Study says: Buy a new state plane for $3.5 million

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Omaha Sen. Bob Krist said he’ll introduce a bill next week to buy a new airplane for the state of Nebraska that would cost about $3.5 million.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist

“We’re going to buy a new airplane, I hope,” Krist said Thursday.

The plane the governor had primarily used to travel was recently sold by the University of Nebraska Foundation, after state lawmakers balked last session when Gov. Dave Heineman proposed buying it for $2.5 million. That plane was a 2001 Super King Air B200 turboprop and was sold for $1.9 million, Krist said.

Lawmakers spent $3,800 to study whether it’d be more cost-effective to buy the foundation’s plane, buy a new plane or lease a plane. Krist said that study is now complete and recommended a new plane be bought, and recommends a 2013 Beechcraft C90.

Krist, an Air Force veteran and pilot, said the C90 would be just as fast and “capable in weather” as the King Air was, with a better avionics package and five-year warranty. The price includes training for two pilots and a mechanic.

“A C90 will make a fine resource for us,” Krist said.

He saw most lawmakers agreed the state should buy a new plane, but they wanted to take the time to do more research rather than just buy the foundation’s plane. The fact that the foundation sold the plane for $1.9 million shows the state would have overpaid. And the buyer has already had to put another $250,000 into the plane to fix a “major propeller problem,” Krist said.

So by his count, lawmakers saved the state a half million dollars by exploring their options.

The state owns two other planes – an eight-seat 1977 Piper Navajo and an eight-seat 1982 Piper Cheyenne – and Krist’s bill will recommend selling the Cheyenne (which the governor now uses). The proceeds would be used to help buy a new plane, with the rest of the money coming from general funds, Krist said.

He said if the Cheyenne can be sold quickly, he’ll put an emergency clause on the bill and the state could have one before the 60-day session ends. While Heineman and the first lady have expressed concern about the safety of flying state officials in the 32-year-old Cheyenne, Krist said he assumes the pilots wouldn’t fly it if they felt it were unsafe.

Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas said it just made sense to study the issue rather than rush to buy a plane. As a farmer, she’s used to checking out the market for large equipment purchases.

“Sometimes you have to spend money to make money,” she said.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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