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The plane truth on O’Malley’s visit to China

Sometimes, trade missions are more about the journey.

“They’re going to make sense [as economic development efforts], by and large,” said Andrew J. Cassey, an assistant professor at Washington State University who studies trade missions. “What I can’t rule out is that the purpose of the trip isn’t to be at the destination, but is to be sitting on an airplane for 24 hours, talking with the governor about how the tax policy could be better in Maryland.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley leaves Tuesday from Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport, flying Continental Airlines to Newark, then Shanghai.

Of the 74 people participating in the trip — 68 business executives and education leaders and six state officials — 20 will be on that nearly 20-hour flight.

Jock O’Connell, a California international trade consultant, said that kind of access to the governor can make trade missions “extended lobbying trips.”

The Department of Business and Economic Development is picking up the travel costs for O’Malley, staffers Sam Clark and David Lee, DBED Secretary Christian Johansson, Secretary of State John P. McDonough, and DBED’s Asia regional manager, Bradley Gillenwater.

The group, including the 6-foot-7-inch Johansson, will fly coach to China. And they are booked in coach seats on the Korean Airlines return flight June 11, except for O’Malley, who will fly business class.

The governor’s entourage will also include state trooper bodyguards. A Maryland State Police spokesman said he could not divulge how many officers will be on the trip for security reasons. DBED and the state police will split the cost of travel for the security detail.