Archive for Sunday, January 25, 2009

Budget cuts may ground KU planes

A Kansas University aircraft rests in its hangar at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

A Kansas University aircraft rests in its hangar at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

January 25, 2009

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In a tight budget year, Kansas University officials have said there’s little university business that’s not being considered for cuts.

And that goes for KU’s private air flights, as well.

KU owns one Citation Bravo jet and has a 50 percent ownership in a 1999 King Air C90B turbo prop through Executive AirShares. Both were purchased with private funds.

With cuts looming, individual departments that use the planes will likely be cutting back on their usage this year, KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said.

“If departments want to use the aircraft, they pay for it,” Bretz said. “They try to maximize the use of the plane.”

They could turn to commercial flights, or driving and staying overnight in hotels if either option works out to be more efficient, she said.

Bretz said the majority of KU’s flights are logged by KU Medical Center’s medical outreach program serving rural Kansans.

That program logs 150 to 175 of the more than 300 flights taken on KU planes each year.

Gary Doolittle, a KUMC professor of hematology/oncology, coordinates the medical outreach programs, and said his use of the plane saves time and money over flying commercially to small areas of western Kansas.

He said he approaches the use of the plane from a doctor’s perspective — he is able to arrange his busy schedule to allow for time to treat thousands of cancer patients in cities like Hays and Goddard.

Other users for the planes included KU Athletics, which uses the planes for recruiting trips and other purposes. The provost and chancellor use the plane to speak across the state at events for high school seniors in the Kansas Honors Program.

KU Endowment Association uses the plane for fundraising visits across the nation, and the Alumni Association and admissions offices also use it to fly to events.

The Citation Bravo seats eight passengers, and the turbo prop seats six. Organizers of the medical missions and other trips say they often try to maximize the number of people on the plane.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway also organizes trips to Washington, D.C., with researchers to push for federal funding about six to eight times per year, Bretz said.

KU says it spends nearly $700,000 per year to keep its aircraft going. This includes salary and benefits for three pilots and a scheduler, jet maintenance, the fixed cost of the fractional ownership, pilot training and insurance.

Most of that is taken from state funds, Bretz said, except maintenance costs, most of which come from a per-flight-hour charge to its users.

That cost changes monthly — in December it was $1,625 per hour for the Citation jet and $785.14 for the turbo prop plane.

She said the university sees value in the return from the aircraft in dollars coming from donors and federal funds and students recruited to the university.

Bretz also said flying the planes contributes to the Kansas economy — a fact reiterated on the national stage this month.

According to an article in The Washington Post, members of the Kansas congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Dennis Moore and Todd Tiahrt, succeeded in removing a provision limiting the use of private jets from a $700 billion bank bailout bill because of the presence of the airline industry in the state.

As available dollars shrink, the trips may be another item the university will have to do without.

“I would have to assume it’s under scrutiny,” Doolittle said. “I would be naïve to think it would not be scrutinized.”

Comments

KS 6 years, 5 months ago

Poor Lew. He might have to take a bus. Boy, these guys can put a spin on anything. Didn't they learn anythng from the auto executives? Does amyone know if the logs of these planes are public? Put them up for sale on ebay! :)

Chris Ogle 6 years, 5 months ago

Fly the friendly skys of....... Greyhound.

Sean Livingstone 6 years, 5 months ago

KS (Anonymous) says…"Does amyone know if the logs of these planes are public? Put them up for sale on ebay! :)"The logs are public... all the time.classclown (Anonymous) says…"They need to start using Greyhound.."You need to recognize the need for efficiency. If there is a research meeting in D.C., a professor cannot get there on time to teach his class, and attend the meeting.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 5 months ago

Livingstone- If KU understood the meaning of efficiency, the planes would still be a reality.

labmonkey 6 years, 5 months ago

livingstone-Yea, but what percentage of the planes' use are for recruiting trips? I'm all for seeing KU do well in sports, but not at the expense of educating students.

KS 6 years, 5 months ago

Livingstone - The professor can fly to DC on a commercial airline. That would be efficiency.

caseygolf 6 years, 5 months ago

labmonkey -Read the article again. It clearly states that all departments pay for their own trips. KU Athletics is an independent corporation that is independent from all other parts of the University of Kansas. They have their own budget, raise their own money, etc which also means they pay for the use of the planes with their own budget money. It is not at the expense of any KU students education for KU Athletics to use those planes.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Considering KU athletics is an independent corporation why are they allowed to use KU property?Seems they can afford their own jet plane!

Boeing 6 years, 5 months ago

My girlfriend works for a very important department of the university that actually makes very good money (the department, the don't really pass it on to her), and yet when she travels for KU, she has to take a Southwest flight out of KCI...so can everyone else at KU, I think.

repaste 6 years, 5 months ago

Casey, article said it comes from state funds, not athletic dept. Someone find the logs, lets see them!

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 5 months ago

Sell the planes and use the proceeds to repair KU's "crumbling classrooms."

jayhawkbarrister 6 years, 5 months ago

Planes sold on eBay are generally unairworthy and do not bring anywhere near the value of the plane. (Witless the recent ebay nonsale of Alaska's plane by Sarah "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up" Palin.) If you need to throw your own money away, put it in an envelope and mail it to me at "Jayhawkbarrister Rio Fund." I will take good care of it . . . and send you a postcard from Rio.Given the current market for Citation, why would anyone buy a used Bravo from KU when Cessna is severely discounting its surplus of new planes in its sale fleet? They are adding value (bells and whistles) to new planes without increasing prices, just to move them off the tarmac in Wichita.A plane is just a tool for efficiency. If the Chancellor can fly with 7 others to Washington and snag $500,000 in Federal moolah, 5 hours of flight time is a pretty good deal, compared to the torture of commercial flight now. Run the numbers, including the travel time to the KCI, wait time in transfers, waiting for luggage, weather and flight control delays and a private plane is actually saving the citizens of Kansas money. When someone takes a plane for a jaunt, the IRS steps in and makes you pay big for an unnecessary flight. The audit alone is enough to remind one of Torquemada. But if we can move our assets such as experts in oncology to make them accessible to more citizens stricken with cancer, Queen of Hearts off-with-their-heads responses herein create more heat than light.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 5 months ago

" A plane is just a tool for efficiency. If the Chancellor can fly with 7 others to Washington and snag $500,000 in Federal moolah, 5 hours of flight time is a pretty good deal, compared to the torture of commercial flight now."--------------------------------------------------------How many times does that really happen?

adamfast 6 years, 5 months ago

The flight logs are available (albeit from Nov. 2007) in a special feature: http://www2.ljworld.com/transportation/air/The related story (http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2007/nov...) also mentions info on getting additional data, however KU does (according to the story) charge $31.50/hr for time spent gathering the records for release.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

Oh noes. I wonder if Lew would be subject to the two seat policy on SWA?

KS 6 years, 5 months ago

jayhawkbarrister - That is the problem with this country. Too many people have flown into Washington, DC and grabbed too many $500,000 checks, etc. Can you all spell SOCIALISM? She's comin around the moutain, here she comes!

deskboy04 6 years, 5 months ago

This is sad. Our state university without a private fleet of planes? How will they get around?

KU_cynic 6 years, 5 months ago

xbusguy writes: ” A plane is just a tool for efficiency. If the Chancellor can fly with 7 others to Washington and snag $500,000 in Federal moolah, 5 hours of flight time is a pretty good deal, compared to the torture of commercial flight now.”Presumably the chancellor could "snag the moolah" in DC regardless of how he travelled there. Although perhaps the way Hemenway's mental and verbal capacities are declining, every minute counts. The question is the "efficiency" of the travel by private jet versus other means. I am routinely aware of professors from KU departments flying en mass -- perhaps not always 8 at a time, granted -- to attend a major academic conference. Not once have I heard of budget authorities sending back a memo in response to a travel authorization saying, "You know, since several of you are all going to the same destination, how about you take the jet (and avoid the torture of flying commercial)?" Not once. And for obvious reasons -- it is not economical. Jet travel is a costly perk that a state-supported university cannot afford. My recommendation: Transfer ownership and financial responsibilty for the jet to the KUAC; if athletic donors want to pay for this, fine by me. The KUAC can then charge the chancellor and the university for incremental usage at appropriate rates, and KU's administration can go to Topeka knowing that all trips and expenses are subject to ex post scrutiny by state auditors and legislators.

Centerville 6 years, 5 months ago

One of my favorite stories from several years ago was about a KU plane that had a slight accident before takeoff so was grounded. Article went on to say that the four KU staff found an alternate way to travel...(are you ready?) to Emporia!

Shardwurm 6 years, 5 months ago

"If there is a research meeting in D.C., a professor cannot get there on time to teach his class, and attend the meeting."Professors teach classes at KU? I didn't know that. I've seen a lot of grad students but not many professors.

Shardwurm 6 years, 5 months ago

RealityCheck: I'm guessing there would be fewer trips to 'conferences' if the professor had to go to KCI like most people. These are boondoggles at best.Today there are ways to attend conferences by Video Teleconference that cost a fraction of the cost of your plane trip. It's irresponsible to fly someone around the country no matter what the mode is.

compmd 6 years, 5 months ago

Reality_Check is absolutely correct across the board. Couldn't have put it better myself.jayhawkbarrister, you ask why someone would want KU's used Bravo. Well, for starters, a 1997 Bravo in the condition that KU's is in would sell for about four to five million dollars less than a comparable new CJ. Bravos are no longer made (I saw the last one roll out of W1 a little over a year ago), but parts are more readily available and less expensive. And who said that used airplanes aren't airworthy? They aren't like cars, aircraft have very strict, federally mandated inspection and maintenance. KU recently spent $1 million overhauling the Bravo with overhauled engines, new paint, and a few other maintenance items. Keep the planes, but maybe the university can start complying with the law. They've been blocking all flight data and they have failed to produce the logs of the aircraft under the guise of secrecy for the athletics department. These aircraft are owned by a state institution and that institution is supposed to be answerable to the people who funded it. However, thanks to KU Athletics, there is no longer public oversight of the use of these aircraft. Hey LJW editors, you might be able to get a good investigative story out of filing FOIA requests to find out how the aircraft were actually used. The university's defense of "oh, we don't want people to know about athletic recruiting trips" is worthless and probably illegal.

Sean Livingstone 6 years, 5 months ago

"xbusguy (Anonymous) says…Livingstone- If KU understood the meaning of efficiency, the planes would still be a reality.""KS (Anonymous) says…Livingstone - The professor can fly to DC on a commercial airline. That would be efficiency."Partially true, however, it can be cheaper to KU if the professors fly on this jet. The reasons?If you commercial to Washington Reagan, it normally costs $400, plus cab fares, parking, and mileage of car. That is if you assume that the professor doesn't have to stay overnight in Washington D.C. (normally they prefer to come back immediately on that day if they have a class to teach the next day). If he/she stays overnight, that will be an additional $120. Thus, a trip to D.C. by a professor can range from $500 - $800. If we put 8 professors on that plane, it may be cheaper in many way... why? The flight to D.C. is normally in the morning around 6am, and it will fly back in the late evening, so the professors don't have to stay overnight, thus save the driving, parking, and even the cab costs (normally they go to the same place). I could be wrong, but my gut feel is that it's definitely cheaper.By the way, I prefer commercial flight... at least you get freebies like flight miles, and the freedom to travel at your own time. I flew on this.... it's efficient, but not nice..."labmonkey (Anonymous) says…Yea, but what percentage of the planes' use are for recruiting trips? I'm all for seeing KU do well in sports, but not at the expense of educating students."If they pay for the trip... why not?

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