Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his education commissioner, Alice Seagren, are flying around the state today to talk about his education reform proposals for the 2009 legislative session.
The pair drop into an airport, do some interviews with the local media, get back on the state airplane, head to the next stop and do more interviews. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Flying around the state is a good way to get your mug -- and point of view -- on TV, newspapers, and radio around the state.
How much does it cost?
It started its day at St. Paul's Holman Field, flew to Moorhead, then Duluth, then St. Cloud, and then back to St. Paul, on to Winona, then Albert Lea, and back to St. Paul.
A 2003 survey put the hourly fuel use of a twin-engine King Air 200 at 106 gallons per hour.
It took 52 minutes to fly to Moorhead, 44 minutes to fly to Duluth, 41 minutes to St. Cloud, and 22 minutes to St. Paul, according to FlightAware.com.
Flight planning software that calculates today's winds shows the plane flies at an average speed of 201-250 miles per hour (it can fly much faster and does in cruise but, obviously, flies slower during takeoff and landing). So its flights to Winona, Albert Lea, and back should last 29 minutes, 28 minutes, and 21 minutes for a total flying time today of about 4 hours. Add in 15 minutes in each location for taxiing and you're left with about 5 hours and 45 minutes at 106 gallons of fuel per hour.
Fuel at St. Paul Downtown Airport (where, by the way, it's ridiculously overpriced compared to other airports) is about $6.50 a gallon or $689 per hour.
Total cost? For fuel: $3,755.05, or about $1,500 more than a teacher can earn in performance pay under the governor's Q-Comp program.
How often is the plane used? Not that often (based on filed flight plans). Total in-flight time in the last 4 months: 47 hours.
why not do a positive story on the "state plane".
We all the way up here at the top of the state would not be able to have many of the state's department officals visit on a timly basis to accomplish business for the state. We even had the plane help us in our flood a few years ago. this is a wonderful tool that the state owns and used for many purposes.
I wish my state radio station was as versitile.
Who says flying a state plane is a negative? But I'm glad you wrote. What state business is accomplished by the state officials that fly up there? Perhaps you can provide a few examples.
There, is, perhaps a discussion to be had about whether the state should own a plane, or merely charter it, or have fractional ownership. I vaguely recall such a debate many years ago when, I believe, someone donated a plane to the state, though the details are too foggy, now.
Over what kind of time-frame was that 47 hours accrued? That seems like a very small number.
Why fly at all? Today we can video, conference call etc...why spend so much flying at high prices for gas at all when he can do as little as possible for the state via today's communication abilities! Looking forward till Pawlenty is long gone!
About 4 months, bsimon.
DA Smith, the average time the plane sat on the ground after arriving at an airport looks to be in the vicinity of 1 to 2 hours.
The most frequently visited airport was Bemidji, and several of those were on the ground for only a few minutes which tells me that someone was either being picked up or dropped off. Duluth, Baudette, and Detroit Lakes were the next most popular.
I can see the state using a plane to get to many destinations in the state vs. scheduled flights. I guess after seeing how few hours it has flown over the last four months my question would be is it cheaper to own the plane our should you use a charter service and save some money in the mean time.
Bob since you are an aviation expert and a crack investigative reporter maybe you can find this out.
Just went to the link on the website that Bob provided. Looks like Stan Hubbard either paided to get his stations call letters as abbreviations for the airports in St. Paul and St. Cloud or he was very smart and used the station names for his call letters.
There are many very good reasons that the state’s chief executive should fly instead of telecommute. If the governor generally stayed at the capitol and restricted his interaction with the general public in person, it would be detrimental to the affairs of the State. If the only people who see the Governor are part of the political power culture that inevitably surrounds the state house then the people have less of a voice. Flying in the King Air provides access to areas of the state not well served because there is no close commercial airport. I actually love it when a local citizen shouts out an unexpected question that my governor has to respond to; it really is transparency in government. Additionally it allows the local press an opportunity to ask questions that pertain to local issues not normally raised at the capitol. And finally the people really do like to see their elected officials. Meeting them in person without the spin meisters, what a concept.
Greetings from California
David, I don't disagree with anything you said although it's important to point out that the only interaction the gov and Commissioner Seagren were doing today was with the media, for the most part. They weren't wading into the small towns of Minnesota; they were hitting the media markets and getting face time on TV for their coming proposals on the local stations that they weren't going to get if they just stayed in St. Paul and had a news conference.
That's not an unsound strategy but I wouldn't want to mislead people into thinking that there was any other strategy involved.
You see more and more of that... avoiding the dominant media in the state and going right to the locals instead who'll make a big deal of a governor flying into town for a quick hit in an airport lounge.
It's how I started out in the news biz. (g)
//Bob since you are an aviation expert and a crack investigative reporter maybe you can find this out.
A charter will save you money in the long run because you're not paying pilots on the payroll and the cost of maintenance is related only to when you're flying.
Keep in mind, of course, that in the big scheme of things, we're not talking about very much money, and the KingAir, though impressive, isn't exactly a luxury aircraft.
When the DFL goes off on its fly-arounds (usually right after the legislative session), I believe they charter a plane.
Al, KSTP doesn't have anything to do with Ch. 5. Keep in mind that the big airport is KMSP. Isn't that Channel 9? (All airport designations in the U.S. start with "K")
By the way, if the state really wanted to save money on running the plante, it would (and perhaps does) buy the fuel for it ANYWHERE but downtown St. Paul or the big airport)
//A charter will save you money in the long run because you're not paying pilots on the payroll and the cost of maintenance is related only to when you're flying.
Bob, I'm glad you added this point. What would be typical for an annual salary for a pilot for a plane like the state's? My quick search online found this at DOER...
Pilot - min $53,265, max $79,198
Pilot Chief - min $63,225, max $90,915
Plus benefits, of course. The limited use seems to make a charter the route to go, because I think outstate "visits" (not media events) do have merit.
(P.S. Thanks for the great blog. It's one of the first things I check when I get home from work! I just have been lurking - and not posting - until now.)
I think the state is getting a bargain on those salaries for the pilots. That's not terrible pay at all, of course, and they may fly for the state in other fashions when N70MN isn't flying.
I MAY be dreaming this but, as I said, I vaguely recall a debate on having a state airplane in the very early 90s but I could easily be wrong. I'll have to dig through some old copy sometime.
I agree regarding outstate visits. I also think everyone in the Twin Cities, especially media, should travel outstate regularly.
I wish I could get people in outstate Minn., to send me some tips for interesting people to talk to. I know they're out there but getting outstate Minn., to open up is very difficult.
I love it when I get to travel around, though. Would love to do much more of it. I might even fly.
Maybe if Mr. Pawlenty would have sold the plane on EBay he would have edged out Ms. Palin for the #2 spot. He could also have claimed to be able to see a foreign country (Canada) from his window up North!