Timetable for South Dakota governor’s newest aircraft calls for September flights

Capitol News Bureau

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, center, checks her phone before taking off, Monday, July 26, 2021 in Pierre, S.D. The state is selling the plane, a 1988 King Air 200, as it updates its fleet. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s purchase of an updated state airplane was completed Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021 with the state opting for a bigger, faster and newer turboprop after some lawmakers questioned whether she was hoping to buy a jet. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The twin-engine King Air 350I aircraft that state government purchased last week for Governor Kristi Noem will be ready to carry state employees in approximately one month, according to a spokesman for the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

Julie Stevenson said the department hasn’t yet sold two older planes that were to be put on the market to partially offset the cost of a more modern one. They are a 1988 King Air B200 bought in 1994 that five governors, including Noem, routinely used, and a smaller 1999 King Air 90II purchased in 2007.

Buying the newer King Air 350I, a 2015 model, took more than two months to complete, according to records SDDOT provided to KELOLAND News.

They show SDDOT wire-transferred $100,000 on June 3 to Insured Aircraft Title Service as a deposit, then wire-transferred another $4,014,212.83 on August 5.

The second sum included $4 million for the aircraft; $2,475 for escrow; and $11,737.82 for gear overhaul and a test flight.

The Legislature appropriated $5 million for a newer plane as part of SDDOT’s budget for this year at Governor Noem’s request. Proceeds from sale of the two older planes were to reduce some of the amount.

SDDOT contracted with Verity Jet Group of Bethany, Oklahoma, for $195,000 to consult on the purchase immediately after the appropriation passed in March. SDDOT had previously paid $7,500 to Verity for appraisals on three of state government’s aircraft.

State government is the 350’s third owner. After the plane’s construction by Beechcraft/Textron Aviation, a company named LVAT in Allentown, Pennsylvania, owned it, registering it October 23, 2015. The second owner was Geddaway Air LLC, of Jacksonville, Florida, registering it June 24, 2019.

A King Air 350I has more maximum range than a King Air 200 — about 1,800 nautical miles vs. 1,490 –and faster maximum cruise speed. State government bought the King Air 200 a year after the 1993 crash of the state-owned Mitsubishi MU-2 that killed Governor George S. Mickelson and seven others.

The 350 has less than 700 hours of flight time, according to Stevenson. A commercial website this week listed a 2016 King Air 350I with 1,325 hours at $4,295,000 and a 2019 King Air 350I with 457.2 hours at $4,995,000.

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