UT's Controversial Plane to be Replaced - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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UT's Controversial Plane to be Replaced

From Phil Williams:

It was the aircraft that helped to end John Shumaker's tenure as president of the University of Tennessee.

Now, the 30-year-old King Air 200 is being replaced by a sleek, new King Air 350 at a price of $5.2 million.  The University will get about $825,000 off the old plane.

"The financial advantages of warranties, equipment upgrades, pilot training being included, and the trade-in allowance for the old plane made the factory purchase the most attractive bid," said UT Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Gary Rogers in a news release.

He also noted that the University uses the plane across the state in its operations and in the conduct of University business.

Back in 2003, NewsChannel 5 Investigates raised serious questions about Shumaker's use of the plane at a time when the university was considering replacing it.

Our investigation exposed numerous trips to Birmingham, where the woman that Shumaker was dating lived. 

The UT president claimed he was there on secret athletic department business, but our investigation revealed that he was really attending social events with his girlfriend.

Other questions about Shumaker's awarding of no-bid contracts to friends and other questionable behavior led to his forced resignation.

In addition to being 30 years old, the plane being replaced has been used in almost 13,000 flight hours, the university says.

Now, the university says required overhauls on the King Air's engines have become increasingly expensive and that "investing in additional overhauls would not be cost effective due to its age and its extensive use."

Last year, the plane was grounded for nearly six weeks due to maintenance and performance issues.

The university defends the need for a plane:

"Most UT travel occurs within Tennessee, and a corporate plane is more cost effective. The state is nearly 500 miles from east to west, and UT has campuses, institutes and offices in all 95 counties. Use of an airplane provides greater access to UT facilities, enabling multiple campus and other site visits in a single day. Commercial air service is not available to destinations such as Martin, where there is a campus, and direct service to Nashville from Knoxville does not exist."

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