SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In 2022, KELOLAND News secured multiple years worth of state plane flight logs, shining light on a variety of trips taken by Governor Noem on the taxpayer dime.

In the interest of keeping up to date on this data, KELOLAND recently obtained the flight logs for the state’s King Air 350 and King Air 90 planes from August 31, 2022, to September 7, 2023.

Within this time frame, there have been 182 total flights by the state planes, 101 by the King Air 350, and 81 by the King Air 90.

Of the 101 King Air 350 flights, 32 were with the Governor on board. Noem did not fly on the King Air 90 within this timeframe.

The majority of Noem’s flights were in-state, though four were out-of-state; a Dec. 27, 2022 flight to Killeen, Texas, a March 1, 2023 trip to Sioux City, IA, a July 16, 2023 trip to Washington, D.C. and a Aug. 21, 2023 flight to Del Rio, Texas.

That first trip, Pierre to Killeen, TX and back to Pierre on Dec. 27, 2022, lay right in the midst of a state of emergency in South Dakota, where massive snow storms had pummeled the state, hitting especially hard in the remote region of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Multiple people died as a result of the storm.

On this trip, Noem was accompanied by her Director of External Affairs Brad Otten, General Counsel Katie Hruska, Digital Director Chad Kubis, Highway Patrol staff Dan Podzimek, and now former South Dakota National Guard Generals Jeff Marlette and Scott Petrik.

A post on Noem’s Facebook page indicated this trip was to visit members of the National Guard she had sent to Texas.

On her trip to Sioux City, Noem was accompanied by Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor Beth Hollatz, Communications Director Ian Fury, Director of Boards and Commissions Ben Koisti, Director of Policy Mackenzie Decker, and state legislators Jim Stalzer and Tyler Tordsen.
This trip was to meet with the chamber of commerce and North Sioux City businesses.

The July 16, 2023 trip to Washington, D.C. saw Noem accompanied by Otten, Koisti, Otten, Health Secretary Melissa Magstadt and Secretary of Tribal Relations Dave Flute. This trip coincided with a post made on Noem’s Facebook page about a meeting with IHS.

Noem’s final out-of-state trip, on Aug. 21, 2023, was to Del Rio, Texas. It was on this trip that Noem made comments stating that “…the vast majority of drugs in the Midwest are coming right through South Dakota,” on the state’s reservations.

Members of the Crow Creek Tribe condemned these comments, challenging Noem to provide evidence of her claims.

Noem was joined on this trip by Fury, Koisti, Kubis and Highway Patrolman Ryan Tennyson.

Among the various King Air 350 flights, both in-state and out-of-state, six stood out. These flights, on Oct. 19, 2022, March 14, 2023, March 17, 2023, April 11, 2023, April 12, 2023, and May 31, 2023, saw the King Air 350 flying empty.

In the October 19, 2022 situation, the plane flew a delegation of state officials to Denver, CO on the 17th, and returned empty to Pierre on the 19th. Logs show that on the 19th, the Governor flew with four others from Pierre to Sturgis to Denver, and from Pierre to Sturgis to Pierre. The log also shows another Oct. 19 flight in which the plane flew the initial group of state employees back from Denver to Pierre.

Screenshot of flight logs

In this instance, it would seem that the King Air 350 was the only airborne option for the Governor, as a check of the King Air 90 logs shows that plane was in use by other state employees within this time frame.

That isn’t always the case, however.

The King Air 350 made other empty flights, leaving its initial passengers in order to return to Pierre to fly the Governor.

In March of 2023, it left Montana on the 14th in order to fly Noem and others from Pierre to Mitchell and back on the 15th and from Pierre to Rapid City and back on the 16th. The plane then returned to Montana on the 17th to pick up its initial passengers.

Logs for the King Air 90 show that the plane was not in use during this time frame, raising the question of why the King Air 350 was recalled from Montana for Noem’s flights, and why the Governor didn’t use the King Air 90, already in Pierre, instead.

KELOLAND reached out to the DOT and the Governor’s office, asking whether there is a policy regarding which plane the Governor is permitted to use, or if there was another reason, such as maintenance or seating capacity, that the King Air 90 could not be used.

In a response from the Governor’s office, Fury wrote: “The 350 often returns to Pierre in those instances, and it would have had to even if the Governor took the 90 because protocol requires her to travel with two pilots ever since the tragic Gov. Mickelson crash.”

If you would like to review this past year in flight logs, you can find them here.