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