"Investigations" Probe Bizjet Use

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Last week's controversy about the convoy of business jets that carried the CEOs of the Big Three automakers to Washington to ask for a bailout was bound to get tongues wagging on the nightly news elsewhere. It prompted an "investigation" by "Chief Investigator" Darcy Spears at KTNV in Las Vegas. Spears combed public records and discovered 80 percent of the state's Citation's flights are between Vegas and Reno (closest IFR airport to the capital of Carson City) and that the average cost per passenger, round trip, on those flights was $760. Well, those who know something about bizjet costs might remark that the figure represents pretty efficient utilization of the aircraft, which obviously flies fairly full most of the time. But Spears suggested her viewers would consider it "crazy" to spend that much when Southwest goes there a dozen times a day for $300 or less. Robert Chisel, of Nevada's Department of Transportation, was patient and unapologetic about the Citation and the state's only other airplane, a Turbo Commander used for mapping and photography.

He noted the time and peripheral expenses saved when the state plane is used and also noted that it's an essential tool for serving far-flung areas of the sparsely populated state. "You know, everybody's opinion of waste is different. A state the size of Nevada with 110,000 square miles, I cannot imagine us not having aircraft available to move people and goods around at a moment's notice. It is very important for the citizens of the state," said Chisel. Meanwhile, in Florida, the state made a very public display of the disposal of a surplus King Air, getting $1.35 million for the 23-year-old aircraft. Florida is keeping its Citation Bravo and an eight-year-old King Air 350, however.