Robert Felland, left, from Alaska, gets a hug from Gov. Susana Martinez after he bought the state's jet Thursday at the Santa Fe Airport. Martinez turned over the keys to Felland.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez waved goodbye Thursday to a state-owned jet she calls the “ultimate symbol of waste and excess.” Her administration sold the plane for $2.5 million.
Martinez presented keys to the aircraft to the new owners, a retired couple from Anchorage, Alaska, at a ceremony at Santa Fe’s municipal airport.
“Last year when I was running for governor, I not only promised taxpayers that I would not use this state jet as a personal air taxi, I promised New Mexicans across the state that I would get rid of this symbol of greed and excess in state government.
“And today, I make good on that promise,” Martinez said.
The new owners, Robert and Linda Felland, stood next to the governor at the airport news conference — the jet as a backdrop with a large “SOLD” sign affixed to it.
“I hear it is a sweet ride but I will just have to take their word for it,” Martinez said.
The couple and their pilots later took off for Wisconsin, where they maintain a home. Martinez waved at the couple as the plane headed toward a runway.
The twin-engine business jet, a Cessna Citation Bravo, was purchased new in 2005 by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration for $5.5 million. Richardson was a frequent flier on the jet, but Martinez never used it.
The jet was sold through a broker, which will receive a commission of 2 percent of the purchase price — $50,200.
Since Martinez took office in January, the jet remained grounded except for routine maintenance.
With the jet’s sale, New Mexico will have two planes in its fleet available for travel by government officials: a 2006 Beechcraft King Air and a 1983 Gulfstream Turbo Commander, both five-seat turboprops.
New Mexico isn’t the only state to get rid of aircraft to trim expenses during tough financial times.
Florida sold two planes earlier this year, including a 2003 Cessna Citation Bravo for $1.9 million. Michigan sold three of its planes in 2005.
New Mexico’s Cessna features seven leather seats in the main cabin.
The jet can fly at more than 450 mph and go from Santa Fe to Hobbs in far southeastern New Mexico in about 45 minutes — a trip that can take more than five hours by car. Martinez said the state’s twin-engine King Air can reach Hobbs in a little over an hour and it costs half as much to operate as the jet.
It’s estimated the state will save nearly $500,000 a year that would have spent on fuel and maintenance for the jet. Martinez said the jet wasn’t practical in New Mexico because it was designed for long-distance travel rather than short trips within the state.
Felland, 72, is chairman of the board of Dicom Corp., a printing and publishing company based in Madison, Wis.
“I’ve been dreaming about an airplane like this for years,” he said.
The couple plan to use the jet for personal travel, including visiting children and grandchildren in Minnesota, Kansas and Washington state. The plane will be based in Anchorage.
He has owned a single-engine turboprop plane but said his wife didn’t like using it over the Gulf of Alaska.
“That started the hunt,” Mrs. Felland said of their jet purchase.