By Susan Montoya Bryan
ALBUQUERQUE — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vowed to get rid of the state’s executive jet plane, and now she will have help from a Colorado-based aviation broker with international reach.
The state General Services Department announced Tuesday that it awarded a contract to Wetzel Aviation Inc. to sell the Cessna Citation Bravo.
Selling the seven-seat plane has been a priority of Martinez since she took office in January.
“I pledged to taxpayers that we would sell the jet and get this symbol of government excess and waste off of the state’s books,” the governor said in a statement. “This is an important step toward securing a customer, but the job isn’t done until the jet is delivered to a new owner.”
The aircraft was purchased new in 2005 by former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration for $5.5 million. The Martinez administration hopes to get as much as possible for the plane.
In addition to much-needed revenue from the sale, state officials say getting rid of the plane — with its plush beige interior, accent lighting, wood veneer refreshment center and fold-out workstations — would save New Mexico about $400,000 a year in maintenance and other costs.
The plane has been up for sale on the governor’s website and the General Services Department site since early this year, but the listings failed to garner any serious inquires.
General Services Secretary Ed Burckle said his department covers a wide range of services for state government but it had no experience selling a luxury plane. It was important to hire a broker that had extensive experience in aircraft marketing and international connections to prospective buyers, he said.
Past customers range from companies in California to aviation-related businesses in Australia, Brazil and Germany, according to Wetzel Aviation’s website. The company advertises its inventory in trade magazines, on several websites and through email and postcard mailings.
Officials chose Wetzel Aviation from a field of six brokers that answered the state’s request for proposals. As part of the deal, the broker will also try to sell for the General Services Department a second plane, a 1976 Beechcraft King Air, and at least one aircraft belonging to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
Rather than post the jet plane on eBay, as some other states have done with their aircraft, Burckle said previously that the decision was made to go the more traditional route in an effort to get a greater sales price and ultimately more money for the state.
The Citation Bravo is one of the fastest in New Mexico’s fleet, capable of making the trip from Santa Fe to Hobbs in far southeastern New Mexico in about 45 minutes. In the five years Richardson and others used it to fly around the state and outside of New Mexico, the jet recorded just over 1,300 hours and made 2,280 landings.
State officials have said Martinez hasn’t used the jet since taking office.
New Mexico will keep two other planes in its fleet — a 2006 Beechcraft King Air and a 1983 Gulfstream Turbo Commander, both five-seat turboprops.