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Those authorized to pilot Mississippi’s state plane will now head out of state for continued training on how to fly it.
Last week, the Mississippi Personal Service Contract Review Board approved a $100,000 contract between the Department of Finance and Administration and FlightSafety International, Inc. The aviation training company will provide instruction for pilots who operate the state plane.
DFA aviation administrator Brandon Fons said there are currently three pilots who can fly the state aircraft, a 1993 Beechcraft King Air 350. Fons, who is one of the three pilots, said they are required to attend annual training at a FlightSafety location in Wichita, Kan.
Vice president of communications for FlightSafety Steve Phillips said the company provides a variety of training courses for 135 different types of aircraft. The company has locations in sites across the world and serves people who work in corporate, government, and military aviation, he said. The only site with the simulator similar to Mississippi’s plane is located in Kansas.
At the July 18 meeting, Mississippi State Personnel Board contract analyst Noah Gibson told the board when he presented the contract that FlightSafety is the only company with a training facility with a simulator similar to the state aircraft.
The contract runs from Aug. 1, 2017 to May 31, 2019, although Fons said DFA has worked with FlightSafety since 2005. DFA entered into a new contract last week because the previous one expired.
“There’s not a whole lot of options when it comes to flight simulators,” Fons said. “The cockpit in the simulator is an identical one to what we have in our aircraft.”
Fons said he and his colleagues use the simulator to practice scenarios they cannot in the actual state aircraft, like a loss of pressurization in the cabin, engine failure, emergency landing and other procedures.
“Just about anything that could possibly go wrong with the airplane is what we train to do so it’s second nature,” he said. “The training, what we do up there, some of it’s required for safety but it’s also required by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to keep pilots current.”
The governor, lieutenant governor, statewide elected officials, Mississippi Development Authority and other state agencies are eligible to use the state aircraft, but Fons said where and when the plane travels falls to the discretion of each agency head.
According to a DFA’s Office of Air Transport Services procedure manual, “emergency use of the state aircraft will be allowed upon availability and sufficient justification.”
To use the plane, agencies fill out a request form and submit it to Air Transport Services. If approved, the entity is invoiced for the operating cost of the plane ($1,215 per hour) plus travel expenses for the pilot and other fees.