After helicopter fetches Gov’s wallet, ALEA won’t answer policy questions on helicopter use

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) - Shortly after we learned an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency helicopter flew to retrieve Governor Robert Bentley's wallet in Tuscaloosa and fly it down to him near Gulf Shores, ALEA released a statement.

They cite code that says ALEA is charged with protecting the governor and that they have the authority to use "any personnel or equipment of the department for the protection or security, or both, of any protectee designated in this chapter, at any personal, political, official, campaign-related, or recreational event."

But we still had plenty of questions.

One obvious one is cost. We talked to Nick Emmons, a flight instructor and commercial helicopter pilot.

He says helicopter costs depend on what you include. There's fuel, but there's also pilot time and regular, expensive maintenance.

"If you called me and said, 'I'm in Gulf Shores and I left my wallet, I want to hire you to bring it to me,'" Emmons tells us, "I could not do it for less that $550 to $600 an hour."

He estimates the whole journey for Bentley's wallet would take around four hours by chopper. That puts his total between $2,200 and $2,400. He says state rates on fuel could make the trip cheaper for them. He also acknowledges the state may not have to pay for the helicopters, which often come from the military.  That also makes the flight cheaper.

To be frank, even the high-end estimate is not a huge number for a state agency like ALEA though.

Here's what we're most interested in. When a pilot wants to take off, he puts a ton of thought into it.

Emmons lists off, "You have a pre-flight check list. On that pre-flight checklist, according to how complicated the aircraft is, it could be as simple as twenty items. It could be seventy items."

But what checklist does ALEA use before launching a helicopter to pick up a wallet? Their statement says:

"[T]he decision to utilize department equipment to facilitate the request was made through ALEA`s chain of command, using standard agency protocol."

We've asked three different times "Does ALEA have written policy on the use of its helicopters, for instance when they may be used or what for?"

Still no answer.

We've also asked the governor's office multiple times the governor did anything to impact the use of state helicopters going forward.

Still no answer.

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