U planes will be grounded

Brett Martin

University Flight Services will be discontinued this summer and replaced by outside charter companies.
A letter from Senior Vice President JoAnne Jackson said in light of funding shortages and the upcoming University Hospital-Fairview merger, “We believe that this is an appropriate time to arrange alternative means for flight transportation.”
University Flight Services, which has been flying faculty, administrators and staff throughout the upper Midwest since the 1950s, had a budget of $380,000.
During fiscal year 1995, University Flight Services made 249 trips with a total of 760 passengers, said Waldo Anderson, University Flight Services’ chief pilot. He added that 90 percent of those flights did not go outside Minnesota.
Director of University Hospital’s Medical Outreach Program Ted Thompson said there are two to three flights a week from his department. The doctors are flown to various hospitals to give educational seminars and visit patients.
His department accounts for more than 80 percent of all University flights. “We’re going to miss (University Flight Services) in a big way,” Thompson said.
University Flight Services will be replaced by outside charter services, said Assistant Vice President for University Services Theresa Robinson. She added that at least three other charter companies have always been used in addition to the University’s flight service.
The same flight service will be provided — it will just not be provided internally, she said.
“We are in the process of identifying cost-effective and efficient alternatives with various flight operations in this area, which we believe can provide all the services we require,” Jackson said.
Diane Mahon, executive assistant for University Flight Services, said requests for proposals were mailed to 17 businesses that provide air transportation services. Contracts will be awarded to five or six charter services.
When selecting a company, Mahon said, University Flight Services will make sure the chosen carrier will have all-weather multi-engine aircraft and meet the University’s $10 million insurance coverage requirement, and that all pilots have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours. The companies’ flight safety records will also be examined for any violations the carrier has had within the last five years.
By employing charter companies in more than one location, it will allow greater flexibility for University departments to choose different airports to fly from, Mahon said.
When the school disposes of its planes and buildings, it will be the end of a long history of aviation at the University.
The University began an aviation program in 1929, Anderson said. At one time, the University owned 13 airplanes and the students’ combined flight time totaled 10,000 hours each year. By comparison, University Flight Services personnel currently fly about 400 hours a year.
Students trained through the University’s aviation program went on to become pilots for major carriers such as Northwest Airlines, Anderson said.
It became clear in 1988 that there was not enough interest to keep the aviation program going, Robinson said, and it was not part of the University’s mission to train pilots.
Although flight training was stopped, the University’s flight service continued to operate with two twin-engine airplanes to transport personnel for University business.
“The many years of service provided by Mr. Waldo Anderson and his staff have been extremely valuable and are sincerely appreciated,” Jackson said.