Lawmakers Debate Whether to Buy New Nebraska Plane

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), February 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

Lawmakers Debate Whether to Buy New Nebraska Plane


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Lawmakers on Wednesday debated whether Nebraska should buy, lease or charter a new plane to ferry the governor and others around while on state business.

The proposal would allow the state to acquire a plane to replace its 1982 Piper Cheyenne aircraft. Gov. Dave Heineman and other state officials have used the plane since losing access to a newer aircraft last year.

Lawmakers rejected the governor's budget request last year to spend $2.5 million for a 2001 Beechcraft King Air, saying they hadn't yet studied the alternatives. State officials had leased the plane from the University of Nebraska Foundation, which sold it to a private buyer in September for $1.9 million. Heineman has said the state needs a plane so he and other officials can travel to western Nebraska quickly and safely to meet with residents.

The question of whether to buy, lease or charter "is what this debate needs to be about," said Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, the bill's sponsor. "Whether we need air travel and air support, I think, is a foregone conclusion."

Krist, a pilot and Air Force veteran, said the state should buy new because the other options could cost more over the long-term. A new plane would have better safety features, he said, and would retain more of its value after its recommended 20-year lifespan has expired.

Krist said chartering a plane could create logistical problems, because aircraft aren't always available when needed. Chartering and leasing would also rely on a private company's pilots, he said. The Department of Aeronautics already has two regular pilots in addition to director Ronnie Mitchell, a pilot who sometimes fills in. …

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