Saturday, October 15, 2016
Cirrus SR22, N176CF: Iowa State University may have no use for plane if Leath can't fly it
Iowa State University officials continue to answer "no" when asked whether the university purchased a used single-engine plane in 2014 just so the university president could fly it.
The latest "no" came in a FAQ that ISU officials released Wednesday along with many other documents related to the operation of ISU Flight Service and ISU President Steven Leath's use of the university's Cirrus SR22.
"The Cirrus was purchased to replace an existing older aircraft," the FAQ states. "The Cirrus was primarily purchased because it was safer, faster and more efficient than the small aircraft previously owned by the university."
Yet Leath, who has a pilot's license, told the ISU Student Government Senate earlier this month that, if he doesn't fly the Cirrus himself, the plane might not get enough use in the future to make it cost effective for the university to keep it.
He also told the student government that he has more training on Cirrus planes than the university's other three professional pilots combined.
The university president pledged to stop piloting state-owned aircraft after university officials confirmed last month he had damaged the Cirrus last year during a hard landing in Bloomington, Ill. The original estimate for the repairs was $12,591.70, but the actual cost was at $14,050.26, according to documents ISU released Wednesday.
The incident has raised questions about Leath's use of the Cirrus during at least four times in which mixed personal and professional business. Leath said he repaid the costs of the flight for each trip in question.
The incident also has raised questions about Leath's passenger use of the university's larger plane, a Beechcraft King Air.
Officials with the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees Iowa's three public universities, have said no regent or university policies were violated by Leath's use of university aircraft. But the board's internal audit staff is conducting a review to ensure that university policies on travel and equipment comply with state law.
Both planes were purchased in 2014 to replace older aircraft used by ISU Flight Service. Since the purchase, Leath received additional training to be licensed to fly the smaller plane. The university's insurance policy required that some of that training be done on plane that will be flown.
"We'll still use the Cirrus for short inexpensive flights even if the King Air is available," Leath told reporters Oct. 5, "but if I’m not flying it, it may not get enough use to justify it."
The university released a flight log Wednesday for both the Cirrus and King Air planes. The information for the Cirrus, however, did not include who was piloting each flight.
Because the King Air requires two pilots to fly, there might not be another pilot available at the times Leath needs the Cirrus for a flight for university business.
"We’ll have to see how much total demand it gets," he said.
Being able to fly the smaller plane on his own, Leath said, allowed him to work more effectively on regents business. It also allowed him to meet more frequently with prospective donors to the university.
"Sometimes I would cut it close for a regents meeting in Council Bluffs because I could work almost right to the meeting, jump in the Cirrus, fly right to Council Bluffs and be in the meeting — as opposed to spending hours in the car," Leath said.
Posted by Kathryn on 5:04:00 PM