Out-of-pocket flight students left stranded in US

Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 01:00

IRISH STUDENT pilots who paid some €80,000 to attend a flight school in the US have been left stranded following the cessation of their course.

The 34 students, who enrolled with the Pilot Training College (PTC) in Waterford, had been undergoing training at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) as a mandatory part of their course.

However, a dispute over the terms of the contract between the Waterford-based company and FIT has left the students stranded in Melbourne, Florida, facing a loss of fees.

The Waterford training college said it terminated its relationship with FIT over the “failure to deliver on training contracts in a timely and professional manner” and as such it had put the Florida school on notice of litigation for breach of contract.

PTC said it paid 25 per cent of the fees per quarter on behalf of students to the Florida school but the firm was unable to deliver the training in a timely manner due to staff and resource shortages.

“Meanwhile PTC has had to pay the overheads both in Waterford and Florida, during which time students were not receiving their training. This has been an issue of conflict between PTC and FIT for 12 months while we tried everything in our powers to resolve it,” the company added.

One trainee pilot, Daniel McLernon, said FIT told him the contract between the two groups had been cancelled 10 days ago. “We’ve basically been sitting around since then and we’ve been told absolutely nothing,” he said.

“The only help that we have got has come from FIT aviation. They’ve allowed us to stay in the accommodation until July 15th but our visas, because we do not actually attend FIT aviation anymore, expire on July 17th, which technically makes us illegal in this country. If I don’t get my money back my family are €100,000 in debt with no way of paying it back,” Mr McLernon told RTÉ.

The Irish Aviation Authority yesterday suspended PTC’s flight training approval. The company made a pretax profit of €136,036 in 2010, but had negative shareholders’ funds of €2.17 million.

The directors, who had already put €519,553 into the company, were willing to lend further funds if required, the accounts stated.