Palin announces plans to sell state jet

Aircraft will be auctioned on eBay

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The state jet will soon have a "for sale" sign on it.

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Gov. Sarah Palin announced Tuesday the aircraft will be offered on eBay.

"The purchase of the jet was impractical and unwise and it's time to get rid of it," Palin said. "In the meantime, I am keeping my promise not to set foot on the jet."

Palin said she has directed Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to sell the jet. The new commissioner said the aircraft is not appropriate for his department.

"The jet doesn't meet the Department of Public Safety's mission profile due to the requirement for long, paved runways," Monegan said.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski ordered the purchase of the 1984 Westwind II over the objection of minority Democratic legislators and many Alaskans. The jet became a high-profile campaign issue in the Republican primary, where Palin trounced the incumbent in August.

The cost of the jet in November 2005 was just under $2.7 million from Aircraft Marketing Ltd., a firm in Las Vegas.

Murkowski pushed hard to acquire a jet.

Murkowski and members of his administration said the swifter aircraft was needed for responding to emergencies around the state. They said the jet could help transport inmates who are being held in Arizona prisons due to prison overcrowding in Alaska, avoiding restrictions on how many inmates can be shipped by commercial aircraft. They also said a jet would be cheaper to operate than the older turboprops in the state fleet.

Murkowski first tried to buy a jet using federal Homeland Security money. Federal officials rejected the request in August 2004 and said it failed to meet parameters for anti-terror money.

In 2005, Murkowski put $1.4 million in the state budget proposal for a jet but the line item was removed by legislators.

Murkowski finally swung the deal with existing appropriations and the sale of one of the department's turboprop aircraft.

The department had used state-owned aircraft 60 percent of the time and made it available to the governor the rest of the time. Detractors accused Murkowski of wanting a jet for comfort and speed.

Palin announce before she took office that she would sell the jet.

The state has used eBay in the past to sell assets, including the Bartlett, a ferry in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet, and several aircraft.

The state policy on surplus property is to use eBay for high value, mobile assets because the online auction service offers the widest possible exposure for those types of sales at a low cost, Palin said.

She has authorized the Department of Public Safety to use the jet until it's sold.

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