Friday, June 06, 2014

Congratulations Nebraska taxpayers! Your new $3.5 million Beechcraft turboprop was delivered Wednesday

The state's new airplane, a King Air C90GTx, arrived at Lincoln Municipal Airport on Wednesday. 

State Department of Aeronautics Chief Pilot Rob Markise flew the King Air C90GTx to the Lincoln airport, where it touched down about 11 a.m. and then sat on the tarmac Wednesday afternoon waiting to be moved to a hangar.

The plane was accepted Monday in Wichita, Kan., and a few minor areas were addressed Tuesday before it was released to Nebraska.

The weather didn't cooperate for a flight home Tuesday afternoon.

"Hail damage on a brand new airplane is frowned upon," Markise said.

He had attended classes for a week or so to learn about the plane's instrumentation and computers, or avionics, how to fly the plane using simulators and to familiarize himself with the many switches and buttons in the cockpit.

The plane, which had been flown only 5.8 hours, including the one-hour flight from Wichita to Lincoln, is a little easier to fly than the Piper Cheyenne, Markise said. It's also more efficient in flight and more comfortable.

The cabin has eight seats -- two in the cockpit, four in the passenger compartment and two in the tail. It also has a tiny area for baggage and a toilet under one of the seats in the tail.

Gov. Dave Heineman is set to be the first to use the plane on Thursday. According to his schedule, he will be in Broken Bow and Schuyler Thursday afternoon to deliver remarks at radio station and hotel grand openings.

The cost of the plane was a little more than $3.5 million. The 2013-15 state budget set aside $3.6 million to be transferred from the state's cash reserve via a bill (LB1016) passed in this year's session of the Legislature.

Because the deal was closed before the end of April, the state got a seven-year warranty on the plane that covers parts and labor for air frame, engines and avionics, which includes electronic equipment, said Department of Aeronautics Director Ronnie Mitchell.

Getting the seven-year warranty was a great deal for the state, he said.

The plane was "born" with the number N5104H. But when it's registered, which takes about five weeks, its tail number will be N84NE. Eight seats on the plane -- potentially a pilot or two and six or seven passengers -- for Nebraska.

The King Air should be able to travel as long as three hours with a full load before refueling is necessary, Mitchell said.

Cruising speed is about 300 miles per hour -- a little less when traveling west into a head wind. That's about 40 mph faster than the Piper Cheyenne at cruise speed. It's also much quieter, said Mitchell, who will take the training to fly the plane at a later date.

The state will offer up the Piper Cheyenne in the next few weeks as state surplus property for a cost of $450,000 to $525,000, he said.

The University of Nebraska Foundation had offered to sell its 2001 King Air to the state last year for $2.5 million. The governor asked for the money for that purchase, but the Legislature delayed the decision to this year to study what the best option would be for the state. That plane was then sold to a private buyer.

A quarterly report from the Aeronautics Department that covered Jan. 1 to March 31 on state government aircraft usage showed six state agencies and the governor's office flew in the 1982 Piper Cheyenne.

The Department of Roads flew four people a total 706 miles for a business meeting; the Game and Parks Commission flew a total of nine people on three trips, 2,096 miles for two bird counts and a commission meeting; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln flew one person, a speaker at a university lecture series, 304 miles for a drop off; the Aeronautics Department did two test flights for a total of 188 miles; the Department of Health and Human Services flew five people 722 total miles for a business meeting.

Heineman took three hops around the state in the Cheyenne for a total of 1,498 miles. The purposes of his trips were a Chamber of Commerce banquet, news conferences and Agriculture Week events.

State agencies will be charged $3.58 per mile to use the plane. With seven passengers that would be about 51 cents a mile per person. The cost of flying in the Piper Cheyenne was $4.50 because of the higher cost of maintenance on the 32-year-old plane.

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