When Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of his staff flew to South Florida Tuesday afternoon on state business, they did so on the upgraded King Air aircraft that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials had seized in a drug bust. Yep, the same aircraft that had a mechanical malfunction that forced DeSantis and his crew to make an emergency landing in St. Petersburg on his fourth day on the job.
Before leaving Tallahassee on his most recent trip south, DeSantis recalled the moment when the oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling of the plane during that harrowing flight a couple of weeks ago
“And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, it’s an old plane, maybe something just triggered, whatever,’” DeSantis said. “I just look around like, ‘We’re not actually supposed to do this?’ And the pilots are telling me, ‘Put it on.’ So we’re all huffing into this thing.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody was also aboard the flight.
“The governor and I both looked at each other when the oxygen masks dropped and wondered whether this was real,” Moody recalled. “And I can tell you now because of personal experience, oxygen is flowing and the bag does not inflate.”
“It was a pretty harrowing time,” Moody went on. “We had to descend, very quickly, to a lower level. Fortunately, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had excellent pilots who remained calm and cool under pressure. We were just glad to get on the ground.”
“I have never had to do that before in all my years of flying in different aircraft whether it’s a civilian or military, so it’s a little bit of a strange deal … (but) we’re back at it again,” DeSantis added.
The plane was put back into service after repairs were made. The governor used it last week to fly to Sebring after the mass shooting incident at a bank.
“It is what it is,” DeSantis added nonchalantly. “But I think they got it fixed.”
The state has been without aircraft for its top elected officials since then-Gov. Rick Scott sold of the three planes in the state fleet when he took office in 2011. Scott had made the misuse of state aircraft an issue in his campaign. After selling off the state panes, Scott — a multi-millionaire — traveled the state in his private jet.
“I will not be traveling in my own private jet,” DeSantis joked earlier this month when reporters asked him how he would travel around the state. “If you look at my financial disclosure, that’s just the way it is.”
His financial disclosure filed during the campaign lists his net worth at just over $310,000 — far less than his predecessor.
The incident has raised questions about how Florida’s chief executives should travel while conducting state business. There have been calls by some lawmakers and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for the state to explore purchasing a new aircraft. The issue is likely to come when the Legislature convenes in March.