"It's basically a safety issue," said Chris Cole of VTrans. "This plane behind us has seen its useful life."
That was the official word from VTrans Monday. Planning director Chris Cole told WCAX News the state's 50-year-old Cessna 182 would need $83,000 worth of repairs to continue operating safely. Since that's more than the plane is worth, state aviation officials wanted lawmakers to approve a $1.5 million lease-to-own program for a brand new Beechcraft Baron.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, grounded that proposal Thursday.
"My staff flips out every time I crawl into it. But I have confidence in the airplane. We don't have to do it this year, but at some point we're going to have to deal with it," Shumlin said Thursday.
Cole says the news is disappointing and VTrans is refocusing financial resources on roadwork rather than airplanes. A wise fiscal move, according to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who never supported the purchase.
"It's a sophisticated piece of equipment that we probably wouldn't use enough to warrant buying," said Scott, R-Vermont.
According to the Cessna's flight logs over the last decade, use has steadily declined since 2008, with an average of 122 flying hours annually. Scott says a Beechcraft Baron is not a wise investment.
"We have to make sure that we're as frugal as possible, that there's no fluff," Scott said. "And when I saw the aircraft, I thought this seems extravagant for Vermont. This seems like something is fluff. We don't have to have this."
Scott says the Beechcraft Baron is primarily a people mover, not a plane for aerial photography, surveying and low-speed searches. Records show the governor used the current state aircraft five times last year, yet his administration denies playing any part in picking a new plane.
"That was made because there was a desire expressed by the secretary that a twin engine would be a good aircraft to have because it has redundancy in the engines," Cole said.
Cole couldn't vouch for the current safety of the Cessna. He says it will cost $60,000 in budget year 2014 to overhaul the engine and replace the propeller. But a $23,000 avionics upgrade will have to wait.
"We're very well used to getting by with less, so we'll put the work that we need to put into the plane and we'll get by another year," Cole said.
"Maybe we don't need an airplane at all," Scott said. "We have a hangar that we have to appropriate for and maintenance and so forth, so maybe it's not worth it. Maybe we should just do away with the aircraft."
In the meantime, VTrans plans to keep a close eye on the aging aircraft's flying hours and Cole says that may mean denying some agencies' requests to use it.
VTrans says it needs an airplane to complete mandated safety inspections at state airports and eventually the Cessna will have to be replaced. But the type of plane, how much it costs and whether it's used is now open for debate.
Thursday, December 5 2013 6:59 PM EST2013-12-05 23:59:01 GMT
Hundreds of Vermonters could lose unemployment benefits early if Congress doesn't act. Congress expanded packages after the 2008 economic crash but the offer is set to expire. Regular unemployment benefits,More >>
Hundreds of Vermonters could lose their unemployment benefits early if Congress doesn't act. Regular unemployment benefits will not be affected. But additional emergency benefits will expire before the end of December.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:03 PM EST2013-12-06 00:03:28 GMT
McDonalds in South Burlington needed to dish out more happy meals Thursday because certain people weren't Mc-loving it. More than 20 people gathered outside protesting for higher wages, benefits and betterMore >>
Across the country Thursday people protested at fast-food restaurants, demanding higher wages for workers. In Vermont, we also saw people speaking out.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:08 PM EST2013-12-06 00:08:48 GMT
It looks like something you'd find on your grandmother's sofa, but thanks to the magic of Burton, it's cool again. It's what the U.S. Snowboarding team will wear when they compete in Sochi, Russia, forMore >>
The Winter Olympics are just around the corner and the U.S. Snowboarding team will be showing off some Vermont style. Burton designed the official uniforms. But some fans have questions about where they were made.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:10 PM EST2013-12-06 00:10:53 GMT
The Grinch has struck in New Haven. Vermont State police say sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, someone stole about a dozen Christmas trees from the Green Haven Nursery. Police areMore >>
Vermont State police say someone stole a dozen Christmas trees from a nursery in New Haven.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 12:11 PM EST2013-12-05 17:11:34 GMT
Vermont's lieutenant governor is the latest to call for a further delay in implementing the state's new health care exchange. Vermont Health Connect has been riddled with problems since it launched inMore >>
Vermont's lieutenant governor is the latest to call for a further delay in implementing the state's new health care exchange.More >>