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College and university travel policies should be reviewed and improved, according to recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In a letter to the presidents of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the American Council on Education, and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NTSB recommends that the associations review Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) new travel policy and develop a model for other institutions to follow.

In 2001, a plane carrying OSU’s basketball players crashed in Colorado, killing eight passengers and two pilots. Following this accident, the university convened a task force to review team travel policies and ensure accountability for enforcing new procedures. OSU’s revised team travel policy provides a greater margin of safety for and oversight of five modes of transportation: automobiles/minivans, 12- and 15-passenger vans, buses, minibuses, and aircraft.

Many of the revisions in the OSU team travel policy address air transportation. For example, OSU will retain an aviation consultant to assist the university’s athletic director, athletic department staff, and coaches in providing oversight and safety decisions. Specific operational and performance changes include the following: all OSU air travel involving student athletes requires the presence of two pilots; captains and copilots must satisfy stringent requirements; maintenance personnel must have been trained within the previous five years and appropriately rated; and passengers are not allowed to enter the cockpit or distract the pilots during takeoff or landing.

NTSB also notes recommendations it made previously based on a study of the rollover propensity of 15-passenger vans. In the past, colleges often relied on 15-passenger vans for transporting athletic teams and other groups of students, but many have tried to limit or eliminate their use in recent years as safety issues arose. The NTSB report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2002/SR0203.htm.

Although NTSB is making recommendations based on the revised OSU team travel policy, the recommendations are not intended to be a blanket mandate for all colleges and universities to follow. Rather, NTSB suggests that college and university athletic departments would benefit from a review of the OSU model.

Click here to access a full copy of the NTSB report.


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