Taoiseach, Martin biggest losers as jet scrapped
Published 13/12/2010 | 05:00
THE Government's biggest high-flyers -- the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs Minister -- will most miss the Gulfstream jet as it is consigned to the scrapheap.
Brian Cowen and Micheal Martin have clocked up the most air miles so far this year on board the €7,890-an-hour luxury Gulfstream IV.
Ministers' carbon footprints continued to mount this year despite a cost-cutting crackdown as the bill for flying the Gulfsteam jet rose to more than €1.3m as it travelled more than 79,400 air miles.
The Gulfstream is the most expensive of the ministerial aircraft costing just over €4,000 for fuel and maintenance for every hour in the air. This rises to €7,890 when extra essential costs such as the pilots are included.
The costly mode of transport was targeted for the scrapheap in last week's Budget. The Government announced it would not be repairing or replacing the Gulfstream jet, which was nearing the end of its lifespan.
However, it will continue to use the smaller business plane, the Learjet, which will be availed of by ministers travelling to Europe on government business.
Despite a major crackdown on the use of the Air Corps craft and helicopters to ferry ministers to meetings and openings, the total bill has risen to €1.7m for the 10 months to the end of October.
In many cases departments have tried to source commercial flights where possible. The total bill for ministerial travel by jet and helicopter -- excluding commercial flights -- amounted to €2.38m last year.
Simon Coveney, the Fine Gael transport spokesman, said it cost hundreds of thousands of euro to simply maintain the 18-year-old Gulfstream jet.
He demanded "a new code of conduct" in relation to usage of all ministerial transport services with ministers being required to show a commercial airline could not meet their time schedule.
"We need a much more transparent and open system," he said.
Mr Cowen and Mr Martin between them -- on some occasions flying together -- spent the equivalent of almost five days in the air on board the Gulfstream so far this year. The most costly trip of the year proved their trip to the US for St Patrick's Day, with stops in Chicago and Washington, at a cost of €186,730.
The Lear jet was called upon by ministers on 39 occasions up until the end of October at a total flying cost of €390,137.
The Lear jet does have additional uses, as it is also used by the Air Corps in vital air ambulance missions. In 2008, it was used on 12 occasions to bring people to hospital from remote locations.
The transport figures do not include President Mary McAleese's use of the Air Corps service.