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Trainee pilots offered cost of flight home

But it looks like they will not recoup the thousands of euro spent on their incomplete flight training.

Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

AS A GESTURE of goodwill, the Government and the Irish Aviation Authority have agreed to pay for a number of trainee pilots to return home from Florida after their training programme was cancelled suddenly by a Waterford-based school.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said today that although his department have no responsibility for the contractual agreements between the Pilot Training College and its students, he regretted their difficulties and so agreed to fund the flight costs of up to 110 trainees.

He added that the situation had arisen from “the on-going inability of the PTC, a privately-owned and operated flight training school, to meet its obligations to its students in relation to the completion of their training in Florida”.

“This offer [of a one-way airline ticket] is being made as a gesture of goodwill and is made without prejudice.”

In a statement this afternoon, the department said the offer applies only to self-financing students who are unable to complete their current pilot training in Florida. Those who have already left the US may also reclaim the cost of a one-way, economy class airline ticket. It remains open until 1 August and those who wish to claim the money should contact the IAA from tomorrow morning.

Massive losses

Up to 110 trainees risk losing up to €85,000 each after the Florida Institute of Technology ceased all training activities for PTC on 26 June following a row over payments.

Conor Deeny, one of the trainees still in Florida, first heard today’s news after being contacted by TheJournal.ie.

He said he was pleased that the Minister had decided to fund the flights home and it was a “welcome development” for all students.

“It is only right that the Government recognised that they are stranded here and need to be brought home,” he added. “We can now start to look at our options and figure out what to do.”

Deeny is at risk of losing up to €91,000 if PTC does not come up with other options for him to complete his training. He has already received about €20,000 worth of training which the IAA has just confirmed it will ensure is credited appropriately.

PTC issued an internal statement yesterday to say it was doing everything it could to source alternative courses for the students after a breakdown of the financial agreement with the Florida Institute of Technology.

Deeny said he is hopeful something can be worked out in the coming weeks. The Waterford college says it has been engaged in dialogue with CAE Oxford Aviation Academy over the past few days and that a group of 39 students who have paid a total of €3,500 have been told of a plan which will save them from being impacted financially.

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However, others who have forked out more money will have to suffer losses.

“The remaining students have been categorised in groups depending on their stage of training and performance to date. Before the end of this week, PTC will let students know individually whether CAE Oxford Aviation Academy intends to make them an offer to continue their training. The students who receive such an offer and who intend to avail themselves of it will be invited to contact CAE Oxford Aviation Academy directly and to enter into a new training contract. This process will take a few more days to run its course.”

There will be no credit offered by CAE in these cases, only a “moderate discount”, and PTC confirmed that “additional costs will be incurred”. In a subsequent statement, students said that the proposed plan did not offer any assurances as it was unclear if there is an offer of a continuation of training. It is also conditional on an offering being made to the individual student to begin a new flight training programme under a new contract and that students have the funds without the money they have already paid to PTC.

RTÉ reports this evening that 89 of the 186 students in Florida will remain in the US to complete their training. Many of those will have the costs covered by their sponsor airlines.

The money paid by the Irish students – up to €185,000 in some cases – is not protected by any type of bond or insurance so compensation is in no way automatic or even guaranteed.

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

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