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Cuomo's flights cost about $1,300 an hour; Traveled home on state aircraft

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's use of state aircraft to or from his Westchester home and the required flights by state police to return to the Albany hangar likely cost more than $1,300 an hour to operate, according to an aviation industry analysis.

Aviation consultant Conklin & de Decker, which has offices in Orleans, Mass., Phoenix, and Arlington, Texas, conducted the analysis.

Most of the 16 trips touching down in Westchester were added legs of tours to public events statewide to promote and discuss his cost-cutting budget and other initiatives. The three other trips were directly between Albany and Westchester.

The estimated cost of $13,000 over six months is a fraction of the state's $132 billion budget, in which Cuomo forced billions of dollars in rare spending cuts and addressed an inherited $10 billion deficit.

But the use of state aircraft has dogged several governors. Rules that one government group criticized as unclear require a state official to reimburse the state for "mixed use." However, any dispute over whether Cuomo's trips to or from Westchester would be prohibited or require reimbursement would be up to the state Commission on Public Integrity.

The commission continued to have no comment Monday, one day after the Associated Press detailed the flights based on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Law.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the state's cost for the aircraft is lower because the state maintains a full-time staff and other factors. He wouldn't provide another estimate.

Vlasto said Cuomo's use of the aircraft is prudent.

He said from Jan. 1 to July 15, Cuomo spent 91 nights in Albany and traveled by car with state police drivers 50 times to and from Westchester.

"During that period, on rare occasions, use of the plane or helicopter was approved because the governor was required to stay in Albany to deal with urgent state business, but had a pressing engagement in Westchester that could not be moved," Vlasto said. He wouldn't describe Cuomo's pressing issues back home.

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