"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.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:41 PM EDT2013-05-21 16:41:46 GMT
The Vermont couple charged with killing a Saint Johnsbury teacher will be in court Tuesday and are planning on asking for new lawyers. Prosecutors say Allen and Patricia Prue kidnapped and killed 33-year-oldMore >>
A Vermont judge has denied a request for a new lawyer by a woman charged, along with her husband, with killing a popular St. Johnsbury teacher.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:36 PM EDT2013-05-21 16:36:47 GMT
A former animal control officer charged with two counts of prohibited acts was arraigned Tuesday morning. Gary Francis is accused of asking two women to show him their breasts for money. Francis pleadedMore >>
A former animal control officer charged with asking women to show him their breasts for money was arraigned Tuesday.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:03 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:03:49 GMT
A Middlebury man has pleaded not guilty to federal arson charges stemming from a fire at a Pittsford car dealership back in July 2011. Police said they found 29-year-old Steven Browne behind the wheelMore >>
A Middlebury man has pleaded not guilty to federal arson charges stemming from a fire at a Pittsford car dealership back in July 2011.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:37 PM EDT2013-05-21 16:37:40 GMT
The big story nationally is the aftermath of the disastrous tornado that struck Moore, Okla., Monday. Search and rescue efforts are taking place all over the devastated suburban community. Dozens uponMore >>
In the wake of a devastating tornado, Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin issued a statement offering sympathy and support to Oklahoma.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:06 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:06:59 GMT
A historic building in North Bennington will have new owners and a new purpose. Merchant's Bank donated the building to the Fund for North Bennington and the Preservation Trust of Vermont. That buildingMore >>
A historic building in North Bennington will have new owners and a new purpose.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:09 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:09:03 GMT
Work on a chain reaction road project is in full swing starting in Northfield. Crews are working on the final coat of pavement on Route 12 and 12A, and hope to wrap up shortly. The next phase in RandolphMore >>
Work on a chain reaction road project is in full swing starting in Northfield.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:38 PM EDT2013-05-21 16:38:29 GMT
Do you know how much time your children or grandchildren spend in phys ed? Where you live in Vermont can make a big difference in answering that question. This week on the Channel 3 News at 6 p.m., EducationMore >>
Do you know how much time your children or grandchildren spend in phys ed? Where you live in Vermont can make a big difference in answering that question.More >>