Televangelist Kenneth Copeland, a licensed commercial pilot, makes no secret of his passion for flying in his broadcasts.
He owns three planes, and his church, northwest of Fort Worth, has a small fleet as well. Last March, after asking donors to chip in about $20 million, his church took ownership of a jet capable of flying a mile in about 6 seconds. Recently, the church gained a fifth plane: a $3.4 million jet.
The ministry has one full-time pilot and three other staff members, including Copeland, who fly as needed.
The aircraft are used for disaster relief, prison outreach, church meetings, worldwide conventions and other church activities about 90 percent of the time, the church says. The rest of the time they are used for personal trips, and “individuals are all charged for personal use of planes ….. These are all legal activities,” according to an e-mailed statement from the ministry on Friday.
The Star-Telegram researched the holdings using an FAA database after U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked several prominent televangelists for financial information. He specifically requested details about aircraft owned by Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church. According to Grassley’s office, church aircraft have set down in Maui, Fiji and Honolulu, though the purpose for those trips isn’t clear.
The church is considering its response.
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Taking a break?
Texas secretary of state records also show that KGLEN Air, a company that lists Copeland as a director, owns an aircraft. The company lists the phone number of the church’s accounting department. But a woman who answered the phone said the company isn’t affiliated with the ministry.
The fleet of a pastor and his church
Aircraft pictured … are representations of the listed jets and planes.
The ministry provided the values and maximum cruising speed for its aircraft. The speeds of other aircraft are from FAA averages, and the values of other planes are estimates based on Aircraft Blue Book average retail prices; Stearman owner Steve Guenard of Utah; and www.controller.com, which lists aircraft for sale.
Owner: Kenneth Copeland (3)
1944 Boeing B75N1 “Stearman”
Value: $70,000 to $140,000
Average cruising speed: 93 mph
A bi-plane used as a World War II trainer and later by barnstormers.
1953 North American T-28B “Trojan”
Value: $59,000 to $325,000
Average cruising speed: 208 mph
Loud, single-engine fighter trainer for the military.
1976 Beech E-55 “Baron”
Average cruising speed: 165 mph
The six-seater comes with an extended nose for baggage.
Owner: KGLEN Air (1)
1947 Republic RC-3 “Seabee”
Value: One is listed online for $40,000
Average cruising speed: 87 mph
Four-seat amphibious aircraft or “flying boat.”
Owner: Eagle Mountain International Church (5)
1962 Beech H-18 “Twin Beech”*
Maximum cruising speed: 220 mph
One of only six such aircraft licensed in Texas. The ministry said it is being restored for disaster relief use. Made with 11 seats.
1973 Cessna 421B “Golden Eagle” or “Executive Commuter”
Maximum cruising speed: 270 mph
Pressurized twin-engine business jet with eight seats. The ministry says it is under a contract, not yet finalized, to be sold.
1975 Cessna 500 “Citation”
Maximum cruising speed: 400 mph
A smooth, easy to fly but relatively slow “entry level” corporate jet with eight seats.
1998 Cessna 550 “Citation Bravo”
Value: $3.4 million
Maximum cruising speed: 400 mph
Donated to the church last month, according to the ministry. Seats up to nine.
2005 Cessna 750 “Citation X”
Value: $17.5 million
Maximum cruising speed: 588 mph
Cessna says similar models can travel from New York-to-London in about six hours.
* All make and model information is based on Federal Aviation Administration records. The church said that its Beech H-18 is a 1963 model.
Sources: Cessna; www.aircraftbluebook.com; FAA; Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation; Doug Jeanes of Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison; Pete Lane, a retired University of North Texas faculty member; www.nasa.gov