NCDOT finds he­li­copter buyer

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY RICHARD STRADLING [email protected]­sob­server.com Richard Stradling: 919- 829- 4739, @RStradling

Four years af­ter state law­mak­ers or­dered the sale of a he­li­copter used to re­cruit busi­nesses, the N.C. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion has found a buyer.

A com­pany called RBGT LLC paid $1.75 mil­lion for the Siko­rsky S-76C that had been kept at the state Di­vi­sion of Avi­a­tion hangar at Raleigh-Durham In­ter­na­tional Air­port. The state, through a bro­ker, had been ask­ing $2.4 mil­lion as late as Fe­bru­ary, when it low­ered the price to $1.9 mil­lion at the bro­ker’s urg­ing.

“We got a lit­tle less,” said James Pearce, spokesman for the Di­vi­sion of Avi­a­tion. “But it’s a 20year-old he­li­copter. We’re happy with the price we got.”

The state bought the he­li­copter in 1998 for $6.8 mil­lion to help re­cruit busi­nesses to North Carolina. It was con­trolled by the Depart­ment of Com­merce un­til 2010, when the state con­sol­i­dated its air­craft un­der NCDOT.

The Gen­eral Assem­bly or­dered the he­li­copter sold in 2014, and the state posted it on eBay. The high­est of­fer it re­ceived was about $1.5 mil­lion, which it re­jected be­cause it didn’t meet the state’s $2 mil­lion min­i­mum. That’s how much an ap­praisal done for NCDOT in 2013 said the he­li­copter was worth. Af­ter an en­gine over­haul and other main­te­nance work, an­other ap­praisal in 2015 put the value at a lit­tle more than $2.5 mil­lion. The state be­gan to mar­ket the he­li­copter na­tion­ally, while it was used for disas­ter re­lief and to carry the gov­er­nor and other of­fi­cials around the state.

The state re­ceived three of­fers by the end of 2016, but none of the deals went through. One buyer of­fered $1 mil­lion and an­other he­li­copter in trade.

By 2017, the Gen­eral Assem­bly was los­ing pa­tience and passed an­other bill, this time re­quir­ing the state to hire a bro­ker to sell the Siko­rsky. By Septem­ber, an­other ap­praisal set the value at $1.9 mil­lion, in part be­cause of a rel­a­tively high num­ber of used he­li­copters on the mar­ket.

The bro­ker, Carolina Jet of Win­ston-Salem, put the he­li­copter on the mar­ket for $2.4 mil­lion and re­ceived four solid in­quiries, two that led to writ­ten of­fers of $1.5 mil­lion and $1.8 mil­lion. When the higher of­fer didn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize, Carolina Jet sug­gested the state lower the price to $1.9 mil­lion.

“It’s not like selling a car,” Pearce said. “It’s just such a niche prod­uct. It’s not that there’s a whole lot of buy­ers out there wait­ing to buy one.”

The sale to RBGT was com­pleted May 18; Carolina Jet’s com­mis­sion was 3 per­cent. Pearce said be­cause the sale went through a bro­ker, the state doesn’t know much about the buyer.

State eco­nomic de­vel­op­ers still like to take busi­ness prospects up in the air to show them po­ten­tial sites; it’s of­ten the only way to visit sev­eral in a day and gives com­pa­nies a chance to quickly see a whole piece of prop­erty and its prox­im­ity to roads and rail, said David Rhoades, spokesman for the state Com­merce Depart­ment.

But now that the state doesn’t own a he­li­copter for that pur­pose, it will lease one as needed or ride along in a he­li­copter owned by a com­pany in­volved in the re­cruit­ing ef­fort, such as Duke En­ergy, Rhoades said.

RICHARD STRADLING [email protected]­sob­server.com

The state has been try­ing to sell this Siko­rsky S-76C he­li­copter since 2014. It found a buyer last month.

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