"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.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:08 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:08:24 GMT
This morning, Channel 3 has learned there will NOT be a bus strike Monday morning in Chittenden County. CCTA officials told us in a statement that after 19 hours of negotiations that went into the morningMore >>
This morning, Channel 3 has learned there will NOT be a bus strike Monday morning in Chittenden County.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:49 PM EST2014-03-09 02:49:49 GMT
The Burlington Yoga Conference began Saturday at UVM's Davis Center. The event gives participants a chance to connect the mind body and soul through workshops they may not have access to on a daily basis.More >>
The Burlington Yoga Conference began 6 years ago and has become a staple in the community.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:29 PM EST2014-03-09 02:29:17 GMT
A warning for pet owners in our region. Coyotes are on the prowl. A biologist in New Hampshire says he has received more than 10 calls recently, in the Keene, New Hampshire area, for a deer that was takenMore >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:21 PM EST2014-03-09 02:21:44 GMT
As spring approaches, many Vermont homeowners prepare to work on their houses - so they head to the Burlington Home Show. And many Vermont small business owners - with their products and services on displayMore >>
Many business owners at the Burlington Home Show say the new health care system in Vermont is helpful, but some say it's causing a real headache.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:07 PM EST2014-03-09 01:07:08 GMT
A rally at the State House in Montpelier Saturday. A passionate group of dozens of women, and men, assembled in front of the State House Saturday for the Women's March for Dignity. They were demandingMore >>
Women's March for Dignity say they are demanding lawmakers support paid sick day policies for all workers.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>