Correction appended.

Ohio University’s private planes are mostly used for one-day trips but have large price tags attached.

One of OU’s most used planes is a cabin-class, twin turboprop King Air 350 that was purchased in 2003, Carly Leatherwood, university spokeswoman, said. The plane was bought to fulfill transportation needs at OU and has been a practice since the 1950s. That plan is mostly used for personnel travel.

The plane is mostly flown by certified pilots. It is also used by four chosen students from the Russ College each semester in conjunction with an internship program. Those students earn 100 flight hours through the program.

“Of utmost importance, the University’s private aircraft gives students real-world experience and is used by the President, school administrators and student groups,” Leatherwood said in an email.

OU’s planes can only be used for university purposes. Those purposes can include taking students on trips or awards programs, Robert Stewart, director of OU’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, said. Often, in these cases, it is cheaper for the university to fly than drive.

“I have traveled on the plane at the invitation of the president’s or dean’s office as well, to attend the Scripps Howard News Awards program in Cincinnati, for example,” Stewart said in an email. “Those costs are covered by the president’s office and/or the dean.”

Costs for the flights are determined by an hourly rate, according to OU University Policy. Traffic delays, route changes due to weather and other diversions can increase the flight time. That can also increase the cost of the flight.

The average time of a flight Stewart has been on is between 45 and 60 minutes, he said. He has never experienced delays or other issues that have led to an increased flight cost.

One of the advantages of flying on university planes is that the university can avoid paying for hotels since the planes can easily make a round trip in a day. 

“We’re also able to invite students to take part in the trip more easily since they don’t have to be away from campus as long,” Stewart said in an email.

The trips on university planes can lead to large costs. A flight on OU’s King Air N200U on April 1, 2018, cost over $5,400, according to records from the Ohio University Airport Aircraft Passenger Summary Report. That flight took six passengers from University-Oxford Airport in Oxford, Mississippi, to the Gordon K. Bush Ohio University Airport.

There were about 203 flights during the 2017 year. The most expensive flight totaled $6,812.10, according to those same records from the Ohio University Airport.

During the 2019 year, there have already been about 24 flights. A flight on Jan. 24 cost $4,307.80.

Additional costs can be added if a day trip cannot be made. On an overnight stay, the customer will be charged for hotel rooms, meals and ground transportation for the crew, according to OU Policy. If a day lasts over 14 hours for a pilot, the pilot may need up to eight hours of rest time or an overnight stay. That stay would also be charged to the customer.

Flights that are cancelled also come at a cost. There is a $500 cancellation fee for flights cancelled six days or fewer prior to the flight time and a fee of $250 for flights cancelled seven to 14 days in advance.


Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated the state the University-Oxford Airport is located. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.