Utah's state plane is not a luxury jet

2013-12-01T10:55:00Z Utah's state plane is not a luxury jetBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
December 01, 2013 10:55 am  • 

When you compare Utah's official airplanes that shuttle Gov. Gary Herbert around the state to the humongous jetliner that flies the President of the United States around it would be safe to say Utah's version is a compact car with a couple of extra features and that the president's plane is a Rolls-Royce.

While Utah's two planes, a King Air B200 and C90, do have leather seats and a desk that can fold out for the governor to use while in the air, that is about where the similarities end.

"It is not like we have flight attendants," said Patrick Morely, director of Utah's Division of Aeronautics. "This is just to get you there and then get you back."

Morely explained that the planes actually belong to the state and that they are not exclusively used by the governor's office. In fact the governor's office only made up 10 percent of the planes' usage in the 2012 fiscal year for the state -- 39 flight hours to be exact.

Morely said the planes are more often used by middle level management types in Utah's various state agencies. He said rarely would you find an agency director hopping on the plane as those who use the planes are usually heading out to hold meetings or to give a presentation. He also noted in his 12 years with the division that he has never seen anyone try to sneak any golf clubs onto the plane.

According to records kept by the division the University of Utah, in particular doctors from the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the university's cardiology unit, use the plane the most, followed by the state health department. Those two agencies alone account for 65 percent of the planes' flight hours in the last year. Utah's department of transportation, UDOT, comes in third place for airplane use as it used the planes for 46 hours in the last year.

To no surprise St. George was the top destination for the planes. Rock Springs, Wyo., was the second most traveled to destination by the state planes. Morely said the health department often does health clinics in Rock Springs which is why regular trips are made that direction. The third most popular destination was Blanding.

Morely said the Provo airport from time to time is also a destination for the airplanes. Morely said it rarely happens but once in a while Gov. Gary Herbert has the plane land at the Provo airport so he can make it to his Orem home for the weekend quicker instead of flying back to Salt Lake and then driving back to his Utah County home.

The state Legislature can also utilize the state's planes if they so choose. House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said state's lawmakers rarely use the planes because the cost is so high, the eight seat plane costs $900 per hour to use and the six seat plane costs $775 per hour. She did note though that from time to time it could make sense for the Legislature to book one of the planes to shuttle lawmakers around the state.

Lockhart said the planes were used last year by the Legislature while the Redistricting Committee held meetings statewide to gain input on how Utah's political boundaries should be redrawn.

Lockhart herself recently traveled on the plane with the governor for an economic development trip to central Utah. Lockhart said the planes were nice and she is glad state agencies can use them to be efficient in their work but said she'd rather get around in something a little bigger when she travels.

"I don't like small planes personally," she said. "It is a nice enough plane, but for me personally I prefer a larger plane."

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can connect with Billy by email at or by

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