Budget conference: House, Senate sign off on state plane purchase

DeSantis airplane trouble
The buy will fill a void left by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The Senate and House agreed Tuesday to provide $20 million toward the purchase of two new airplanes.

Under the agreement, the Department of Management Services will use the dollars to buy two Embraer Phenom 300E. The executive jets — among the best selling — boasts capacity seating for 11 occupants and top speeds over 500 mph.

The agreement comes after a long negation between both Chambers. The Senate originally pitched $20 million for the purchase, while the House held firm on their initial offer — $0.

The buy will fill a void left by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott. 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.

The Legislative Session is scheduled to end on March 11. But budget negotiators must wrap a budget by Tuesday in order to satisfy a three-day “cooling off” period before the budget is signed.

House and Senate Budget chiefs remain split on a slew over other issues.

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.


2 comments

  • Captain Dick

    March 10, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Ridiculous. Boondoggle by Pres Simpson for when he is Ag Commissioner. A turbo prop would cost half as much and be much more efficient.

    • ChadT

      March 11, 2022 at 11:14 am

      Not really, given that a new King Air 360 goes for $8 million and a Phenom 300E is $9.45 million. Also, why wouldn’t the state opt for an aircraft assembled in Florida (Phenom 300E, built in Melbourne) versus Kansas (King Air)? The Phenom purchase directly contributes to jobs here in Florida.

      Jets are also generally more safe than turboprops and can fly higher/above the weather.

Comments are closed.


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