A group statement from the 80 Irish trainee pilots left stranded in the US after course chiefs failed to pay $1.2m (€960,000) in bills owed to their partner college has accused the Pilot Training College (PTC) chief executive of “providing false and misleading information”.
They accused Capt Mike Edgeworth of seeking to muzzle the trainees in the days after Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) ended the flying course. They claim he wanted to keep the story out of the media as that was in the company’s best business interests.
“It is now our firm belief that previous statements issued by CEO Mike Edgeworth were designed to stall PTC students and inevitably diminish our chances in salvaging any funds paid to PTC. Thus allowing PTC to be in the best position, regarding the companies financial future at our expense,” the statement reads.
Capt Edgeworth had told the students in the days after the course folded that PTC was hours away from resolving its issues with FIT.
“PTC is in active negotiations with an alternative provider and we have informed FIT that this is our intention... We are unable to provide any further information at this time, as these negotiations are delicate,” he wrote in an email.
The students revealed that PTC had been sending 20 students a month out to Florida since January. Previously, students were only sent every two months.
“We understand that PTC have been in financial difficulties for some time and that in an effort to increase cashflow into the company, an increase in students was needed,” they said.
Students were being taken up to two weeks ago, even though the company was in financial trouble.
The trainees said Capt Edgeworth repeatedly told them he was working with senior management at PTC Florida to sort out their problems. The students say there has been no senior management at the PTC Florida office since July 2.
It is believed the Irish Aviation Authority has been working with FIT to ensure PTC students can transfer to another FIT course. This is likely to cost €60,000 and then another €15,000. The company said they were working to ensure remaining fees would be refunded.
It has emerged that Enterprise Ireland gave a loan of €450,000 to the company two years ago, which is due to be repaid in three years.
The money, in the form of preference shares, was to support the business and help create employment.
PTC Waterford could not be contacted last night.
For more on this story, see FIT kills contract with Irish flight school.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved