PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem would like the state to buy a new plane, or at least a different one, and plans to sell two planes.
Noem has asked for $5 million to be used to buy a state plane. In her Dec. 8 state budget address, Noem also said the state should sell two of its older planes.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation has three planes it operates. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety and South Dakota Fish and Parks Department also each have a plane, according to the S.D. DOT.
In April 1993, a plane crash killed South Dakota Governor George Mickelson and seven others.
Noem said in her budget address, “The plane we currently fly is the same plane purchased after that crash.” But she did not specify what plane is used.
Who uses state planes?
All state departments can use the three planes operated by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, the S.D. DOT said.
The S.D. DOT maintains and operates two King Air 90s and the one King Air 200, officials said.
Although the Governor has traveled a lot in the past year, it appears that she’s not traveling in state plane to many of her destinations, according to information from Ian Fury, Noem’s communications director.
KELOLAND News asked Fury if the Governor traveled on a state plane to campaign for Kelly Loeffler in Georgia in January, to President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, or to the Republican National Committee on Jan. 8 in Florida.
Fury said in an email to KELOLAND “she did not fly on state aircraft for either of these occasions.”
Plane use is scheduled though the South Dakota Bureau of Administration’s Fleet and Travel Office.
The Department of Public Safety owns a Cessna 206 and Game Fish and Parks owns a Cessna 172, according to the S.D. DOT.
FlightAware is a website through which airplane flights can be tracked. Activity on two of the three S.D. DOT planes has been light in the past 14 days. The flight information for one of those planes cannot be tracked, according to FlightAware.
N773SD, the King Air 90, had a round trip from Pierre to Sioux Falls on Jan. 19. According to FlightAware, it’s the only flight listed in the past 14 days.
N90SD, the King Air 9011, flew roundtrip from Pierre to Sioux Falls on Jan. 27.
How old are some of the state’s planes?
Noem pointed to safety and the age of the plane being used as reasons to buy a different plane and sell older ones.
But years are not the only factor that determines the age of a plane.
“An aircraft’s lifespan is measured not in years but in pressurization cycles,” a March SS, 2008 story published by Air and Space magazine said. “Each time an aircraft is pressurized during flight, its fuselage and wings are stressed. Both are made of large, plate-like parts connected with fasteners and rivets, and over time, cracks develop around the fastener holes due to metal fatigue,” the story said.
“A plane is pressurized each time it takes flight, delivering stress on fuselage and wings. Those that fly short ranges may make many flights a day, whereby experiencing several pressurization cycles, whereas aircraft that travel overseas are stressed at a lower frequency,” said Poente Technical Aviation Servieces on its website.
In general, planes that make shorter flights may have a shorter lifespan than those that make longer flights, according to Poente Technical.
Take offs and landings impact a plane’s lifespan and so does maintenance, according to Poente Technical.
The oldest state plane operated by the S.D. DOT is a 1988 King Air 200 built in 1988, according to the S.D. DOT.
The aircraft has logged 8,705 hours of flight time and approximately 2,219,775 miles.
The plane has had total of 10,362 pressurization cycles.
The King Air 90 was built in 1995. It was bought by the state in 2004.
The plane has logged 7,189 hours of flight time at about 1,376,693 miles. The total pressurization cycles are 8,598.
The King Air9011 was built in 1999 and bought by the state in 2007.
The plane has 5,232 hours of flight time for about 1,001,928 miles.
It has logged 6,375 pressurization cycles.
State planes are kept in the Becker Hansen Hangar at the airport in Pierre, according to the S.D. DOT.
The aircraft are managed by the DOT chief pilot and the DOT.
The state has maintenance technicians on staff who do all the maintenance, according to the S.D. DOT.
Components such as engines and propellers are sent to to FAA certified overhaul facilities.
The state employs a chief pilot, pilot and a maintenance technician, who also flies when needed, according to the S.D. DOT.
What’s the market like for planes?
Fury said if the Legislature approves $5 million toward the purchase of a plane and the sale of an older one, the state would issue a request for proposal (RFP) from brokers who would help the state in the process.
“In regard to fleet to be sold or purchased,” Interim Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt noted in an email to KELOLAND News, “The type and size of the replacement aircraft has not been determined. The state will purchase an aircraft that meets the needs, specifications and mission of the state with an emphasis on enhancing state employees’ safety during their travels.”
Although there is a market for used planes, industry experts said the coronavirus has impacted the market.
Aero Solutions said values have declined by 10% on average compared to pre-pandemic levels as of the second quarter of 2020. Transactions had declined by 50%. Transactions for a turbo prop plane, such as a King Air 90, declined by 9% from $4.25 million to $3.85 million.
Here’s some examples of King Air 90 models for sale on various websites. This is just a sample and the features of each King Air model may differ from any of the state King Air 90s.
- A price for a 1981 Beechcraft King Air F90 with eight seats and 7,517 landings was listed at $525,000 on one website.
- The price for a 1988 Beechcraft King Air C90 A with 9,477 landings was listed at $1,095,000.
Based on website listings, prices vary according to landings, upgrades, size, model and other features.
Jetcraft said in 2020 that used aircraft prices reached a low in 2020. Up to October of 2020, there was an increase in the number first-time buyers of used business aircraft, according to Flight Gobal, which cited Jetcraft’s report in a Oct. 23 article.
But Aero Solutions, Jetcraft and Ibis World expect the market to improve.