By Grant Bissell

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KSDK) - The Missouri State Auditor is blasting the Missouri Highway Patrol for spending $5.6 million on a new state airplane.

Last December, the Highway Patrol purchased a King Air 250. The plane is used mostly to transport Governor Nixon and other officials across the state.

But Republican Auditor Tom Schweich says in 2012 the five existing passenger planes already in the fleet weren't used often enough to justify the purchase of a new plane.

"There were 115 days in which none of the five aircraft flew and zero days in which all of the aircraft flew," said Schweich. "So we question the need for spending almost six million dollars worth of taxpayer money on an expensive new airplane when the old airplanes were not being utilized very frequently."

The Highway Patrol insists the new plane was necessary because of scheduling conflicts with the two similar planes already in the fleet.

A spokesman also says the state got the plane at a discount with a lengthy warranty and it should remain in service for the next 20 years.

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