Friday, January 13, 2012

New Mexico Governor Martinez announces plans to sell more state airplanes, reducing fleet from 8 to 3

SANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday announced plans to sell more of the state's airplanes.

The governor said the state is putting two planes up for sale in the months ahead and eventually will reduce the number of state airplanes from eight to three.

"It is important for us to take these steps to ensure the size of the state air fleet is in line with how the planes should reasonably be used," Martinez said in a statement.

When Martinez took office in January 2011 the General Services Department owned four airplanes, the Department of Public Safety owned three planes and a helicopter, and one plane belonged to the Game and Fish Department.

Martinez sold the state's luxury jet for $2.5 million last August. That's less than half of what the state paid for the plane under former Gov. Bill Richardson. Also last year, the Department of Public Safety sold two planes that were deemed too costly to repair.

"We never needed a luxury jet, and clearly, there are other airplanes at GSD that need to be sold due to their ineffectiveness, high cost of repair or lack of use," the governor said.

Martinez says the further reductions are being made "to ensure the size of the state air fleet is in line with how the planes should reasonably be used."

According to state records, the governor made only seven trips in state aircraft last year.

The planes the General Service Department plans to sell include a grounded 1976 Beechcraft King Air and a 1983 Gulfstream Turbo Commander.

The reduction in planes will leave the agency with a 2006 Beechcraft King Air that will be used under limited circumstances by public officials and to transport doctors to rural areas of the state as part of the Children's Medical Services program.

The Department of Public Safety will own a Cessna 421 fixed-wing aircraft and an Agusta 109E helicopter. Game and Fish will continue to use its 2009 Vulcanair Observer.

The governor's office said a memorandum of understanding will be drafted between DPS and GSD that allows each agency to use the other's aircraft when it is available.

General Services Secretary Ed Burckle said the arrangement will result in a more efficient and cost-effective fleet.

State officials could not say how much money will ultimately be saved, citing variables such as fuel costs, flight time and expenses stemming from the sales process. However, they expect as much as $770,000 to be saved through the elimination of aircraft maintenance and operations costs once the fleet's downsizing is complete.

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