A recent probe by the Defense Audit Service found numerous instances in which Pentagon brass misused military aircraft for personal trips or when cheaper commerical flights were available. The auditors checked 777 recent military flights by members of all services and cited 180 as examples of "economic misuse."
Here are some samples:
* A Marine Corps general and his wife flew by helicopter from Bethesda Naval Hospital to Quantico Marine Corps Base at a cost of $1,574, compared to the $20 cost of a trip by military sedan.
* An Air Force general, his wife and two officers flew round trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Los Angeles, stopping six hours in Las Vegas. Had they flown commercially, they would have saved $8,279, even with the Las Vegas stopover.
* An officer had a helicopter from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa meet him at the Daytona Beach airport, 140 miles away, and take him to a meeting five miles from the airport. It cost the Air Force $1,575 for the helicopter trip instead of a $20 taxi fare.
* An Air Force general, saying he wanted to save time, flew aboard a C140 aircraft from Washington to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Usually, a T39 airplane is used for such trips. The general saved 15 minutes, but spent an additional $12,400.
* Several hundred Air Force cadets "not directly associated with football teams, cheerleaders or bands" were flown to the Army-Air Force and Navy-Air Force football games at a cost of $300,000.
DAS has finished a draft copy of its report and delivered it to the Pentagon for comment. Only one of the 180 cases has been turned over to military prosecutors. It involved an officer who used a military plane for what he claimed was an official trip. The DAS said he never showed up at the office where he said he was going.