Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman has offered his two private jets to top leaders of the LDS Church to use in their global travels.
Huntsman, who owns two Gulfstream corporate jets, down-played the offer, which has been taken up on various occasions by church officials in the recent past, including former church President Howard W. Hunter."The Huntsman family and business are happy to provide the aircraft for a multitude of humanitarian, charitable and business purposes," Huntsman said in a written statement. "No single organization or group dominates usage."
But a spokesman for Gulfstream Aerospace said considering the high demand and cost for the long-range corporate jets, the offer is generous.
Huntsman, who owns Huntsman Chemical Corp., a petrochemical firm with operations worldwide, owns a Gulfstream III and a Gulfstream IV. He employs four pilots and a maintenance crew full time.
The Gulfstream IV is the latest model. It costs $24 million new, seats 12 and has a range of 4,700 miles, company spokesman David Henderson said. The jet costs roughly $2,200 an hour to operate.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognized the generosity of Huntsman, a member of the church and son-in-law to a Mormon apostle, in a statement issued Monday, saying the offer was extended to "ease (church authorities') increasing travel burdens in attending to the needs of members throughout the world."
The offer for regular use of the aircraft by members of the church's governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was made in March. And if the ambitious travel schedule of church President Gordon B. Hinckley is an indication, the jets could log some long miles.
Since assuming leadership of the church with 9.5 million members in March 1995, President Hinckley has traveled to 16 countries and several states.
The trips have been on both private and commercial transportation, the church's statement said.
Church spokesman Don LeFevre said Tuesday that the most recent use of a Huntsman plane was when President Hinckley flew to Madrid last week to break ground for a new LDS temple in Spain.