CHARLESTON — West Virginia will be saying goodbye to one of its two government-owned airplanes, as the state auctioned off its smaller, slower and infrequently used Cessna Grand Caravan.
The auction closed at 6 p.m. Friday.
“The 2009 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan airplane, which was purchased during the Manchin administration, has been underutilized for the last several years,” Department of Administration spokeswoman Samantha Knapp said Thursday, explaining the government’s decision to sell the aircraft.
The state purchased the new $2.1 million eight-passenger, single-engine airplane in 2009, trading in a 2005 Grand Caravan, which reduced the purchase price to $221,000.
After peak use of 199 flights in its first year, use of the plane by state agencies dwindled, with agencies preferring to travel on the larger and faster, twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350, even though the Aviation Division’s $700-per-flight-hour charge for the Cessna is half the cost of the King Air.
Historically, the Governor’s Office has been the primary user of state-owned planes.
According to information on the GovDeals website, the Cessna has been used for a total of 574 flight hours, and has made 657 landings since 2009.
According to the auction site, the Cessna last flew May 5 and was taken out of service June 10.
Knapp said that, while the cost of housing the little-used plane is minimal, the decision was made to sell it rather than allow it to depreciate.
“The hope is that the state will see a large return on the aircraft, allowing the Aviation Division to fund various future operations,” she said.
The online auction started June 28, with an opening minimum bid of $800,000. As of Thursday afternoon, there had been 51 bids on the plane, with a high bid of $1.35 million.
Purchase of the plane in 2009, just four years after purchase of a 2005 model of the same plane, caused some uproar at the time, including accusations that it was at the behest of then-Gov. Joe Manchin, a licensed pilot who was certified to fly the Cessna, but not twin engine planes like the King Air.
The 2009 model featured then state-of-the-art technology, including a synthetic vision avionics system.
At the time, one of the selling points for the Cessna was its ability to land at smaller, noncommercial airports with shorter runaways that might not be optimal for the King Air.
According to the auction site, the state will keep the plane’s N2WV tail number, and the buyer will be responsible for obtaining a new tail number to be able to fly the aircraft.
GovDeals is a national online auction site for sales of government surplus property.