Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Illinois state airplane sale hitting turbulence again

This 1999 Beechcraft King Air airplane is among several the state of Illinois is trying to sell via online bidding. No bids have met the minimum $2.5 million reserve, and bidding closes Wednesday afternoon.

SPRINGFIELD — Another attempt to finish liquidating half of the state's fleet of airplanes appears to be headed down the same flight path as before.

With online bidding scheduled to close Wednesday afternoon, only one of the planes has received a bid, potentially leaving the state stuck with four of the planes it is trying to jettison.

Although some buyers could be waiting until the last minute to submit bids, the apparent lack of interest has Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration planning to investigate other ways to get rid of the aircraft.

"The governor is committed to selling the airplanes," said Meredith Krantz, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn announced plans to sell the planes last year. Under state law, equipment no longer needed by the state — from old police cars to out-of-date electronic devices — is offered to other units of government before it is sold to the public.

No local governments stepped forward.

In September, the planes were offered to the public via the state's surplus equipment bidding website, known as iBid.

After that first round of the eBay-style auction, only two of the smaller planes sold.

Unlike most auctions on the state's surplus equipment website, bidders seeking the airplanes must meet a base price level.

The minimum bid for a 1999 Beechcraft King Air 350, used to shuttle officials between Chicago and Springfield, is set at $2.5 million. No bids meeting that amount had been entered as of Tuesday morning.

The only plane receiving a bid through Tuesday was a 1978 Cessna Skylane with more than 1,400 hours on its single engine. The four-seater was previously used by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

It will cost a buyer more than $66,800.

Krantz said the state may consider other modes of selling the planes if the latest auction is unsuccessful.

"Maybe iBid is not the best platform to sell them," Krantz said.

Grounding the state's air fleet has been a popular topic among some lawmakers, who say the state doesn't need to spend millions of dollars maintaining multiple planes.

State Reps. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, and Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, both have campaigned on the issue of making do with fewer taxpayer-funded airplanes.

When the sales were announced, Quinn said the state could save as much as $7 million by reducing the air fleet.

Story and photo:   http://qctimes.com

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