Grounded trainee pilots who lost €80,000 fly home
STUDENT pilots who have lost the majority of the €80,000 they paid to attend flight school in the US touched down on home soil yesterday.
Flanked by family and friends in Dublin Airport, Daniel McLernon (22), Niamh Lawlor (20), and John Rawluk (20) called on the Government to intervene and provide the funds necessary to finish their studies.
The students, who enrolled with the Pilot Training College (PTC) in Waterford, had been undergoing training at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) as a mandatory part of their course.
However, just months from qualifying, a financial dispute over the terms of the contract between the Waterford-based company and FIT has left the students stranded -- and up to €80,000 out of pocket.
"The least the Irish Government owes us is the rest of our training. It doesn't bother me what school I go to once I finish my training," said trainee pilot Mr McLernon.
"I would have been fully qualified this March if everything had gone to plan," he added.
The Waterford training college said it terminated its relationship with FIT over the failure to deliver on training contracts in a timely and professional manner.
"There are 33 Irish students out there. There are 28 left but they're all coming back this week. We weren't told in person, a message was left on our own schedule accounts. It just said that the contract had been terminated and let us know in a few days if there's a resolution," said Mr Rawluk.
Mr McLernon, from Portmarnock in Dublin, says he is owed €61,000 by PTC Waterford, and says students will not give up the cash without a fight.
"We want our money back from PTC Waterford, it's as simple as that. We only want the amount of money that we're owed. That means we can finish our course. In total I'm owed €61,000," he said.
"I'm owed €64,000," said Mr Rawluk. "The people in Florida Institute of Technology have tried to help us in every way they could, so it's nothing to do with anyone in Florida, it's all to do with Waterford."
While Mr Rawluk and Mr McLernon have paid €84,500, Ms Lawlor has paid €73,000 -- and they say they don't hold out much hope that they'll ever get their money back.
Mr McLernon said that every single student wanted a refund.
"When we were over there it was great," he said. "Flying was good, weather was good and we were treated well."
But he said of PTC Waterford: "They never contacted us directly to tell us what's happening."