Cuomo flew in a state-owned plane over 460 times in five years, costing taxpayers about $650,000.
A former female aide said the governor asked her to play strip poker with him on the plane.
Cuomo has denied that allegation.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo frequently uses a state-owned airplane and helicopter to reach the far corners of the state for official business, costing taxpayers nearly $650,000 from 2015 through April 2020, an Insider analysis found.
One of the allegations against him involved the governor’s official state airplane, known as King One. Former economic-development aide Lindsey Boylan wrote in an essay that during a flight in November 2017, Cuomo asked her to play strip poker. Cuomo has denied that allegation, and his office disputed her claim that she was alone with the governor, a state trooper, and a press staffer.
Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, did not return Insider’s request for comment.
The governor also uses a private plane for nongovernmental travel that’s paid for by in-kind donations, a former aide familiar with his travel patterns and logistics said.
Insider used a list of state police planes and helicopters from the New York State Trooper’s website and tail-wing numbers registered as New York State Police aircraft to identify the passenger aircraft model used by Cuomo.
By reviewing five years’ worth of the governor’s monthly public schedules, Insider identified that Cuomo flew in this state plane over 460 times, accruing some 400 hours of total flight time over five years.
The Cuomo administration has not yet responded to Insider in its Freedom of Information Law request for financial records detailing his air-travel expenses. A Cuomo spokesperson referred Insider’s list of questions to New York State Police.
Nel Stubbs, the vice president at Conklin & de Decker, an aircraft market intelligence and consulting company, estimated that this plane model cost $1,616 an hour to operate, according to her company’s database. This figure was calculated using estimated fuel cost, plane maintenance, landing fees, and crew incidental expenses not including salary.
Flight-crew salary, insurance, and the cost to maintain the plane in its Albany hangar were not included.
‘It is crazy old. Terrifying to fly on it.’
The twin-propeller plane used by Cuomo has had safety scares, with the governor’s office pushing in recent years for an updated fleet of aircraft they share with New York State Police.
“It’s crazy old,” the former aide said, recalling dicey flights that left newcomers on King One thoroughly spooked. “Terrifying to fly on it.”
One of the helicopters had to make an emergency landing in 2017 after the cockpit began filling with smoke, local news outlets reported at the time.
As a general practice, Cuomo uses the chopper for trips downstate to New York City, Long Island, or the Hudson Valley, the former staffer said. If an event is outside of those regions or within driving distance in the capital region surrounding Albany, the governor takes King One.
But the flight records obtained by Insider show some flights as short as 15 minutes without a return trip. King One’s return to the hangar from those trips were not factored into Insider’s cost-estimate analysis.
The time saving of air travel in a state as big as New York is significant, particularly when it comes to the far-flung cities and towns across the upstate region.
Cuomo’s flights from Albany to New York City were usually around 40 to 45 minutes, while driving a motorcade into the city would take between two and a half to three hours. For a trip west to Buffalo, flying takes a little over an hour, while a one-way trip by car would take at least four hours.
The governor’s travel sometimes came in bursts, such as on April 21, 2020, when he flew from Albany to Buffalo, then from Buffalo to Washington, D.C., and then back from the nation’s capital to Albany.
The state comptroller approved the 2017 purchase of a Sikorsky S-76D executive helicopter for $12.5 million that could fly the governor on state business and also handle law-enforcement missions. Aides refer to the governor’s main chopper as the Sikorsky, a possible reference to this aircraft, and rely on an older Bell 430 helicopter when its unavailable.
“I swore never to fly on that helicopter again,” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017 when she was serving as his chief of staff.
“Unfortunately, given the demanding schedule we keep, it’s not really an option.”
Read the original article on Business Insider