Update:The Alaska State Jet was sold to an Alaskan businessman on August 23, 2007. The
Alaska administration decided that the Beech King Air 200 twin engined turboprop was adequate
for the transportation needs of state officials. It is somewhat slower
than the Westwind II state jet, but it can land on shorter runways.
The original purpose of this website, Alaskafalcon.com, was to discuss the Alaska state jet.
The first article of this website (www.alaskafalcon.com) was on October
10, 2006 and was about the Alaska state jet which was purchased by the
state government in 2005. For many years the state government has
possessed a number of different types of aircraft. The newly acquired
Westwind II jet was the fastest aircraft in the state's fleet. Since
the falcon is the fastest type of bird, I decided to name this website Alaskafalcon.com.
The state jet issue is no longer a current topic. I now cover a
few other topics on this website. But the name Alaskafalcon.com will be
retained for this website.
There are pros and cons with any
piece of equipment, whether it be trucks, aircraft, road graders,
construction equipment, boats etc. Acquisition costs, operation and maintenance costs, versatility and other factors must be considered.
Below I list a few factors on the pro side regarding the use of a small business type jet.
Alaska State Jet Westwind II
The State of Alaska purchased the Westwind II jet in 2005. It started operating in Alaska in November of 2005.
The Alaska State jet was controlled and operated by the Department of Public Safety.
The Department of Public Safety (State Troopers) used the state
jet to transport prisoners down to Arizona. There are limitations when
trying to use regular commercial airlines for prisoner transport.
Inmates with a history of assault and violence pose an extra problem
when considering regular airline transport.
The state jet was used for prisoner transport for a
significant part of the time. The former governor of Alaska (Governor Frank Murkowski at the time) was also able to use it if
it was not being used for prisoner transport.
After the state owned jet was sold on Aug 23, 2007, a different
aircraft service was utilized to transport the prisoners. The Alaska Department of Public Safety had a total of 42 aircraft in August
2006. They had different types of aircraft for different types
of jobs. They possessed one Westwind II jet, one Beech King Air 200,
several helicopters, float planes, Piper Supercubs, Cessna Caravans and
others. Today in 2008, they still have about the same amount of airplanes, but they no longer possess the jet. The jet could fly faster and higher than the propeller driven Beech King Air.
The state jet was a better tool for transporting prisoners
from Alaska to Arizona than the King Air. The King Air requires 10
hours of flying time and 2 intermediate refueling stops to get to
Arizona. The Westwind II turbofan jet uses only 6 hours of flying time
and only one refueling stop. This saves time for state personnel and
allows more jobs to be accomplished in a given amount of time. The Westwind II has extra safety factors. It
can climb out of icing conditions faster than the King Air, and can fly
farther to an alternate airport in the event that the primary
destination is closed in by bad weather.
Alaska is a huge state with
very long distances between destinations. It makes good sense to use a
small efficient utility jet to get to far flung destinations in a
timely manner. A 45,000 foot service ceiling means that the jet has an
advantage in getting over bad weather compared to propeller airplanes.
This provides an extra margin of safety and versatility.
The state jet was a practical tool for helping a governor
get to meetings in different Alaska towns in the same day. As an
example, on July 10, 2006, the governor (former governor Frank Murkowski) used the state jet to travel
from Fairbanks to Barrow to attend the Inuit Circumpolar Conference
that included representatives from Canada, Russia and Greenland. In the
afternoon, the governor traveled to Kotzebue for a discussion about
opening up a mine and other economic issues. In the evening he returned
to Fairbanks. This was a total distance of 1285 miles.
The state jet was not meant to operate on gravel runways.
Other aircraft in the State of Alaska's inventory are used for gravel
strips. The Westwind II jet requires a 4000 foot runway with a hard
surface (asphalt). In the State of Alaska there are 53
separate airfields throughout the state that have a hard surface
(asphalt) runway that is at least 4000 feet long. 7 of these airfields
are military. 15 of these airfields are listed as "unattended" and
visual inspection is recommended prior to using.
The Fairbanks International Airport has a runway that is
11,800 feet long. Adak is 7790 feet. Yakutat is 7745 feet long.
There are other state governments that have purchased and use small jets. New Mexico for instance, paid $5.5 million for a Cessna Citation Bravo jet.
Wyoming purchased 2 Cessna Citation Encore jets for about $12 million.
Alaska's 1984 Westwind II was purchased in 2005 for $2.7 million.
Alaska state officials had talked about the need for a state jet
before Frank Murkowski was elected governor in 2002. Governor Murkowski
also determined that a jet would improve the state's air transportation
capability. He went to the legislature and requested an appropriation
to purchase a jet for the state.
A large number of citizens protested
against the proposal to acquire a small jet for the state. Some felt it
was an unnecessary luxury. The State Legislature declined
the governor's request to appropriate the funds. Governor
to go around the legislature and used a line of credit at Key Bank that
did not require legislative approval. It was perfectly legal to
purchase the jet like this, but many citizens were not happy about it..