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New Mexico Looks to Acquire Second Aircraft

Prospective King Air Purchase Would Double State’s Aircraft Fleet

More than a decade after a former governor pared the state’s aircraft fleet to a single machine, New Mexico is making ready to acquire a second airplane.

The Land of Enchantment’s legislature has approved a $9-million capital outlay appropriation for the purchase of a new state airplane. Documents obtained under a public-records request indicate New Mexico’s government expects to take delivery of the aircraft by April 2024. Subject aircraft will be used, ostensibly, to transport state executives and employees, as well as physicians traveling to provide care in remote locales, and children attending a school for the blind and visually-impaired.

New Mexico General Services Department deputy secretary Anna Silva set forth her agency is drafting a request for proposals seeking a contractor to conduct a nationwide search for an aircraft appropriate to New Mexico’s expressed needs.

Ms. Silva stated: “We’re still developing the scope of work,” adding the General Services Department is on track to meet the April purchase date.

Requested under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act by Larry Behrens, U.S. Western states director of the pro-oil and gas group Power the Future, the public records indicated, also, that New Mexico’s state government has been eyeballing aircraft options since May 2022.

In a 04 May 2022 email to New Mexico’s Aviation Services Bureau, Jim Mitchell, executive sales director for Elliott Jets, an Illinois-based aircraft sales and acquisition business, wrote: “Thanks for the time yesterday to discuss the State of New Mexico’s interest in a late-model or new King Air.”

Mr. Mitchell’s email included a market report for three types of previously-owned aircraft ranging in price from approximately $3-million to $7 million.

James P. Chavez, deputy director of the New Mexico’s Aviation Services Bureau’s Transportation Services Division, disclosed in an interview that the bureau was, in fact, investigating the price and availability of aircraft, stating: “The reason we’re using a brokerage is that we’ve had conversations with the factory, and there are no aircraft to be made that would be made available for us that are brand-new. It’s that whole supply-demand issue that we see with vehicles. It’s even worse with aircraft.”

Chavez reported the department seeks to purchase another King Air aircraft, claiming: “What we’re trying to do is make sure we stay consistent with the actual type of aircraft we’re utilizing now so we could keep maintenance and training and everything else to pretty much the same for both aircraft, the one we currently have and the one we’re planning to acquire.”

In years past, New Mexico’s state government operated numerous aircraft. All but one were sold, however, during the tenure of former Governor Susan Martinez, who remained true to her campaign promise to cut government spending and eliminate what she called “a symbol of government excess and waste.”

Mr. Behrens, who served as Governor Martinez’s communication director, criticized the current governor over the planned purchase of another airplane.

“We’re used to climate imposters flying around on their private jets to lecture us on our gas-stoves, but Governor [Michelle] Lujan Grisham is reaching new levels of hypocrisy by using taxpayers’ funds to buy a new plane while forcing electric vehicles on the rest of us,” Beherns wrote in a persuasive email.

“Governor Lujan Grisham’s message is clear: $500 checks for us, millions for a plane for her,” Behrens added, alluding to tax rebates New Mexicans received in 2023.

Mr. Chavez contended New Mexico’s sole remaining airplane is hard pressed to accommodate the state’s transportation needs. In addition to providing flight services to the entirety of New Mexico’s state agencies—including Lujan Grisham’s office—the aircraft transports physicians on behalf of the state’s Department of Health’s Children’s Medical Services, as well as children enrolled in the aforementioned New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Alamogordo.

Chavez remarked: “The current one [aircraft] we have is being utilized quite a bit. What we do from time to time is reach out to New Mexico State [University] and ask them if they can pick up any overflow.”

Chavez alleged Governor Lujan Grisham has flown on the state’s single airplane “five times maybe” over the past fiscal year.



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