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Sunday 18 February 2018

Irish trainee pilots who paid €85k each stranded in US

UP to 80 Irish trainee pilots, who paid fees in the region of €85,000 each, have been left high and dry in Florida after the termination of their course.

The students paid the fees to the Pilot Training Centre of Ireland in Waterford (PTC) which runs the courses in Melbourne, Florida.

They had a contract with the Florida Institute of Technology Aviation, but it is understood difficulties have arisen in the USA in relation to payments.

The contract has now been terminated and the students have been told they will not be allowed in the air again at the Florida college.

In a statement today the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it was aware of certain difficulties with the Florida Pilot Training College.

An officer of the IAA is in Florida to brief the students and to look at finding a way for the students to continue their training either in Florida or back in Ireland.

"The IAA will endeavour to facilitate the crediting of all flight and ground training carried out so far in Florida towards qualifications," the statement said.

The Irish Examiner reported today that the students and their families have no idea if their fees will be returned and they have been told that they have to leave their accommodation on campus in Florida by next month.

Trainees are sent to Melbourne, Florida for ten months training because better weather conditions mean better visibility. They then return to either Dublin or Waterford, or Cambridge in England for a further four months training before sitting exams.

The newspaper reported that PTC chief executive Mike Edgeworth sent an email to students, reassuring them they were "continuing to work towards a solution to these difficulties".

"PTC is in active negotiations with an alternative provider and we have informed FIT that this is our intention," he said. "We are unable to provide any further information at this time, as these negotiations are delicate."

One mother said her son was told "it would cost him €60,000 to continue his training in another Florida aviation school".

The mother of one 19-year-old trainee pilot told RTE News that there had been problems with the course from an early stage..

She said her son, who does not wish to be identified, started the course in November of last year but it was 12 weeks before he was given his first flying lesson.

She added that her her son and other students are due to be evicted from FIT accommodation on July 15.

Another trainee told RTE that their visas are due to expire on July 17.

Nobody was available from PTC today but in testimonials on the PTC website many international airlines attest to the high standards it employs for training.

Tim Shattock, CEO of Gulf Aviation said: “Following a very stringent assessment process, we selected Pilot Training College to be our new training partner. We were most impressed by PTC because of their professionalism and attention to detail which was apparent in their training proposal. We took great comfort in the fact that the College is already working with a number of airlines in the MENA region."

The website also says that life in Florida is a ‘home away from home’: “Student accommodation is located at the Florida Institute of Technology campus which offers the student pilot access to the best that the US college experience has to offer. Florida Institute of Technology is situated on 130 subtropical acres, located very close to the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean. You might even get to view a Nasa launch as it is located less than an hour from Kennedy Space Center.

“The campus is easy to navigate and you’re just an hour away from many of Florida’s attractions. Residence amenities include all the comforts of home and are enabled with internet connectivity. The accommodation comprises of fully furnished two bedroom apartments which are shared by two students. Each apartment has a suite style living arrangement that share a private bathroom. The campus amenities include a gym, swimming pool, library, restaurants and many other sporting facilities. The college provide a free shuttle bus to and from the accommodation to local shops and also to the Pilot Training College Flight-Line.”

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