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Oklahoma State University tightens travel rules for employees

by Silas Allen Published: December 1, 2012

— A year after a 1960s-era, single-engine airplane crashed, killing four including its 82-year-old pilot, Oklahoma State University will require all private planes and their pilots to undergo a review before being used for university-related travel.

The Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges approved the university's revamped travel policy at a meeting Friday at Langston University.

The new policy tightens restrictions for all university faculty and staff, including student employees, who travel on university business. Among other changes, the new policy requires that a university aviation consultant approve all private aircraft that would be used for university business, as well as the pilots who would fly them.

It isn't clear what difference the new policy would have made had it been in force before the crash. However, the Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee aircraft, manufactured in 1964, and pilot Olin Branstetter would have had to receive approval from an aviation consultant before flying.

The new policy also extends those restrictions to coaches. Under the previous policy, coaches were allowed to use their own discretion in making travel arrangements, provided student athletes weren't traveling with them. Under the new policy, coaches will no longer have that leeway.

The policy addresses employees driving on university business. Under the new policy, no single employee may drive more than eight hours within a 24-hour period, and two drivers are required for any trip more than 350 miles away or any drive that extends past 2 a.m.

The 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 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.

Gary Clark, OSU's vice president and legal counsel, headed up the committee that reviewed the policy. Although the policy review came about as a result of the crash, Clark said the changes weren't intended to address the specific facts of that crash. The National Transportation Safety Board hasn't yet released a detailed report outlining the cause of the crash.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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