Local News

New Audit Critical Of How State Air Fleet Managed

Posted November 25, 2003

— Getting a full month's pay for working only 15 hours a month might sound great to many pilots.

But taxpayers may not like to know their money covers the cost of the paycheck.

That is one of the problems found Tuesday in a new

audit critical of the state's air fleet

and how it is used.

Taxpayers have $27 million invested in 68 state-owned planes and helicopters. Whether the plane is a Department of Transportation Cessna Conquest taking aerial photographs or a Department of Commerce Beachcraft King Air hauling dignitaries, taxpayers spend more than $8 million a year to fly state aircraft.

The audit did not focus on aircraft used by law enforcement or the forestry service. Instead, it found fault with an inefficient use of passenger planes.

Which of the following issues do you think is the most critical when discussing the expense of using state-owned airplanes? Pilots' flight time Number of planes Maintenance costs Uniform procedures, policies Number of passengers allowed Number of pilots

The audit found too many departments loosely managing too many planes.

"That is a problem," state auditor Ralph Campbell said.

Campbell's team uncovered incorrect billing. The names of some business leaders were left off flight logs.

"It was just a passenger X or passenger A, as opposed to the identity of the passenger," Campbell said.

Auditors also found pilots with little to do. The audit revealed that some pilots worked only nine hours but got paid for a full 80-hour pay period.

No matter their hours, DOT pilots were paid overtime when they flew after 5 p.m.

"I think it's one of the issues that is an equity issue as well as a fairness issue," Campbell said.

Auditors have recommended consolidating flight operations from various state departments into one unit. They also have suggested selling some under-used aircraft and cutting staff by about 30 percent.

"The estimated revenues and savings that we can put numbers on would be close to $5 million," said Audit Manager Janet Hayes.

Campbell's team has recommended using part of that money to build a new hangar so the state will not have to lose its present one.

The audit found no documented examples of improper aircraft use, just a fragmented system of planes and procedures that needs to be improved.

Leaders from the Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation agreed with most of the audit and said they supported change.

Officials from the University of North Carolina, which operates six planes, worried that consolidating too many different types of aircraft could lead to more inefficiency.

Auditors also recommended replacing older planes and helicopters to cut down on maintenance costs.


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