Nixon bigger frequent flier in 2011

Gov. Jay Nixon used the Missouri Highway Patrol’s airplane more in 2011 than he did in 2012, an election year.

According to documents given the News Tribune after an open records request, Patrol flight reports show that Nixon and various members of his administration used the 1999 King Air 90 airplane for 133 of the plane’s 154 flights in 2011 — or 86.4 percent of all flights.

By contrast, the plane was used for 14 Transportation department flights during the year; Attorney General Chris Koster used the King Air 90 twice; the University of Missouri doctors group in Columbia also used the plane twice; and the Agriculture department’s Mo-Ag program used it once for a round trip to the Delta Center in the Missouri Bootheel.

Koster also was a passenger on one of Nixon’s flights in early May, but that is not counted as one of the attorney general’s two flights in this story.

Only five of the governor’s flights went outside the state — one to Omaha on Aug. 19, 2011, for a multi-state meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers about Missouri River flooding issues, and two others for governors’ meetings in Asheville, N.C. (Aug. 19-21, after the Omaha meeting), and Washington, D.C. (Feb. 24-28, 2011).

After the May 22, 2011, EF-5 tornado demolished about a third of Joplin, Nixon made 29 flights to or including Joplin through the end of the year.

As noted Sunday in a News Tribune story about the airplane’s use in 2012, the patrol measures the plane’s usage in hours rather than miles.

Based on the documents provided to the News Tribune, the King Air 90 flew 254.3 hours in 2011, and Nixon’s flights were 218.8 of those hours, or 86.04 percent.

The patrol told the newspaper the plane was used 10 percent of the time in 2011 for law enforcement-related flights, but only two of the documents showed any of those flights — 7.4 hours for a round trip to Brownsville, Texas, in January 2011 for an unidentified criminal investigation. That’s only 2.9 percent of the total flight hours shown in the documents — so News Tribune’s percentage calculations likely are higher than the actual usage.

Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle and others said this year the high usage by state officials was a main reason the agency decided to buy the larger King Air 250 for nearly $5.6 million.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Nixon — often accompanied by staff or Cabinet members — was the only elected state official to use the new plane during the first three months the state owned it.

He flew on it 21 times, the AP reported, but had to use the older plane for several flights while the new one was in Wichita, Kan., getting two passenger seats added.

The AP said its records request didn’t cover more recent months.

The documents for 2011 and ’12 that were provided to the News Tribune, in a separate records request, showed Nixon flew in the older, King Air 90, on 22 flights in the first three months last year, and for 25 flights in January, February and March 2011.

The AP noted Nixon last January defended the patrol’s decision to buy the new plane as a good long-term investment for law enforcement and safety.

First lady Georganne Nixon was listed as a passenger on 37 of the 133 flights in 2011, and the governor always had at least one other person with him — averaging 4.3 people per flight, not counting members of the security detail.

Nixon used the King Air 90 every month in 2011:

• Thirteen times in January (16.8 hours), while MoDOT used it twice, Attorney General Koster once and the Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control made the round trip (counted as two flights) to Texas.

• February, all 7 flights (14.9 hours total).

• March, 5 (7.2 hours) of the 9 total flights (12.3 hours), with MoDOT using the other four.

• April, 9 (15.3 hours) of the total 14 flights (23.0 hours), with MoDOT using four and the MU Doctors group making one flight.

• May, 17 (26.9 hours) of a total 19 flights (29.1 hours), with MoDOT and Koster taking one flight each. Five of Nixon’s flights were to Joplin during the last week of the month.

• June, 17 (28.1 hours) of the month’s 18 flights (31.1 hours), with MoDOT using the other trip.

• August, 18 (35.7 hours) of 19 total flights (37.3 hours), with the Mo-Ag program’s trip to the Bootheel as the other trip.

• September, 12 (16.8 hours) of the 13 total flights (18.2 hours), with the MU doctors making the other trip.

• October, all 11 flights (17.4 hours).

• November, all 9 flights (15.6 hours).

• December, 6 (7.7 hours) of the 9 total flights (9.6 hours), with MoDOT using the other two.

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