STILLWATER — One year after a plane crash killed two women's basketball coaches and a former state senator and his wife, Oklahoma State University is expected to tighten the travel policy that governs university employees.
Among other changes, the new policy would end the practice of allowing coaches to exercise their own discretion when making travel arrangements that don't include student athletes, according to documents.
OSU officials plan to bring the proposed travel policy before the Board of Regents of Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges at a meeting at 10 a.m. Friday in Langston University's Scholars Inn Clubhouse.
Task force's review
The proposed policy is the result of a yearlong review by a task force assembled after the Nov. 17, 2011, plane crash that killed OSU head women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna, pilot former state Sen. Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula.
The plane crashed into the mountains of central Arkansas as the two coaches were headed to Little Rock for a recruiting trip.
The task force included OSU faculty members, administrators and alumni, as well as Mike Holder, OSU's athletic director; Doug Burns, a regent, and Gary Johnson, director of Stillwater Regional Airport. The committee met seven times to review the university's policy and examine similar policies at other universities, OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said.
The new policy lays out requirements for what planes may be used for employee travel, and under what circumstances they may fly. Among the new rules is a requirement that a flight plan be filed and followed for all private air travel.
Olin Branstetter hadn't filed a flight plan.
Federal officials haven't determined the cause of the crash yet. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Terry Williams said the agency expects to release an accident report in early 2013.
Olin Branstetter, 82, was piloting the single-engine Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee. Branstetter, an accomplished pilot and licensed flight instructor, had flown university employees on similar trips.
In the aftermath of the crash, questions arose about how the university's travel policy applies to coaches.
The single-engine Piper did not meet the policy's requirement that aircraft used in university-related travel be “powered by two or more turbine engines.”
OSU officials have said that policy doesn't apply to coaches when they travel without student athletes.
However, a section of the policy deals specifically with coaches and athletic department staff traveling without students. It outlines what types of aircraft are acceptable for such trips. The section states that coaches traveling alone may use other aircraft that would be prohibited for team travel.
The policy then lists what appear to be minimum requirements for such other aircraft. Included in the list is a requirement that aircraft be “powered by two or more turbine engines.”
The proposed policy change would be the second time in recent memory that OSU has revamped its travel policies for athletics. The school did so after the Jan. 27, 2001, plane crash that killed two basketball players and eight other men associated with the school and/or its men's basketball program.