KU preparing to buy share of new private plane

Past coverage of KU’s private planes

• 2009: Budget cuts may ground KU planes

• 2007: KU defends blocking flight info

An upcoming purchase of a share in a private jet will cost Kansas University about $290,000, but it will also amount to a downsizing of KU’s private flight capabilities.

KU is nearing completion of a contract with the Executive AirShare for a 25 percent ownership in a Phenom 100, a four-seat jet, KU spokesman Jack Martin said. The $289,000 cost will be paid entirely by private funds from the KU Endowment Association.

The share is in addition to an eight-seat Citation Bravo jet that KU owns in full.

The new plane share will replace KU’s 50 percent ownership in a five-seat King Air C90B turbo prop, the contract for which is expiring.

The new contract will allow for 80 days of use per year, compared with 160 under the old one. It will also seat fewer people.

Martin said the university had determined it no longer needed as much private air travel capacity as it had before.

“This is part of a comprehensive look that we’ve done at how to be most efficient when it comes to the use of aircraft,” Martin said.

Ongoing costs for the new jet will likely be a bit higher than they were for the prop plane, Martin said, but the Executive AirShare company is phasing out its use of the King Air plane.

And the new share will also prevent increasing maintenance costs that were likely to result from further use of the King Air prop plane, which was manufactured in 1998, Martin said. The new jet is a 2010 model, for which KU opted over a 2012 model because of the lower cost.

“Like cars, planes also get costlier to maintain” as they get older, Martin said.

The KU Medical Center’s outreach programs for rural Kansas account for about 75 percent of the usage of the shared plane, Martin said.

The plane allows doctors to spend less time in transit as they travel to far-flung corners of the state, Martin said, meaning they have more time to see patients.

“Our doctors and folks have to cover a lot of ground, and this is one way that we can be most effective with their time and their talents,” Martin said.

Individual departments at KU that use the planes must pay for the cost of flights they make.

Right now that cost is $2,160 per hour for the jet and $995 for the shared prop plane. Those prices will likely change in the new fiscal year, which starts in July, Martin said.

The Medical Center is the heaviest user of KU’s planes, making about half of the flights. Kansas Athletics makes the next most flights at about 25 percent.

KU’s total cost for the operations of its aircraft in the 2012 fiscal year, which ended last summer, was $1.4 million, Martin said.