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Missouri State Highway Patrol cuts four planes

Missouri State Highway Patrol cuts four planes

January 14th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

The Missouri Highway Patrol has four fewer aircraft in its fleet and took in more than $758,000 from selling the four.

But it still owns the King Air 250 it bought in 2012 for $5.59 million, which sparked a political controversy in 2013.

During Wednesday's State of the State address, Gov. Eric Greitens announced: "We found four planes that the government didn't need, and we sold them off. That also saved taxpayers almost $40,000 a year in maintenance — money the government was paying for planes that nobody was using."

Capt. John Hotz, the Highway Patrol's spokesman, said last week: "After evaluating the usage of the aircraft, we determined they were no longer needed and selling them would be a smart budget decision."

Even with the sales, he said, the Highway Patrol still has three helicopters, five single-engine Cessnas and one King Air.

The newest of the four planes the patrol sold was a 1999 Beechcraft King Air C90, which brought in $627,500, Hotz said.

"The King Air provided personnel transport for members conducting criminal investigations, for Command Staff officers on administrative functions, and for elected or appointed officials or other qualified state personnel," he said.

That's also the main use of the newer, $5.59 million King Air the patrol bought in 2012, which lawmakers began complaining in January 2013 was unnecessary and possibly made to help then-Gov. Jay Nixon's future political ambitions.

Nixon was a major user of the plane while he served as governor, but Greitens generally has flown on private planes paid for by anonymous donors.

Then-State Auditor Tom Schweich said in a June 2013 report the patrol had not justified its need to buy the new plane — especially when it could have saved money by getting a used one instead.

But in its response to that audit, the patrol said it had conducted "a thorough analysis of needs and usage before purchasing the 2012 King Air 250" — and that it had compared new versus used.

"Multiple factors were taken into consideration, including airplane-specific training for pilots and mechanics that is included in the cost of this airplane, the elaborate and costly inspection process involved with purchasing a used airplane, and ongoing training requirements associated with purchasing a used airplane that is notably different than the rest of the Patrol's fleet," the patrol told the auditor's staff in 2013.

"After careful consideration of all aspects, and evaluating the costs and benefits involved with each, the Patrol concluded that the purchase of this airplane would provide the best investment."

The patrol's flight records for the four planes it recently sold show the 1999 King Air had been flown for 142.1 hours in 2014, 109.9 hours in 2015, 137.9 hours in 2016 — but only 2.4 hours last year.

Hotz told the News Tribune the 1999 plane was sold last April.

The other three planes the patrol sold were:

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1984 Cessna 182, $68,250, which was flown for 402.8 hours in 2014, 331.1 hours in 2015 and 244.2 hours in 2016 — but was down to only 142.5 hours last year.

1985 Cessna 182, $72,250, flown 197.4 hours in 2014, 113.4 hours in 2015, 104.1 hours in 2016 — and only 71.9 hours in 2017.

1986 Cessna 182, $52,733, flown for 228.8 hours in 2014, 158.7 hours in 2015, 150.6 hours in 2016 and 120.9 hours last year.

"The single-engine Cessnas were used for traffic enforcement, criminal and emergency searches, criminal surveillance and personnel relays," Hotz said.

While Greitens touted the $40,000 annual savings in maintenance costs, Hotz reported the state also received more than $820,700 from selling the four aircraft.

The state's Surplus Property program received $500 in fees for selling the four planes.

Of the rest, more than $758,000 went into the state's revolving fund, Hotz said, while $68,125 from the 1984 Cessna went to the drug forfeiture fund.

"This airplane was originally purchased with drug forfeiture funds," Hotz explained. "Due to federal regulations, since it was purchased with federal funds, the money for any sale had to be deposited back into the original federal fund."

Have a question about this article? Did we miss something? Send an email to reporter Bob Watson at bwatson@newstribune.com.