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Pilots stand behind Baylor aircraft

Feb. 9, 2001

Plane is available for any campus department's use



Oklahoma States' Cowboys boarded three jets Tuesday, avoiding an airplane similar to Baylor's Beechcraft King Air. The original plan was to take two jets and a Beechcraft King Air -- the type of plane that crashed late last month while returning from Colorado -- but a friend of the program came forward Tuesday and provided a third jet.

Fear of flying after such a high profile accident is not unusual, but flying on a jet does not prove to be any safer than a propjet -- such as the Beechcraft King Air, said John Foster, a Baylor co-pilot.

'We burn jet fuel. Our aircraft has jet engines that turn a propeller. In cases of windshear, a turboprop jet can actually be safer than a jet,' Foster said.

'I've been much more concerned on I-35. If I say no [to flying], the administration doesn't question me. We [the pilots] make the decision to fly. Some guys are like cowboys -- they will fly in bad conditions,' said Mark Estes, Baylor's chief pilot.

'Baylor has been fantastic. In bad weather conditions there is no pressure from administration. We are able to make the judgement call.'

There have been various speculations about the January accident involving OSU. Some experts believe the plane may have had too much ice on the wings.

'Our airplane has de-icing equipment, but it's designed to allow us to get away from icy conditions. [With] ice problems, you want to avoid [it] at all times if possible,' Foster said. 'All airplanes have limitations and it is up to the pilot to not exceed those limitations.'

The Beechcraft King Air is an extremely popular corporate airplane; in fact the big, green hangar at Waco Regional Airport is where Baylor's airplane is parked.

Baylor's pilots can fly all over the United States, but most of the flights are within Texas, Estes said.

Administration and athletic department personnel primarily use Baylor's airplane. The airplane is available to any department but each department must pay for the airplane out of its budget, Estes said.

Baylor's airplane is not on a regular schedule but is used as needed and the amount of flight time varies.

The problem with flying commercial is that most flights leaving Waco Regional Airport have to go to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport or Houston, then make connecting flights and therefore the main reason that Baylor has the airplane is because of time constraints and layovers, said Marilyn Eichelberger, admin associate/coordinator, corporate aviation at Baylor.

Baylor's pilots train annually to maintain their level of proficiency.

'Every year we go to Simcom in Florida for three days of ground school and simulator training,' Estes added.

Baylor has an Aviation Sciences Department that works with Texas State Technical College; this is not the same department that flies the Beechcraft King Air. Their aircraft is kept at Texas State Technical College.

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