Anthony Hennen of the Martin Center details costs associated with UNC-Chapel Hill’s college sports recruiting efforts.

To reach far-flung towns, private planes can be indispensable. The University of North Carolina system, for instance, has an air fleet to shuttle doctors around the state. UNC Air Operations expands the reach of high-quality health care to remote parts of the state and allows doctors to train medical students while still practicing medicine.

The flights, however, aren’t only used for health care. Though UNC Air’s website only mentions medical flights, UNC athletics coaches and high-ranking UNC officials also take flights, often for athletics recruiting or for meetings.

A Martin Center review of public records found that, from September 2018 to August 2019, the UNC-Chapel Hill athletics department was billed $125,825 for UNC Air trips and the UNC system office was billed $71,578. Many of those flights were for trips within a two-hour drive or to large cities serviced by commercial airlines.

In total, athletics and administrative flights made up about 27 percent of the roughly $725,000 in flight expenses, while about 65 percent of UNC Air’s costs were for medical flights. A service created to expand health care access in North Carolina has expanded into a perk for top officials and coaches funded by student tuition payments and taxpayer money.