Flight schools come to rescue of trainee pilots

Career paths for trainee pilots left stranded after their flight course collapsed have taken off again with special offers of courses in Ireland to help them finish training.

Students of the Waterford-based Pilot Training Centre of Ireland (PTC) had paid up to €80,000 each in fees and were left stranded in Florida in July when their courses halted unexpectedly.

However, after talks with Irish aviation chiefs, at least three Irish flight schools have now agreed to allow the student pilots to finish training under easier cost terms and to carry over hours already completed.

It is understood discounts of up to 20% on one college course in Britain have also been agreed for the remaining hours the trainee pilots must finish.

Trainees had originally paid fees to PTC but its contract for courses with the Florida Institute of Technology Aviation was terminated, leaving students stranded.

The financial row involving the Irish centre and the US aviation school has left trainees, both private and airline-sponsored students, out of pocket as fees have not been refunded.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar had ruled out compensation for trainees but specifically asked the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to look at options for students.

The IAA confirmed last night that Simtec and Weston National Flight Centre in Dublin, as well as Atlantic Flight Training Academy (AFTA) in Cork, have all agreed to facilitate students to finish training.

Alan Field, director of operations at AFTA at Cork Airport, said his firm was inundated with calls from students affected by the aviation course closure.

“We were asked [by the IAA] could we facilitate students as best we can.

“Up to 10 of them have continued training here. We’ve helped the ones who were close to finishing [their training]. We’ve given them easier terms, such as pay as you go, and they’ve been able to carry over their hours.

“Many of the students who contacted us had been left high and dry.”

Kieran O’Connor, managing director at Weston NFC, said 40 Irish students affected by the aviation financial row were now finishing their training at the Dublin centre.

“It’s a general mess that’s being cleaned up. We’ve given ground courses to some students for free. We got all the records for what they’ve done already and credited their course.

“We’ve taken over the Irish oversight of many of the trainees.”

More than 120 foreign trainees affected by the course closure are also now with Weston NFC.

The IAA confirmed it had held talks with the three Irish companies and CAO in Oxford, which is offering students a discount. The IAA had requested that, in taking on the cadets to complete their training, the companies “would consider a monthly payment system for them and that any training done at PTC would be taken into account when they joined their courses”.

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