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[Update] Enterprise Ireland distances itself from pilot training school controversy

The Minister and the IAA say they are working to resolve the situation but no guarantee on the students’ money can be given.

Pilot Training College chairman Mike Edgworth (second from left), with Enterprise Ireland CEO Frank Ryan (third from left) at an expansion announcement in 2011.
Pilot Training College chairman Mike Edgworth (second from left), with Enterprise Ireland CEO Frank Ryan (third from left) at an expansion announcement in 2011.
Image: Enterprise Ireland

[Updated 12.27pm]

AS THE DISPUTE between the Waterford-based Pilot Training College (PTCW) and the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), which has left a group of Irish trainee pilots stranded in the US and at risk of losing up to €85,000, continues, Enterprise Ireland has tried to distance itself from the controversy.

Last night, RTÉ revealed that the State agency is a significant investor in the training firm and in a statement issued this afternoon, Enterprise Ireland confirmed it provided €440,000 in repayable financial support to PTCW in 2010. It said the money was provided to support the business and employment in Ireland and was not linked to the contract in question with the Florida Training Institute.

It continued:

Enterprise Ireland is in regular contact with the company and has offered to provide any assistance we can.  However, Enterprise Ireland does not have a direct role in the management of the company or in the management of the current situation.

The agency added that it understands the concerns of the students of the college and their families.

No solution imminent

The matter was raised in the Dáil last night where Junior Minister Paul Kehoe ensured Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley that the Irish Aviation Authority and his department were “doing everything possible to find a solution to the problem”.

The IAA has suspended the flight training approval for PTCW after the school confirmed it was investigating possible restructuring options. The agency had sought evidence and reassurance that sufficient funding was available in the company to continue operations in Waterford. It is now working to ensure that any training that has been completed thus far by students will be credited appropriately.

Management at PTCW has told the IAA, which regulates, approves and oversees flight training organisations in Ireland, that they will endeavour to mitigate any losses suffered by students as part of any restructuring process.

The company has been unavailable for comment since the controversy came to light this week.

The issue arose due to a commercial dispute between PTCW and FIT which the IAA were informed of on 26 June. At that time, a senior inspector travelled to Florida to establish the training position for the students involved.

Minister Leo Varadkar is currently examining ways the class members affected can complete their training. “If there was an opportunity to go to an alternative provider that is recognised by the IAA, many students would take it up,” Kehoe said in the Dáil last night.

Some of the students are also worried about their legal status in the US as their visas are due to expire on 17 July. A consul from the Department of Foreign Affairs is providing assistance to the trainees.

The money paid by the 80 Irish students – up to €86,000 in some cases – is not protected by any type of bond or insurance so compensation is in no way automatic or even guaranteed. Kehoe noted that the training company is privately owned and, although the Minister has some role to play, it cannot interfere in its business.

According to local Florida media station, 13 News, FIT says PTC owes it $1.2 million, which was supposed to cover the students’ flight training, room and board.

More: Irish Aviation Authority working on behalf of trainee pilots>

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