Compensation for pilots ruled out

Sat, Jul 21, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Transport Leo Varadkar has ruled out any financial compensation for student pilots left without classes due a dispute involving a Waterford-based flight school.

In Dublin yesterday, Mr Varadkar and the chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) Eamon Brennan met representatives of “self-financing” student pilots affected by the dispute. These are students who have paid their own fees, rather than been sponsored by an airline or employer.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Varadkar said he had “huge sympathy for the situation in which the trainees and their families find themselves”.

He made a commitment to continue to engage with them but he ruled out any financial compensation. The students later said the outcome of the meeting was “very disappointing”.

Eighty students undergoing part of their training at Florida Institute of Technology were left without classes when a financial dispute arose between the institute and the Waterford college. The student pilots have claimed the Government has a responsibility to them as the Pilot Training College in Waterford had been approved by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), a State agency.

“Regrettably I had to inform the group once again that neither the Government nor the IAA would be able to compensate them for the monies lost and have no liability in this regard, Mr Varadkar said.

The Government had considered compensating the 34 student pilots paying their own fees until it was made aware that a number of other creditors of the college were likely to seek similar compensation if the students received their money back.

“If that happened then the Government could have been exposed to a multimillion euro payout, a source told The Irish Times.

“There was no way we could ring-fence the 34 self-financing students.” The Minister said the IAA was in the process of organising one-on-one meetings with the students to advise them on their career options.

Mr Varadkar said it would also engage with the examiner appointed to PTCW to find out why the company had run into financial difficulty, and what had happened to the fees handed over by the trainees.

“We have already agreed to cover the cost of the trainee pilots in returning to Ireland, including those who have not yet returned. I also confirmed that I am considering the introduction of a bonding scheme for pilot training courses in the future, Mr Varadkar said.