In his first six months as governor, Republican Mike DeWine has used state-owned planes 15 times to travel across Ohio and to Washington, D.C. at a cost of $21,608, state Department of Transportation records show.
On average, DeWine traveled with half a dozen passengers each trip — department heads, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, security officers and others.
Additionally, DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine flew on an Ohio Highway Patrol helicopter on May 28 to survey tornado damage in Montgomery, Auglaize and Mercer counties.
DeWine is flying on the state aircraft less than his predecessor Republican John Kasich did when he first took office in 2011. In Kasich’s first three months, he took 22 trips at a cost of $31,400. Once Kasich launched a presidential bid, his use of the planes dropped off.
ODOT’s aviation division, which is funded by gas taxes, costs about $7.2 million a year and covers operating and maintaining 25 aircraft owned by ODOT, Ohio Highway Patrol and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
When the planes aren’t flying, pilots fill their 40-hour work week with other duties such as conducting airport inspections, ODOT officials have said.
ODOT ferries passengers, maps terrain for public projects and assists law enforcement in spotting outdoor marijuana grows. Ohio Highway Patrol uses helicopters and fixed-wing planes to conduct traffic enforcement, spot marijuana, track suspects and assist local police. Ohio DNR uses aircraft to conduct wildlife surveys.
In March 2015, the Ohio Department of Transportation traded its two King Air passenger turboprop planes, manufactured in 1973 and 1982, and purchased a seven-passenger 2013 Beechcraft King Air 250 and a nine-passenger 2015 Beechcraft King Air 350i for a total of $9.7 million.
ODOT bills state agencies $440 per hour of flight time, plus $35 an hour for crew. The purchase cost of the aircraft isn’t factored into the hourly charges.
The old passenger planes started to be costly to maintain. In February 2013, DeWine and his communications chief had just landed in Youngstown when the pilot asked them if they smelled something burning. Sure enough, the device on the engine intake that prevents ice build-up overheated and needed to be replaced.
The plane stayed in Youngstown for three days for repairs and ODOT sent another plane to pick up DeWine and his staffer.
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