UVU aviation program making changes after audits

May 23 2011 - 12:00pm

OREM  -- Utah Valley University's aviation science program is making changes after a deadly plane crash, and two external audits that suggested there are safety concerns within the program.

The most recent audit followed the November plane crash in Payson that killed UVU flight instructor Jamie Bennee and student David Whitney, The Daily Herald of Provo reported.

The audit, ordered by university President Matthew Holland and other administrators, calls for the department to establish a formal safety program with a "safety professional" to manage it. The report also said flight instructors seem to have too many students and not enough availability.

Utah Valley University spokesman Brad Plothow said the school is making organizational and other changes to improve the program's safety. The university is seeking applications for a safety director and certified flight instructor.

Plothow said UVU has always provided a high-quality flight environment but remains committed to the "principle of continuous improvement."

Duties are being realigned and "check" pilots are being added, he said. Such pilots will provide a check-and-balance feature not present under the previous organizational structure, he said. Chief instructors will assume a supervisory role as part of the organizational changes, he said.

The latest audit was conducted by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

Gary Northam, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle, said the 12-page safety report was issued after students, instructors and administrators were questioned about the safety of the program and the effectiveness of the training and administration.

"Students were not aware of a lot of safety being stressed," he said.

A 2009 audit by the University Aviation Association reported similar findings.

Bennee and Whitney died Nov. 17 when their single-engine Diamond Da-20 crashed nose-first into a Payson driveway and broke into pieces, authorities said.

It was the first fatal accident involving a UVU aircraft in the history of the university's aviation program, which includes about 400,000 flight hours.

According to a UVU news release issued after the deadly crash, the aviation program has eight full-time faculty and another 52 adjunct flight instructors, and averages about 30 flights a per day. About 350 students are receiving academic and flight training through UVU locally.

 

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