Former Republican Gov. Jim Martin got a free ride to Jesse Helms' funeral Tuesday – courtesy of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.
Easley's office offered Martin a ride aboard the Cessna Citation the governor often uses on state business. Flight records show the 8-passenger jet picked Martin up in Concord in the morning and flew him to Raleigh and back again after the funeral. “I was happy to accept that, it saved a couple hours each way,” said Martin, who lives on Lake Norman. “I thought it was a nice gesture.”
The plane costs $770 per hour to operate, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce, which owns it. The two round-trips took a total of less than two hours, according to flight records. Martin appeared to be the lone passenger.
Easley spokesman Seth Effron said the Democratic governor offered the plane “as a matter of protocol and professional courtesy to the former governor because this was a matter of state.”
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Former Republican Gov. Jim Holshouser of Southern Pines also attended the funeral.
“If taxpayers would object to that,” Martin said of the trip, “it probably won't happen again.”