Budgetary Concerns North Carolina May Sell Off Its Aircraft


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Budgetary Concerns North Carolina May Sell Off Its Aircraft

Daniel Guevarra

June 28, 2010 – The North Carolina General Assembly is considering the sale of sate helicopters and aircraft in an effort to reduce the states operating costs. North Carolina Forest Service will be mostly affected and may loose a number of its aircraft. A follow up report analysis of 25 underutilized state aircraft confirmed inefficiency and potential cost savings.

This report follows up the Program Evaluation Division’s April 2010 report entitled Selling 25 Underutilized Aircraft May Yield Up to $8.1 Million and Save $1.5 Million Annually and provides more details on the aircraft identified for elimination.


The North Carolina General Assembly directed the Program Evaluation Division to conduct an initial evaluation of the number, use, and effectiveness of the state aircraft fleet and to consider ways to achieve efficiency savings. The legislation also directed the Division to determine if it is desirable or feasible to sell or transfer any aircraft to another state agency.

The follow up focused on utilization data on the 25 aircraft recommended for elimination by the Division’s first report. For each aviation program that operates aircraft identified for elimination, this report provides a brief overview of the aviation program; results of the analyses that identified each aircraft; alternatives to owning specific aircraft, if needed; and the fiscal impacts associated with aircraft elimination.

In addition, the report presents data that address specific concerns raised by the agencies in response to the report recommendations for eliminating aircraft. One twin engine passenger transport airplane operated by the Department of Transportation, which averaged only 42 flight hours, could be sold for $4.6 million and save $307,343 annually.

The North Carolina General Assembly should direct the establishment of the Aviation Management Authority. A single authority which could address concerns, implement necessary improvements, and assume responsibilities related to operating consolidated aviation passenger transport and photogrammetry services, providing management oversight for all other (i.e., non-passenger) aviation programs and overseeing maintenance for all state aircraft. The authority would be housed in the Department of Transportation to oversee the management of all aircraft owned or operated by the state.


The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) twin engine airplane, which averaged only 148 hours per year, could be sold for $650,000 and save $12,000 annually. During the 3-year data period, SBI did not fly the plane 84% of the time. SBI used 43% of actual flight hours for conferences, meetings, and trainings; contrary to SBI’s assertions, only 19% of actual flight hours were used for prisoner transport.

The Division of Marine Fisheries could sell three underused helicopters for a total of $190,000 to save $11,570 annually. The Division of Forest Resources could eliminate 20 aircraft, realize $2.6 million in sales proceeds and save $1.2 million annually. The only fire suppression aircraft proposed for elimination is a scooper/tanker that has not flown since 2008; sits outside a leased hangar that is too small to store the plane; needs a $1 million mandatory inspection and potential repairs of up to $1 million; and has no pilot qualified to fly it.

Senate Majority leader Martin Nesbitt is not convinced that the recommendations in the report should be followed, saying: “Thank God we don’t have forest fires all the time, but it’s kind of like if you did a study of the efficiency of fire trucks you’d find out that they’re terribly inefficient. They sit in the firehouse most of the time but they are there when you need them”.


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