The state plane


Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his education commissioner, Alice Seagren, are flying around the state today to talk about his education reform proposals for the 2009 legislative session.

The pair drop into an airport, do some interviews with the local media, get back on the state airplane, head to the next stop and do more interviews. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Flying around the state is a good way to get your mug — and point of view — on TV, newspapers, and radio around the state.

How much does it cost?

The governor is using the state airplane, N70MN, a Beechcraft Super King Air 200. You can follow its flight history via

It started its day at St. Paul’s Holman Field, flew to Moorhead, then Duluth, then St. Cloud, and then back to St. Paul, on to Winona, then Albert Lea, and back to St. Paul.

A 2003 survey put the hourly fuel use of a twin-engine King Air 200 at 106 gallons per hour.

It took 52 minutes to fly to Moorhead, 44 minutes to fly to Duluth, 41 minutes to St. Cloud, and 22 minutes to St. Paul, according to

Flight planning software that calculates today’s winds shows the plane flies at an average speed of 201-250 miles per hour (it can fly much faster and does in cruise but, obviously, flies slower during takeoff and landing). So its flights to Winona, Albert Lea, and back should last 29 minutes, 28 minutes, and 21 minutes for a total flying time today of about 4 hours. Add in 15 minutes in each location for taxiing and you’re left with about 5 hours and 45 minutes at 106 gallons of fuel per hour.

Fuel at St. Paul Downtown Airport (where, by the way, it’s ridiculously overpriced compared to other airports) is about $6.50 a gallon or $689 per hour.

Total cost? For fuel: $3,755.05, or about $1,500 more than a teacher can earn in performance pay under the governor’s Q-Comp program.

How often is the plane used? Not that often (based on filed flight plans). Total in-flight time in the last 4 months: 47 hours.