Gov. Kathy Hochul effectively commanded a plane serving the New York Power Authority, leaving the energy agency to fly by bus while hopping across the state, The Post has learned.
Power Authority workers have been stuck on commercial flights since May or driving hours to distant construction sites across New York while Hochul sits in their Beechcraft King Air 350 plane, sources said.
“There’s a lot of grumbling about this across the agency,” a source close to the Power Authority told The Post on Monday.
“People have to fly by bus,” the source added.
NYPA employees have used the twin-propeller aircraft since 2007 to reach remote locations like the North Country and western New York and help sustain an energy portfolio that includes 16 power plants and more than 1,400 miles of transmission lines.
“Apparently Gov. Hochul’s political timeline and her ability to meet voters takes precedence over the professionals who do the actual work for the people of New York,” Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Oswego) said.
That all changed in January, however, when State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen asked his agency to get the plane for free as the NYPA considered acquiring a new plane, state records show.
“With various public safety events impacting New York State and changes in crime and safety trends, the [state police] It continues to rely on personnel, including executive transportation, and equipment to be transported across the state,” Bruen wrote in a Jan. 22 email to Justin Driscoll, NYPA interim president and CEO.
NYPA officials approved the transfer by the end of the month.
“The NYPA has finalized plans to purchase a new aircraft in December 2021 and has initiated the handover of its existing aircraft to the New York State Police, eventually completing the handover in May,” NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele said in an e-mail. Mail.
A state police spokesman, William Duffy, denied that Bruen’s request was made at the urging of the governor’s office.
The King Air 350 is now one of five aircraft designated for use by the Governor, along with an aging Bell helicopter, two older King Air 200 aircraft and a Sikorsky 76D helicopter, which is their vehicle of choice for short flights .
According to Duffy, Hochul has flown in the King Air 350 five times since state police officially acquired the plane in late May.
That represents just a fraction of the total flights Hochul has made as governor, including more than 140 flights by helicopter or plane in the first seven months after she replaced the disgraced ex-government. Andrew Cuomo, who has also been the subject of controversy for his use of state aircraft.
Records show trips by Hochul including overnight flights from New York City by plane to their hometown of Buffalo – including a trip in September to see the home opening of their beloved Buffalo Bills.
“At the end of the day, a governor is allowed to go home. Buffalo is my home,” Hochul told reporters last week after facing criticism from Republicans and some New Yorkers.
The Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft has become one of her favorite vehicles over the past few months as she runs for a full term against Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island.
“The more we learn about ‘Air Hochul’, the more offensive it becomes. It’s exactly the kind of waste and abuse that taxpayers don’t need, especially when they’re sacrificing so much to deal with the worst inflation in 40 years,” Barclay, who has backed Zeldin, said in the statement.
State police and the Hochul administration justified the transfer of the King Air 350 by citing the age of other aircraft previously used by Hochul.
“Our current King Air 200 aircraft are 46 and 34 years old and are becoming increasingly expensive to repair, maintain and operate. Acquiring NYPA’s King Air 350 at no cost to taxpayers was easily the most responsible way to upgrade our aging fleet,” Duffy said in an email.
The King Air 200 model aircraft had “mechanical problems ranging from landing gear failure due to inoperable doors and other moving parts have been a concern for the past few months,” Duffy said in a previous email.
According to industry observers, a King Air 350 also offers passengers a more luxurious experience than the 200 model.
“The 350 is the largest King Air, with a cabin nearly three feet longer than the 200 model, which accommodates a roomy twin club seating layout, as well as a large and private stern lavatory,” enthused Flying in magazine a 2007 report.
Increased safety, speed, and comfort for the governor come at a price for NYPA engineers and staff, who continue to face the choice of driving, flying commercially, or delaying trips to remote work sites that they could previously reach via the weekly King Air 350 now used by the Governor.
A Hochul spokeswoman, Hazel Crampton-Hays, did not directly respond to a question from The Post Monday about whether the governor or her government had any part in encouraging the NYPA to turn over the King Air 350 to state troops.
But Crampton-Hays said in an email that the transfer followed established protocols while ensuring the governor could travel through other aircraft at her disposal without “costly maintenance, increased mechanical problems, including landing gear failures, and increased safety risks.”
“Governor Hochul works around the clock, visiting all 62 counties every year and traveling across the state by car, train and plane to deliver for New Yorkers because it’s her job. The state police make decisions about the governor’s transportation, including the type of aircraft, based on factors such as the length of the trip and the weather,” Crampton-Hays said.
But her critics say the latest revelation about her flying habits, which she says has been cleared up by her legal advisers, adds to ongoing questions over flights, which experts say cost taxpayers about $1,300 an hour in the air costs.
“This is further evidence that these flights have nothing to do with what is best for the state and taxpayers, everything to do with what is best for Hochul’s luxury lifestyle and fundraising schedule. There needs to be a top-down investigation,” GOP party leader Nick Langworthy said in a statement.
https://nypost.com/2022/07/25/hochul-plane-acquisition-leaves-power-authority-driving-flying-commercial/ Acquisition of Hochul aircraft lets Power Authority fly, fly commercial