12/13/2013 04:00 EST | Updated 02/11/2014 05:59 EST

Efforts to sell New Brunswick government airplane hits turbulence

FREDERICTON - Efforts by the New Brunswick government to sell its airplane have hit a patch of turbulence.

This past summer, the government said it received a bid from a broker to co-ordinate the sale of the plane, which was used by the premier and cabinet ministers. The government also said at the time that three companies submitted bids to provide executive charter flight services for five years.

But the government now says none of those bids met their required guidelines.

Transportation Minister Claude Williams said a sole-source contract has been awarded to Flying Colours, an aviation company based in Peterborough, Ont., as the new broker. That company will be responsible for preparing the aircraft for sale and maintaining it until it is sold, Williams said.

His department later said it awarded Flying Colours with the sole-source contract, which is for two months but can be extended for another four months, because the government had not received a successful bid.

Another request for proposals for the charter flight service will be issued in the new year, Williams added.

The government committed to selling the plane as a cost-cutting measure in the last provincial budget, but the Opposition says it expects a new flight service will cost more and spending on it won't be as transparent.

Liberal transportation critic Bill Fraser accused the government of botching the sale.

"They've bungled the whole process," Fraser said.

Gary Wood, director of sales and marketing for Flying Colours, said the King Air B200 plane is a popular model but it could take six to nine months to sell it.

Williams said the plane is worth about $3.8 million, but Wood said he expects it will fetch between $2 million and $3 million.

"I realize that is a broad range, but there are about 70 or 80 of these aircraft being offered for sale on the market," Wood said.

He said his company has been advertising the plane for more than a week and has already had a number of inquiries.

"We will deal with those and continue to advertise the airplane aggressively and see if we can find a buyer within the contract time frame," he said.

Williams said the government is on the hook for 15 more years of a $99,000 annual lease for a hangar and other facilities at the Fredericton International Airport. But he said the government will look at subletting it.