Sunday, February 19, 2012

Statehouse beat: King Air logs some flight time

By Phil Kabler

Tomorrow will be a red-letter day, not only being West Virginia University Day at the Legislature (actually, I thought every day was WVU day at the Legislature ...), but the release date for the Orange Bowl DVD.

Which provides an awkward segue into the flight records for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Orange Bowl trip.

Tomblin, first lady Joanne Tomblin, son Brent, legislative director Jason Pizatella, public policy director Chris Weikle, Dan Snyder, and a security officer flew from Charleston to Fort Lauderdale on the state King Air on Jan. 3, returning Jan. 5.

(Tomblin and Pizatella also flew to Pittsburgh and back this past Thursday, the same day as the final currently scheduled Backyard Brawl in basketball between WVU and Pitt ...)

However, unlike his predecessor, Joe Manchin, Tomblin isn't that keen on flying all over the state, otherwise using the King Air just seven times since the first of November.

The most notable flight during that period was to Houston on Jan. 26 to pitch West Virginia to Shell Chemical executives as a site for an ethane cracker plant or two.

Tomblin was accompanied by general counsel Kurt Dettinger, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman, Revenue Secretary Charles Lorensen, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, and Development Office national accounts manager Kris Hopkins.

A day later, the King Air flew U.S. Sens. Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, and former Govs. Gaston Caperton and Bob Wise from Washington, D.C., to Beckley and back to attend the funeral for former Gov. Hulett Smith.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 13, the King Air flew from Charleston to Teterboro, N.J. (outside of New York City), to Charleston, back to Teterboro and back to Charleston, so that music sensation Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. could perform the National Anthem and sing "Amazing Grace" at Tomblin's inauguration that day.

Also on the flight(s) was Murphy's wife, Jennifer; his manager, Burke Allen (listed as "Allen Burke" on the flight log) and his wife; and Sherrie Stone, Tomblin's executive scheduler.

The smaller state plane, a 2009 Cessna Caravan, has gotten much less use, with only one flight logged from November to mid-February other than practice flights by the Aviation Division. Division of Highways staffers flew from Charleston to Parkersburg and Wheeling and back Feb. 6.

Which is odd, since one of the arguments for trading in a 2005 Cessna for the newer model, at a cost of nearly $300,000, was that the Caravan had a more modern de-icing system, which would make it usable during cold weather months.

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