NBC Philadelphia, Tim Furlong
Was it okay for Gov. Chris Christie to take the state chopper to his son's high school baseball game? Opinions seems to be directly related to whether people like or dislike the governor.
Let’s just call it “Choppergate.” That’s the latest controversy making headlines in the world of politics.This time it involves New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
According to NJ.com, Christie used a State Police helicopter on Tuesday to travel to his son’s baseball game at St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale.
The governor made quite the entrance as the chopper landed in a nearby football field. Gov. Christie then left the helicopter and got into a black car with tinted windows where he drove about 100 yards to the baseball field, according to NJ.com.
Christie and first lady Mary Pat Christie left the game during the fifth inning, getting back into the car, which drove to the helicopter, which then flew off.
Christie flew in an AugustaWestland helicopter, worth $12.5 million. It was added to the state fleet on May 4, according to FAA records. The brand new chopper can fly nearly 200 miles per hour.
Governors using state helicopters for business that doesn’t involve the state has been a controversial practice. Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak insisted that he didn’t do anything wrong however, addressing the issue through email.
It is a means of transportation that is occasionally used as the schedule demands. This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use.
Attorney General spokesman Paul Loriquet told NJ.com that helicopters are designed for law enforcement, emergency medical transportation and homeland security duties. Helicopters made specifically for medical use can also be used by executives however.
Its unknown where Governor Christie was traveling from since he had no public events on his schedule.
In response to the controversy, Colonel Rick Fuentes, the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police released the following statement:
Governor Christie is on duty every hour of every day. His transportation, safety and security are my responsibility, and he therefore travels with the State Police Executive Protection Unit, whether on state or personal business. As part of our long-standing security protocol, the EPU provides secure, protected travel by vehicle in the overwhelming majority of the Governor’s business and personal travel, except in those rare instances when the Governor’s schedule warrants use of air travel.
To date, Governor Christie has been aboard State Police helicopters 35 times since taking office, including aerial surveys of flood and storm damage. It is important to understand that State Police helicopters fly daily homeland security missions, and use flight time for training purposes, more so lately as we acclimate our pilots to the new aircraft. These are flight hours that would be logged in any event. Therefore, there is no additional cost to taxpayers or the State Police budget, nor is there any interference with our daily mission by adding the state’s chief executive to any of these trips. Any flights transporting the Governor would be subordinated to priority needs for our aircraft including rescue and emergent law enforcement missions.