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The University of Alabama's airplane, a 1991 Astra SP, at Bama Air.
AP Photo by Carmen Sisson
The University of Alabama's airplane, a 1991 Astra SP, at Bama Air.

Alabama athletics gets $5.5 million plane

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A private foundation run by The University of Alabama has bought a $5.5 million jet that will be used mainly to ferry athletic department officials and coaches across the Southeast.

The aircraft, a 1991 Astra SP purchased earlier this year, replaced a university-owned 1980 Cessna Citation II that was sold in December for about $927,000.

The new plane was purchased by the Crimson Tide Foundation, a privately run nonprofit organization started in 2003 and directed by university and athletic officials. The foundation exists to promote Alabama athletics, according to its articles of incorporation.

The Astra seats nine passengers, one more than the Cessna, according to Finus Gaston, senior associate athletics director.

"The plane is in very good condition, and we haven't done much to it," said Gaston.

Foundation funds

John McMahon, trustee chairman and a director of the Crimson Tide Foundation, which gets its money through private donations, said the plane was bought with foundation funds because the university didn't have the money.

Though the plane is privately owned, the university pays about $477,000 a year to operate it.

The expenses involved include three employees and leasing a hangar.

The Tuscaloosa News reported Monday that flight logs for both the new jet and the Cessna show the two planes flew 56 times from August 2004 through the middle of last month, and only 11 of those trips were for non-athletic purposes.

Athletics director Mal Moore was the most frequent flyer, catching a ride 20 times during the almost eight months of flight logs provided by the university. University President Robert Witt used the planes seven times.

Occasionally, alumni will pay for the use of the planes if they are flying a university official in for a speaking engagement. During the fall, football coaches use the planes frequently on recruiting trips.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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