MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants to replace two aging aircraft that serve as Minnesota’s official state planes.
The Democratic governor is asking the legislature for $10 million to replace them, because he says the current planes are becoming dangerous.
Minnesota’s Department of Transportation has two passenger planes available to state employees, including the governor: A 1981 Beechcraft King Air C90 and a 1993 Beechcraft King Air B200, worth a combined $2 million.
But Chief MNDOT Pilot Jeff Flynn said both are quickly approaching the end of their useful lives and that modern avionics are light-years ahead of where they were in the 1980s.
“There wouldn’t be all these round dials here,” he said. “There would be essentially three television screens that provide a view of the outside world. Essentially a virtual view.”
MNDOT flew more than 1,100 passengers, plus equipment, on state planes planes last year, saving more than $750,000 over the cost of driving around the state.
But the $10 million cost of replacing them both doesn’t have House Republicans climbing aboard.
“Everybody is looking at getting more money to roads and bridges,” Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said. “I think two airplanes for the governor and his staff — maybe it’s a nice thing, but is it really something that we absolutely need now?”
But the rising cost of maintaining the aging aircraft may no longer be cost effective.
MNDOT officials say both planes are safe, but they are working harder every year to keep them that way.
“Just like if you have an automobile you purchased in the 70s or 80s, maybe it doesn’t have airbags, maybe it doesn’t have anti-lock brakes,” said Cassandra Issackson, director of the MnDOT Office of Aeronautics. “All those kinds of safety features — that’s true with airplanes as well.”