EXCLUSIVE: How NYPD Aviation Unit keeps NYC safe on 4th of July

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Miles from the Statue of Liberty, things got very serious at the Aviation Unit.

Only Eyewitness News was there as officers stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn planned a Hail Mary pass to grab the protester from her perch at the base of the statue.

Two detectives from the Emergency Service Unit roped in and took off for Liberty Island, ready to rappel down to a spot it looked like their colleagues on the ground couldn't reach. It is a move that has never been done. It would be very risky - and only used as a last resort.

Inspector Jimmy Coan Commands the Aviation Unit, and spent the afternoon managing from the hangar.

In the end the daring move was not necessary, and he could turn his attention back to the task at hand.

The Aviation Unit is a key part of the massive effort to secure the nation's largest Fourth of July party. It all starts with a flyover - the entire fleet is in tight formation - mere rotor blades apart. That is where the ceremony ends.

While police on the ground and the water are looking out for threats on the surface, Lieutenant Richard Knoeller and Officer Anthony Daniels were watching rooftops for snipers or other threats. They are armed with a camera that can zoom so far - it picked up the Eyewitness News van over a mile away.

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