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Tue, Dec 26, 2006

State Of Alaska To Put Jet Up For Bid On Ebay

New Guv Says She Won't Step Foot In It

A Westwind II business jet purchased last year by outgoing governor Frank H. Murkowski will probably be put up for sale, as the incoming governor has promised she won't step foot on the controversial aircraft.

As Aero-News reported in January 2005, then-Governor Murkowski expressed interest in purchasing a jet days after New Mexico governor Bill Richardson ordered his own Cessna Citation Bravo. The Murkowski administration purchased the Westwind (file photo of type, above) from a Las Vegas aircraft broker in November 2005 for $2.692 million... using funds from a special account after state and federal lawmakers denied money for the purchase.

The New York Times reports the jet was immediately unpopular with Alaska voters, who equated the jet with frivilous government spending. They noted the Westwind could not utilize many rural runways throughout the state, unlike the state's fleet of King Air turboprops.

Republican Palin promised voters during her primary run against Murkowski that if she became governor, she would get rid of the jet. Palin trounced Murkowski in the primary, and went on to win the general election.

Palin says she'll keep her word to dump the jet. When she needs to fly, she'll either use the state's King Airs, or go commercial.

"The purchase of the jet was impractical and unwise, and it's time to get rid of it," the governor said in a prepared statement. "In the meantime, I'm keeping my promise not to set foot on the jet."

The Westwind will probably be offered for sale on eBay, Palin's office said. The state has previously sold ferries and patrol boats on the auction site, under the seller name 'stateofalaskasurplus.'

In addition to shuttling Murkowski between Juneau, Alaska's remote capital city, and Anchorage, the nine-seat Westwind was often used to transport inmates to facilities in Arizona.

Meghan Stapleton, Palin's spokeswoman, told the Anchorage Daily News the state has only paid off about $78,500 on the jet, leaving roughly $2.5 million still owed. That price includes about $100,000 in pilot training costs, she added.

FMI: www.dps.state.ak.us/, www.ebay.com

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