorted the President's jet, without the President, low and slow over New York City, on a flight path pretty close to one taken on September 11, 2001, scaring the bejeezis out of everyone on the ground. The secret mission was a flyby photo-op so someone could take pictures of the airliner with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline in the background. It is estimated that it cost $328,835 for this aerial stunt.

2009-04-30-AFOWH.jpgIf you go to there's a whole page devoted to the President's plane, with a lovely closeup of the blue and white Jumbo Jet soaring majestically over hill and dale. The site explains that actually there are two of these highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft.

Perhaps the President is thinking about selling one to save money. He's already turned down a souped up new helicopter, dubbed Marine One. Even if one AFO is for sale, the picture on his website would look just great on eBay.

Maybe they just felt like they needed something more patriotic than rocks and trees in the background. But in the day and age of pinching pennies and going green, with everyone who even owns a red shirt complaining that the government is throwing away money like tea bags, and everyone with blue slacks complaining that we're wasting energy, you would think that someone would have done the math and come up with a better idea. Photographer Kelby did.

2009-04-30-AFOSK.jpgKelby, who is the Editor-in-Chief of Photoshop User magazine went to the White House website, grabbed the photo of AFO there, went to a stock photo website and found a skyline of NY with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground, and did a mashup that took him "90 seconds, max" he told me. And it looks pretty good! Surely someone in the Air Force or the White House has Photoshop.

The stock photo cost Kelby $6. Kelby's time isn't cheap, but he does a lot of fund raising for Springs of Hope, an orphanage in Kenya, so he says he'd be happy to take 90 minutes or so and do an even better job if the government would buy a freezer for the orphanage for about $360. He says the government could use the balance to buy more stock in General Motors.

All this makes me a little airsick thinking about the fact that the US Government is now the largest stockholder in GM. Will the PR geniuses who staged the AFO caper be doing publicity for our GM? Will GM ads now say "Official Vehicle of Major League Politics"? Will this mean that Democrat officials get nice sleek comfy Cadillac company cars while Republicans will get Saturns? Will our diplomatic corps get Envoys? If I pay my taxes, will I be able to get the employee discount? What will future Corvettes look like? Like Hummers? It's all enough to make me want to Saab.

Two days after the New York caper, the real AFO flew into St. Louis. One has to wonder if they took pictures near the Arch. Perhaps the White House could turn this into a revenue stream by selling pictures of AFO flying over all major cities and selling prints, T-shirts, and mousepads online. Maybe AFO could make special appearances like sports stars and other celebrities.

It is expected that any day now the White House will be releasing photos of "enhanced interrogation" at Guantanamo. Maybe they should call Kelby first.

Craig Goldwyn of writes about barbecue for and flies his grill low and slow. Text Copyright (c) 2009 By Craig Goldwyn, and all rights are reserved. Click here for information on reprint rights. Illustration Copyright (c) 2009 Scott Kelby and reprinted here with permission.