TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida private aviation broker estimated the cost at nearly $500,000 for the two flights in private jets that transported 48 migrants from Texas, through Florida and onto Martha’s Vineyard.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has not said why the jets landed in Florida but at a Friday news conference, he implied no one boarded or got off at Crestview Airport on Wednesday.
From Florida, they flew to Spartanburg, South Carolina and then on to Martha’s Vineyard in what added up to a nearly 1,800-mile journey.
Ben Hague of Ben Hague Aviation in Estero said a “ballpark” cost for each flight is $230,000, but he said it could be higher since the pilots would have been over their hour limits, requiring them to stay overnight where they landed.
The governor’s office has not responded to questions about the cost.
A document on Transparency Florida indicated Vertol Systems Inc. received $615,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation for the “relocation program of unauthorized aliens.” It is not known if that money was used for the Martha’s Vineyard flights.
The governor’s office has also not responded to questions about what, if any, Florida state personnel were involved in the transportation process in Texas.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson said that agency was not involved. Florida National Guard and Highway Patrol have not responded to questions about whether they were involved.
As far as why Florida taxpayer money was used to transport people out of Texas, DeSantis said Florida officials sent to the border have collected data indicating 40% of border-crossers want to come to Florida. He said Florida law enforcement have found migrants crossing the state border in cars but he added, in his opinion, it makes more sense to go to Texas to find larger groups of people.
“So, they’ve been in Texas identifying people that are trying to come to Florida and then offering them free transportation to sanctuary jurisdictions,” DeSantis said. “And there’s likely to be buses and more planes but I’ll tell you this – the legislature gave me $12 million and I’m going to spend every penny.”
A week ago, DeSantis offered a hint about the flights to Massachusetts. The Washington Post reported the governor told donors at a fundraiser last Friday evening he has money and wants to be helpful.
“Maybe we will go to Texas and help. Maybe we’ll send (some) to Chicago, Hollywood, Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows?” DeSantis said, according to the article.