No aid for student pilots caught in row

Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 01:00

STUDENT PILOTS left stranded in the US following a financial dispute between Irish and US training firms are not automatically entitled to compensation, the Irish Aviation Authority has said.

There is no bond in place to guarantee financial aid for the students caught in a dispute between an Irish-based pilot training company and the Florida Institute of Technology.

Some 80 students, 34 of them Irish, paid up to €86,000 for training with Pilot Training College (PTC), a Waterford-based flight school. They had been receiving training in the Florida Institute of Technology, which has a contract with the Waterford school. However, on June 26th the IAA was told that all training was to stop due to a commercial dispute between the two.

One student pilot, John Rawluk from Malahide in Dublin, said he faced the prospect of returning to Ireland “not even half-trained” and without the money to start another course. “Everything I’ve been working for in the past 10 months has been ripped apart.”

Conor Deeny from Claudy, Co Derry, said he had spent €86,000 but received only €21,000 worth of training to date. “It’s a total mess,” the 18-year-old said.

An IAA spokeswoman said yesterday no compensation or bond was available to student pilots who found themselves in this situation. The authority suspended flight training approval for the Waterford school after a meeting with the firm on Wednesday at which it said it was investigating restructuring options.

The IAA said it was “not satisfied that they have the funding in place to provide the training to the required standard”. The spokeswoman said: “This is a temporary suspension . . . If the company can satisfy us that the requisite funding is in place and that all other standards are satisfied, we can reinstate the approval.”

Wes Sumner, of the Florida Institute of Technology, said it was working with PTC students “to evaluate future training options.

“Florida Tech recently ended its relationship with PTC after the organisation quit paying its bills, including costs for flight training and room and board.

“Currently, PTC owes the university approximately $1.2 million (€970,000). Any assertion that Florida Tech has failed to act professionally or otherwise appropriately throughout its relationship with PTC is false.”

He said the university spent months trying to resolve payment issues with PTC. “Florida Tech’s priority remains assisting the affected flight students in any way. Legal action against PTC is anticipated. Given this, no additional comment is planned at this time.”

Attempts to contact PTC were unsuccessful. In a statement on Wednesday the firm said it had “terminated its relationship” with FIT after the latter failed to deliver on training contracts in a timely and professional manner.