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Sun, Apr 01, 2007

NM Governor Bill Richardson Trades In Citation Bravo On Eclipse 500s

To Be Used On State Business, Presidential Campaign

ANN 04.01.07 SPECIAL EDITION: Bowing to increasing political pressure from voters, New Mexico Governor -- and aspiring presidential candidate -- Bill Richardson announced last week he would agree to give up the Cessna Citation Bravo business jet purchased at considerable expense by the state two years ago, in exchange for five Eclipse 500 very-light-jets.

"The Governor feels the time is right to convey a friendlier, folksier, more accessible image," Richardson spokesman Phil Nunez told ANN, "even at the airports he visits on both official state business -- such as recent junkets to Nevada and New York -- and throughout his probable run at the presidency of the United States. A smaller, more personable aircraft ties into this image quite nicely."

Richardson's purchase of the $5.5 million Citation in June 2005 caused some ire from the Republican minority in the largely Democratic state, as well as some snickers from voters at the extravagant purchase. Critics pointed to a trip the Governor took on the plane from the capital of Santa Fe to nearby Los Alamos as an example of the Governor's largesse.

"With the Eclipse jets, it will now take Governor Richardson approximately 25 minutes to fly from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, instead of the 18 minutes it took the Governor in the Bravo," Nunez said. "The Governor feels this is an acceptable trade-off, considering to drive the 30 miles separating the two cities would take almost 40 minutes in his Lincoln SUV -- or less than half that if the Governor is in a real hurry."

The fact the Eclipse jets are manufactured in Albuquerque, the largest city in the state, also played into the purchase decision.

"The Governor is highly supportive of New Mexico businesses, industry, and of course the people of the Land of Enchantment," Nunez said. "While it's true the governor is often not actually in the state, he hears everything is just amazing. Really."

Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn said he was honored by Richardson's selection of the Eclipse 500.

"We're working out the details of the deal," Raburn said. "The governor has asked that one jet -- evidently for his personal use -- have its cabin outfitted with a velvet painting of the then-Congressman's 1995 meeting with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. We're not quite sure how to incorporate that into the Cayenne trim package just yet."

Nunez said the Richardson Eclipses -- which will sport sequential N-numbers ending in 'BR' -- will travel in convoy-fashion, transporting staff members as needed, dependent on the exact mission.

"We believe the Richardson Air Force -- please call it that, would you? -- will make its presence known throughout the state of New Mexico, and throughout the country," Nunez said.

FMI: www.richardsonforprez.com, www.eclipseaviation.com

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