CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a claim that the plane that interrupted Oregon State University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday had covered its tail number.
As of Wednesday, the FAA had not verified the claims, but says if true, it would be a violation of federal regulations. The administration says drivers need a visible license plate on their vehicles, as pilots need visible tail numbers on their airplanes. In the administration’s federal code of regulations, it says: “Each operator of an aircraft must display on that aircraft marks consisting of the Roman capital letter “N” (denoting United States registration) followed by the registration number of the aircraft.”
Cascade Aero Banner, an advertising service in Albany, was hired to fly a controversial banner over Oregon State University’s commencement Saturday. During the ceremony, a small plane flew over Reser Stadium towing a banner which read, “Go Ducks!”
Many in attendance said the plane was loud and distracting, and even forced the keynote speaker, Dr. Ann Kiessling, to stop her speech several times.
“It was super inappropriate,” said OSU student Bethany Matthews.
“At first it was kind of cool and funny – if they would have just flown off the first time,” said OSU graduate Linda Richards.
Instead, graduates say the plane circled around the stadium for 5-8 minutes.
“It was kind of disrespectful that they would fly that over our commencement speech,” said OSU student Brandon Gilyard.
The owner and operator of Cascade Aero Banner, Pete Brawn, posted a letter of apology on the company’s Facebook page Tuesday. In the letter, he said he regretted carrying out the towing job.
“We knew that the ‘Go Ducks!’ message would be controversial, but we never imagined the depth of the offense our error in judgment has caused,” Brawn said in his Facebook post.
The letter went on to state, “We are very sorry for any annoyance or disruption that impacted those in the stadium, both graduates and their guests. Please accept my sincerest apology. We exercised poor judgment.”
Oregon State students continue to speak out about the so-called prank, calling it disrespectful. Online, Facebook users made comments saying: “Some jobs are worth turning down,” or: “Sometimes apologies aren’t enough.”
Others say they appreciate Brawn’s apology.
“They should have had at least the professional sense not to do it in the first place,” Matthews said. “But it is very respectful of them to at least apologize for it.”
Oregon State University also says it accepts the company’s apology.
“We accept their apology; we wish this had never happened,” said Steve Clark, Vice President for University Relations and Marketing. “We enjoy good humor just as much as the next person. Yet this wasn’t just funny, it was disruptive and it was repetitive.”
Brawn made another Facebook post Tuesday evening, saying the company will be donating its $500 proceeds from Saturday to the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, which Dr. Kiessling directs.
In the post, he says: “This can’t possibly make up for our transgression, but it wouldn’t be right for us to keep the money. From what I’ve learned on the foundation’s website, they will put the money to very good use.”
Brawn, nor anyone at Cascade Aero Banner’s Albany headquarters, was available to comment in person about the banner controversy. There is no word on who paid for the banner to be flown over the ceremony.