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Huge security hole for Colorado state airplane went unnoticed for seven years

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Until just recently, those who knew where to go online could find the real-time location of Colorado’s $4.2 million King Air Turbo airplane, with trackable tail number N205SP, used by a wide range of state officials, but most often by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

That information, for security purposes, was supposed to have been secret, according to Lance Clem, the public information officer for the Denver Department of Public Safety.

But for unknown reasons, a 2006 request to the Federal Aviation Administration to block the real-time whereabouts of Colorado’s state-owned aircraft was never processed.

State Patrol officials responsible for the operation and maintenance of the airplane discovered the problem when reporters for the local Fox News station contacted them on a different story about the flying habits of state officials and the cost of the aircraft.

“The website used by the Fox reporters made it clear to us that somehow, any earlier requests we’d made [to the FAA] to make the information unavailable had not been completely successful,” Clem wrote in a series of emails to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The Patrol has never provided information to the public about future or real-time use of the plane because the plane often transports the governor, other public officials and prisoners,” he said. “It’s a situation comparable to having the Air Force let people know where the presidential aircraft is flying at the moment.”

After the Fox reporters began asking their questions, but before the story aired recently, the State Patrol renewed its request to the FAA to block the current whereabouts of the plane from aviation websites.

The Fox story — which highlighted a questionable flight taken by Hickenlooper, a supporter and their respective sons to a bicycle race in Durango last year — made it sound like the state was trying to hide something.

“When made aware of our report, the state filed papers with the FAA to block the public from accessing the flight information from N205SP,” the station reported.

Luis Toro, the director of Colorado Ethics Watch, told the station the move was “disturbing and it makes it seem like they don’t want the public to know what they’re using this plane for.”

But Clem says there was nothing nefarious about it.