CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration is conducting a comprehensive review of the state's aircraft fleet, following a significant decline in state plane use since Tomblin took office.
The use of the state's largest airplane, a King Air 350, has dropped by a third -- from a high of 302 flights in 2006 to 197 last year. Flights on the state's other plane, a 2009 Cessna Grand Caravan, are down by half, from 199 to 95 flights, during the same period.
The governor's office primarily uses the state aircraft, followed by the departments of transportation, commerce and environmental protection.
"We're doing a significant amount of research assessing the use of aircraft, as well as our helicopters, attempting to determine what is best for the state," said Administration Secretary Ross Taylor, who is leading the review.
Since Tomblin became acting governor in November 2010, the twin-engine King Air has flown about 175 times a year, while the Cessna Caravan has averaged about 100 flights annually. Former Gov. Joe Manchin's administration, which preceded Tomblin's, used the King Air plane 207 times per year on average, while the Cessna, a single-engine turboprop plane, averaged 162 flights.
Flight hours also are down. The King Air flew 210 hours in 2008, compared to 155 during the past fiscal year. The Cessna logged 79 flight hours in 2008, and 72 last year.
Taylor said he was unsure why flights have declined since Tomblin took office. The governor has not directed his office or state agencies to curtail use of state planes.
However, the governor's office has asked that cabinet secretaries analyze all flight requests submitted by state agency employees to determine whether a commercial flight would be cheaper, Taylor said.
The number of flights started to decline in 2008, two years before Manchin left the governor's office and became a U.S. senator.