- Gov. Cuomo flew in a state-owned private plane over 460 times in a 5-year span, costing taxpayers nearly $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.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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 currently running for Manhattan borough president, did not return Insider’s request for comment.
The governor also uses a private plane for non-governmental travel that’s paid for by in-kind donations, a former aide familiar with his travel patterns and logistics told Insider.
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 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 5 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, Vice President at Conklin & de Decker, an aircraft market intelligence and consulting company, estimates that this plane model costs $1,616 per hour to operate, according to her company’s database. This figure is calculated using estimated fuel cost, plane maintenance, landing fees, and crew incidental expenses not including salary.
Flight crew salary, insurance, or the cost to maintain the plane in its Albany hangar, however, are not included.
‘It is crazy old. Terrifying to fly on it.’
The twin propeller plane used by Cuomo has had several safety scares, with the governor’s office pushing in recent years for an updated fleet of aircrafts they share with New York State Police.
“It’s crazy old,” the former aide told Insider, 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, according to local news reports at the time.
As a general practice, Cuomo uses the chopper for trips downstate to New York City, Long Island, or the Hudson Valley, according to the former staffer. If an event is outside of those regions or within driving distance in the Capital Region surrounding Albany, the governor takes King One.
However, 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 the 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.
If the main chopper known as Sikorsky is undergoing maintenance or repairs, an older helicopter called Bell 430 is used instead, the former aide said.
“I swore never to fly on that helicopter again,” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide who has been implicated in allegedly manipulating data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths, 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.”