Governor Fallin plans to consult university officials about airplane use

At a state Capitol press conference today (Monday, November 21) to tout formation of the World Reining League, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin answered several questions about the loss of four Oklahomans in a private airplane crash in Arkansas. 

The Sooner State’s chief executive said, “There may be a role for the state in the review of travel rules. I spoke with [Oklahoma State University President] Burns Hargis early in the morning when we all learned of the terrible crash. I will be in discussion with him and other universities about the rules that are in place. We’ll be looking at whether or not those are adequate or if they should be strengthened.”

Two Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coaches and two supporters of the university (both pilots) died last week while on a recruiting visit in Arkansas. Killed were head coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and the pilots, former state Sen. Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula.

The crash of the four-seater (Piper Cherokee) came a decade after an airplane crash killed 10 people affiliated with the men’s basketball team. OSU adopted stronger flight requirements for team flights, but those strictures did not apply to the recruiting flight, university officials said in recent days. 

Gov. Fallin, a graduate of OSU, said of the crash, “That was a sad day for Oklahoma, for Oklahoma State University and for all the families touched by the deaths. “ Fallin planned to attend a memorial service today at the Stillwater campus of the university. 

Fallin told Capitol reporters this morning, “I was absolutely shocked that it could happen again, especially to the basketball team. It pulled at me because it was at the same school, my alma mater, as faced the awful crash a decade ago. There are lots of questions about the flight, about what happened. We’ll know more later.”

Fallin told CapitolBeatOK the Highway Patrol requirements for her flights mandate at least a twin engine plane with two pilots on board. She commented that when she was lieutenant governor of the state, she often flew in aircraft similar to the one that went down in Arkansas.