Plane crash raises questions about OSU's travel policy

Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and one of his assistants were flying outside the university's travel policy on a recruiting trip Thursday when the plane crashed in Arkansas, killing all four on board.
BY RANDY ELLIS rellis@opubco.com Published: November 20, 2011

The age of the pilot, 82, and age of the airplane, which was built in 1964, have prompted some to wonder whether those were risk factors.

Shutt said such issues are left to the coaches' discretion.

Branstetter had a commercial pilot's license, was a certified flight instructor and was qualified for the airplane he was piloting, Federal Aviation Administration records indicate.

Branstetter passed his last pilot's physical in April 2010 and wasn't due for another one until 2012, said Lynn Lunsford, FAA spokesman.

The pilot had a clean record with no history of accidents.

Shutt said he didn't know when, if ever, the OSU athletic department previously had used Branstetter's services as a pilot but said Branstetter had donated an aviation scholarship to the university.

Shutt said he also didn't know how common it was for OSU coaches to be flown around in single-engine planes on recruiting trips, but noted that commercial airlines often don't lend themselves very well to recruiting trips in difficult-to-reach places.

Protecting students

This is the second time in a little more than a decade that OSU fans have been in mourning after a devastating plane crash.

In January 2001, an airplane crashed near Strasburg, Colo., killing 10 men associated with the OSU men's basketball program.

After that tragedy, a task force was formed that recommended a new travel policy to better protect the safety of student athletes.

The policy covers not only air travel but also travel by vans and other means of transportation.

It is very specific in many areas. For example, when 12- and 15-passenger vans are used, it requires them to have a 155-inch wheelbase and that they be equipped with “E” rated tires. There are strict requirements regarding the qualifications of drivers and pilots, as well.

Shutt said the university constantly is updating its policies but that he didn't know whether changes would be made regarding coaches' travel in light of the latest tragedy.


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