The RCMP's top brass used police aircraft for travel 24 times between September and the end of November in 2009, according to documents posted on the Mounties' website.
On several occasions, the Mounties used the planes to fly to parties.
The trips include flights Deputy Commissioner Raf Souccar took from Ottawa to the Royal Winter Fair president's dinner in Toronto, to a G8 regimental dinner in Barrie, and to the Ontario Provincial Police annual mess dinner in Borden. Each time, he flew on one of the RCMP's seven-seat Pilatus turboprops.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said those events aren't technically parties.
"Part of his duties are actually to attend those events, but at the same time he goes to official meetings. Indeed, at this time at the G8, he met with members of the community, the Toronto police, the OPP, all in regards to the G8."
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott also flew a Pilatus from Ottawa to Toronto in October to attend an RCMP Police Foundation Gala. And in September, Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre flew from Abbotsford to Cranbrook, B.C., on an RCMP plane to attend a regimental ball.
The Mounties have no official policy for the use of RCMP aircraft for executive travel, just a set of rules relating to authorized passengers.
RCMP considers costs before flying
Even so, Gagnon said the RCMP always weighs the costs of flying commercial against travelling aboard RCMP planes. When more than one officer is headed to the same destination at the same time, she said it makes sense to fly the police-owned aircraft.
Yet on several flights during that three-month period last year, deputy commissioners flew with only one or two other passengers.
Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht flew on a seven-seat Pilatus between Edmonton and Calgary three times with only one other person on board. When Souccar flew on the Pilatus to Borden for the OPP dinner, he also flew with only one other person, and he had just two passengers on the flight to Barrie for the G8 regimental dinner.
When deputy commissioners Peter Martin and William Sweeney flew from Ottawa to Toronto for a meeting, there were a total of three people on board the seven-seat Piaggio turboprop.
Gagnon said the RCMP already owns the planes. The cost of maintaining them and paying a pilot for each flight runs about $2.60 per nautical mile. Despite 35 daily scheduled commercial flights from Ottawa to Toronto, and 25 flights from Edmonton to Calgary, most of the flights aboard RCMP aircraft were short-haul trips along those routes.
For the most part, Mounties use their aircraft within Canada. But last October, Souccar flew from Ottawa to Denver with three others for a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. His colleague, Deputy Commissioner Tim Killam, attended the same conference, but flew commercial at a cost of $807.02.
Too many examples of unreasonable use: critic
Canadian Taxpayers Federation president Kevin Gaudet says air travel would be an obvious place for Mounties to start trimming their spending. He said sometimes the trips are reasonable — when the plane is full and those on board are attending RCMP-related business.
"But there's enough examples, too many examples, of the plane being almost empty. And going for parties isn't the right use of this type of resources," he said.
The RCMP bought its first plane in 1937. The force now has 33 planes and helicopters in its fleet.
In most cases, the aircraft are used to transport emergency response or tactical troops, in surveillance, search and rescue, transporting prisoners and moving Mounties among Canada's many northern and remote locations. The police-owned aircraft allow officers to carry firearms on board, travel covertly and fly at all hours.
The original story said Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht had flown in a 20-seat aircraft between Edmonton and Calgary three times with only one other person on board. In fact, the aircraft he had flown on was a seven-seat Pilatus.Mar 03, 2010 8:35 AM ET