After years of failing to sell the state’s helicopter, the new state budget requires the N.C. Department of Transportation to hire an outside contractor to market the aircraft and find a buyer.
DOT has tried repeatedly since 2014 to sell the 1998 Sikorsky S-76C+ aircraft, but most offers have been less than the $2.25 million asking price. The chopper has been used by governors from Jim Hunt in 1998 to Pat McCrory, and it features sheepskin seat covers and heated foot pads in the cockpit.
McCrory rarely used the helicopter, preferring to travel around the state by plane, and his administration grew concerned about the helicopter’s maintenance costs of about $265,000 annually.
The helicopter was purchased in 1998 by the Department of Commerce for business recruiting trips, but it was later used more frequently for disaster relief efforts and to transport the governor and other state leaders.
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The state budget bill has a provision calling for DOT to hire an outside contractor that “specializes or has experience in the sale of aviation equipment to sell the helicopter.”
Proceeds from the sale must go to a fund “within the Highway Fund to be used for future aircraft or equipment acquisitions by the Division of Aviation.”
James Pearce, a spokesman for DOT’s Division of Aviation, said last week that the process has begun.
“The helicopter has been undergoing an inspection and some repairs (covered by insurance),” he said in an email. “Once NCDOT gets it back, it will need to be re-appraised, and then a third-party vendor can be brought in.”
The helicopter’s last appraisal in 2015 found it was worth $2.55 million. DOT had initially listed the helicopter on eBay, and later placed ads on Controller.com and globalair.com and in Executive Controller Magazine.
“NCDOT has received a handful of offers, but none were considered serious or reasonable,” Pearce said.
DOT came close to selling the helicopter late last year, when Streamline Industries made an offer for $2.25 million in December.
Pearce said DOT put that offer into “Offer to Sale contract format” 10 days later, but the company never responded to NCDOT.
Around the same time, another company offered to trade its helicopter for the Sikorsky, but “NCDOT declined because we did not want to be left with another helicopter,” Pearce said.
The budget provision also requires DOT to sell a Cessna 550 Citation Bravo airplane, but no outside contractor is required for that sale.