Pilot trainer firm says it will find new courses
THE IRISH pilot-training firm at the centre of a financial row that has left trainee pilots stranded in Florida has said it is sourcing alternative training courses for its students.
Some 80 students, 34 of them Irish, paid up to €86,000 to train with the Pilot Training College (PTC), a Waterford-based flight school.
They had been receiving training in the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), which had a contract with the Waterford school, but, due to a financial dispute, the Florida centre has stopped their training.
In a statement yesterday, the Irish company said the failure of FIT to honour the delivery of training as contracted had resulted in financial losses and it was filing a law suit against FIT for recovery of this amount plus damages.
It also said that some students were behind in their fees. However, it said it was working with another flight teaching centre to continue the students’ training.
“This will result in many students being facilitated in similar training programmes over the coming weeks.
“In certain circumstances, the students will seamlessly transfer to this alternative supplier with no financial losses.
“In other cases, where students are behind in their training programmes or have failed exams, there will be a requirement for additional training fees.”
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar yesterday said the Government cannot be responsible for any the debts of the pilot training company which was Irish Aviation Authority-licenced.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Varadkar said the Government and its agencies licensed many different types of businesses and could not be held accountable for their losses.
“The Government can’t be responsible for underwriting the customers of every business it licenses; you can imagine what the costs to the taxpayer would be if that were the case.
“We even license pubs, for example, and we’re not responsible to pick up the bills if a business goes down.”
The possibility of introducing a bonding system to insure against such eventualities would be considered, he said, but he added that this presented its own difficulties as it could increase the cost of training and potentially discourage pilot training courses from setting up in Ireland.
The students’ permission to stay in the US was dependent on their attendance on the course.
Mr Varadkar said the Irish consul in Atlanta had travelled to Florida and there would be no immediate issues with the students’ visas.
He also said they would be credited for any training already completed.
In 2010, PTC was granted €440,000 in financial support from Enterprise Ireland through a preference share.
The State organisation said the money was provided to support the business and employment in Ireland and its funding was not linked to the contract between PTC and the Florida Training Institute.
“Enterprise Ireland is in regular contact with the company and has offered to provide any assistance we can,” the organisation said.
“However, Enterprise Ireland does not have a direct role in the management of the company or in the management of the current situation.”
The Florida institute could not be contacted yesterday.