A year later, OSU has changed the way it travels to games

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Nearly a year has passed since the plane crash that killed ten people associated with the OSU basketball program. The crash on January 27th last year prompted changes in how the team travels - and more changes may be coming.

News on Six Reporter Emory Bryan visited Stillwater Monday. The plane went down in a sparse Colorado pasture - on a snowy January night. Federal investigators say the cause was probably an electrical failure that disabled the pilot’s instruments.

The crash led Oklahoma State to re-examine how the team travels - and make changes to ensure their safety. OSU coach Eddie Sutton, "I would never put anybody on a airplane that I wouldn't get on and I wouldn’t put anybody on a plane we didn't know was maintained and safe and the pilots were safe."

The university now more closely monitors the planes that carry athletes - and gives everyone the choice of flying charter or commercial carrier. OSU player, Fredrick Jonzen, “I feel very comfortable with the way we used to travel and the way we travel now, and I wouldn't want to change what we're doing.” Andre Williams: “We can't stop and think about how the plane is maintained and who owns it, we have to just get on the plane and go.”

Since the crash, OSU players only fly on aircraft certified for charter use - that excludes most privately operated and donated corporate aircraft. The difference costs the University an extra $100,000 this year. OSU athletic director, Terry Don Phillips, "It was nice to have had that available, but the real issue is are you on good aircraft, are they being flown by pilots that are very competent and do they have the certifications necessary to handle that aircraft and are you flying airworthy aircraft." Coach Sutton maintains confidence in the pilot of the plane that crashed - and says he still feels safer on private rather than commercial planes.

The University wants to switch entirely to commercial charter - and is working with Great Plains airlines on a contract to fly the team to the rest of their games this season. The families of players and University employees on the plane have settled death claims with the University and the state, but some claims against the operators of the aircraft remain unresolved.

A final report on the cause of the crash should be finished this spring.