TRENTON, N.J. >> Gov. Chris Christie has used state-owned helicopters to make nearly 100 trips in the last two years, according to a published report, but he’s also used them far less than two of his predecessors.
Gannett New Jersey reports that Christie often uses the helicopters to travel to places where he’s holding public events.
But the Republican governor has also mixed in personal and political trips, including one to attend a presidential debate last year at Hofstra University in New York. He’s also used them to shuttle from two co-hosting appearances on a New York sports-talk radio station.
It costs $2,487.42 per hour to fly the state helicopter, as determined by the state police, which has a fleet of them. The flights Christie took in 2015 and 2016 — the most recent years available — added up to more than 200 hours of airtime, or roughly $500,000 worth of travel.
Christie has routinely brushed aside objections to his use of the helicopters, and his use of them isn’t uncommon. Democrat Jim McGreevey, New Jersey’s governor from 2002 to 2004, used the helicopter more than 250 times in his first year in office, and Democrat Jim Florio, governor from 1990 to 1994, used it more than 2,300 times in his four-year term. The Gannett story did not include data on how often Christie used the helicopters during his first five years in office.
Christie took 34 helicopter flights during 2015 and 2016 that were considered non-state business. The state was reimbursed $54,723.19 for those flights, with payments coming mostly from campaign accounts supporting Christie’s run for president and other political groups, such as the state Republican committee.
Christie and his wife paid for one flight themselves — $1,243.71 for a half-hour trip on Aug. 10, 2016, from the 30th Street Heliport in New York to Island Beach State Park in Ocean County. Christie co-hosted a radio show that day but was on vacation at a state-owned beach house at the park.
Christie has strongly defended his use of the helicopter, saying over the years that it is safer to travel long distances in the air than to use his normal mode of travel, in a fleet of SUVs.
His immediate predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, was seriously injured in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway in 2007. A subsequent review by the security detail assigned to governors recommended that governors travel by helicopter instead of car.