Pilot's age, 82, a concern in crash

Dec. 4, 2012 at 3:35 PM

STILLWATER, Okla., Dec. 4 (UPI) -- An aviation safety consultant said the age of the 82-year-old pilot in a plane crash that killed Oklahoma State University employees was a cause for concern.

After two school coaches were killed in the 2011 crash of a private plane, the school initiated a new travel policy requiring a consultant to pass judgment on private aircraft used for university business, as well as the pilots who fly them, the (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported Tuesday.

One such consultant, Kirk Koenig, president of Indianapolis-based Expert Aviation Consulting, noted flights like the one that crashed have relatively little federal oversight.

He said there is no specific age at which private plane pilots are expected to retire, although federal law requires commercial pilots to retire at age 65. When a pilot the age of Olin Branstetter, 82, flies a small aircraft, it could raise concerns, he said.

Branstetter's single-engine Piper Cherokee crashed in the mountains of Arkansas Nov.17, 2011, killing him, his wife Paula, Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Terry Williams said a report on the incident will be released early next year.

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