NASHVILLE — When Gov. Bill Haslam flew to Washington last month for the National Governors Association meeting, he hit the tarmac at Reagan National Airport in a little more style than Tennessee chief executives have in recent years.
The governor flew in a newly acquired, $3.9 million, 10-seat King Air 350 twin-engine turboprop.
The used 2007 turboprop, purchased in November on a no-bid basis, represents state government's first plane purchase in more than eight years, according to records supplied by the state Department of Transportation.
Department spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said the agency had been researching buying a new plane as far as back as 2006 under the Bredesen administration.
"The entire fleet of aircraft is aging -- most were purchased in the mid-80s," Doughty said by email. "TDOT has been examining the costs associated with upkeep on the older planes. Each time, an inspection uncovers more issues that need repair, etc."
The state is selling its 1984 King Air 90, purchased in January of 1986.
State law provides purchases of used equipment under a no-bid basis. Officials purchased the plane from Bell Aviation of Columbia, S.C. State records show officials looked at price, use, engine usage, other equipment and similar considerations.
In an Aug. 21, 2012, memo, Department of General Services sourcing analysit Chris Yarbrough recommended the purchase, noting the "limited flight hours used" on the aircraft.
Several older planes were cheaper. And another 2007 turboprop in Texas had less mileage and a $4 million price tag. But a ground proximity warning system was less sophisticated than the South Carolina plane's and there were other factors, according to state records.
The plane eventually purchased by the state "has been been inspected and compared to other similar aircraft resulting in a favorable analysis over its competition," Yarbrough's analysis says.
"The aircraft is already of the paint scheme desired by the State and would need very little modification to conform to the State's current needs providing the most cost savings and best value."
Here are the current planes owned by the state, the type of plane, the manufacture date and when the state purchased it.
110EC - 2007 King Air 350 - November 2012 (most recent purchase)
910EC - 2004 Cessna208 - November 2004
510EC - 1984 Cessna 182 - March 1989
310EC - 1988 Baron58 - July 1989
210EC - 1984 King Air 90 - January 1986 (plan to sell following purchase of new plane)
10EC - 1985 King Air 200 - March 1985
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...