Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nebraska Seeing Return on New Plane Investment

LINCOLN, Neb.-- The state's new plane, a Beechcraft King Air, has been cleared for take-off for a couple of weeks now.

Though some voiced concerns about the cost - about $3.5 million - or even the need for a new state plane, its chief pilot said he's already seeing a return on the state's investment.

"It's more fuel efficient," Rob Markise, the chief pilot, said.

"It can, using the same power settings, it flies probably 15-to-20 knots faster, which is closer to 40 miles per hour."

Markise says it has state of the art equipment, making it safer and cheaper to operate.

"Everything is brand new on this airplane," Markise said, "and we're hoping to go for a longer period of time before anything needs to be done to it."

Markise said the problem with the old plane, a Piper Cheyenne from the early 80's, is that only 50-to-60 of them were ever made.

"When [the Cheyenne] went down for maintenance," Markise said, "it went down for a little bit longer trying to get the right parts for it."

But, some lawmakers still questioned the multi-million dollar price tag back in February, when the legislature debated allowing money for a new aircraft.

"I'd be interested to see when all this shakes down as far as costs," Sen. Norm Wallman, of Cortland, said, "because depreciation and all these things are figured in there and noticed.

"It's going to cost more money than we think."

Marks said they ended up getting an extra two years added onto the plane's warranty because of how quickly they were able to purchase it. He said that's worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This is the latest and greatest technology out there," Marks said, "and, because of that, we're able to operate a little bit cheaper."


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