August 22, 2014

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Strickland stops moving state airplane to save cash

COLUMBUS – Gov. Ted Strickland said Friday he’s ending the practice of having a state plane flown from one Columbus airport to another, a semi-regular practice his office had defended as a way for him to get more work done.

Following news reports Thursday and Friday, Strickland ordered his staff to stop scheduling departures from Port Columbus International Airport if it meant moving the state planes from Don Scott Air Field across town, a flight of a few minutes.

Strickland had one of two Beechcroft King Air propeller planes moved 25 of the 60 times he’s flown since taking office in January 2007, according to a review of travel records by The Associated Press.

“He believes it’s important to save taxpayer resources whenever and wherever possible, especially in this tough economy,” said Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst.

The crosstown flights were first reported Thursday by The Other Paper, a Columbus weekly newspaper.

Strickland, a Democrat, flies far less frequently than his Republican predecessor and does most of his in-state traveling by car, a routine that Wurst said saves the state thousands of dollars.

Moving a plane to Port Columbus put it a few minutes closer to Strickland’s downtown office and eastside residence. Earlier Friday, Wurst said the practice was not Strickland’s preference but he did it to fit as much into his schedule as possible.

“It does save on travel time, allowing schedulers to fit in another meeting that otherwise might not happen,” she said.

The cost of the crosstown flights is wrapped into the total cost of a flight, which typically runs about $430 an hour, according to state records.

Former Gov. Bob Taft occasionally had the plane moved across town as well but mostly flew from Don Scott Air Field, his two former chiefs of staff, Brian Hicks and Jon Allison, said Friday.

Taft, a Republican, also flew far more than Strickland or Taft’s predecessor, former Gov. George Voinovich.

In 1999, Taft’s first year in office, he flew 71 times compared with 29 for Voinovich in 1998.

Taft flew 76 times in 2005, mostly from Don Scott but a few times from Port Columbus after the plane was moved, according to records released by Strickland’s office Friday.