Another churn of the rumor mill brought forth the claim that the University of Virginia had recently purchased a shiny new aircraft—one much bigger and better than its old one. What old one, you ask? So did we.
While the truth-o-meter (and UVA spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn) has confirmed there is no new jet hauling President Teresa Sullivan to and fro her many engagements, C-VILLE did learn about the $4 million Cessna Citation Bravo that a foundation within the university purchased in 2004.
For the airplane savvy, UVA’s 2001 Cessna is a fixed-wing, multi turbofan-engine jet with a thrust of 4,000 pounds, according to FlightAware, the website on which the aircraft is registered. For the non-airplane savvy, it’s an eight-seat, seven-passenger jet with two engines and the ability to go pretty fast.
“UVA is not the only public university within the Commonwealth or the nation that owns an aircraft,” de Bruyn says (though our truth-o-meter, which has heard from 10 other public colleges in the state, has yet to find another one with a plane). “At UVA, the plane is frequently used for trips to the college at Wise and other regional locations that are best served with direct access when several personnel are traveling at the same time, rather than commercial service.”
The university’s plane policy says all flights must be for official business, and scheduling priority is given to the Office of the President. Private air transportation service must be authorized by the traveler’s dean, vice president or designee, and approved by the appropriate executive vice president.
Flown by pilot-in-command John Farmer and housed at the general aviation terminal at CHO, FlightAware’s records show that the jet was last used for a trip between the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport and the Manassas Regional Airport on October 10, though de Bruyn says those records need to be updated because it’s likely the jet has been used since then. With a flight speed of 315 miles per hour, this particular 70-mile trip took only 17 minutes.
“You don’t need a jet to get from Charlottesville to Manassas,” says Virginia Democratic State Senator Chap Petersen. “I think you can drive that in about 90 minutes.”
Petersen, a UVA Law graduate representing central and western Fairfax County, will carry several bills in next year’s General Assembly session that could further scrutinize UVA’s Board of Visitors and the university, which he says is currently “sitting on a couple billion dollars and continually increasing tuition fees and telling the General Assembly it’s broke.”
About the aircraft, Petersen doesn’t mince words: “Why does UVA need a jet? Why would any college need a jet?”