Budget conference: House throttling plans to purchase state airplanes

Former Gov. Rick Scott sold off the state fleet, leaving a years-long void in Tallahassee.

Plans to replenish Florida’s aircraft fleet are facing strong headwinds in the House.

The Senate is seeking $20 million to purchase two new planes, a buy that would fill a void left by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The House, however, is holding firm on their offer after the latest budget conference — $0.

Bartow Republican Sen. Ben Albritton serves as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government. On Tuesday, he expressed optimism that lawmakers would strike a deal.

“My glass is half full,” Albritton said. “I live that way.”

Scott in 2011 sold off two state planes as part of a campaign promise to limit abuses by government officials. A multimillionaire, he instead traveled aboard his private jet.

And while the sale made good on a campaign promise, it left future Governors and Cabinet members without wings.

DeSantis and staff now fly aboard a $15.5 million Cessna Citation Latitude. They acquired the plane in 2020 after an older aircraft — a drug plane seized by police — experienced mechanical problems mid-flight, prompting an emergency landing.

DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and passengers donned oxygen masks during the air emergency. No one was harmed.

In wake of the incident, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and others called on Florida to replenish the fleet. Fried is now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate seeking to oust DeSantis.

“Cost-effective and responsible use of state aircraft would enhance our situational response and our availability to the people of Florida,” Fried said in a 2019 statement. She added that the malfunction “underscores the importance of dependable transportation for Cabinet members.”

Florida is a vast and sprawling state. While a Tallahassee flight to Miami is less than a 90-minute trip, the roughly 403-mile journey is nearly eight hours by car.

Florida is 361 miles wide and 792 road miles long at its most distant points, per the Department of State.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Ron Ogden

    March 2, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    Fractional ownership. You’ll save a bunch of OUR money.

  • Claude Kirk the younger

    March 3, 2022 at 6:54 am

    Nikki wants a free plane to campaign with.

Comments are closed.


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