Friday 19 January 2018

Pilot college boss won’t say where €85k per student went

Mike Edgeworth of the Pilot Training College
Mike Edgeworth of the Pilot Training College

Mark Hilliard and Edel Kennedy

THE head of the company whose student pilots are stranded in Florida after training courses were cancelled has refused to explain what happened to the fees of up to €85,000 each.

The 34 students paid large fees to the Waterford-based Pilot Training Centre (PTC) to attend the flight school in the US. But a dispute over the terms of the contract between PTC and the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) has now left the students stranded in Melbourne, Florida.

PTC said last night that "some, but not all" of the students will lose money.

However, attempts to contact PTC executive chairman Mike Edgeworth proved unsuccessful yesterday -- and a list of detailed questions about the fees went unanswered.

A spokesman for Mr Edgeworth said he was in meetings with solicitors and would not be responding to any queries but that he was working "very, very hard" to resolve the issue.

However, Daniel Barry McLernon's family is now among those wondering what will happen next after they paid out €84,500 so he could chase his dream of being a commercial airline pilot.

The McLernons join dozens of families desperately seeking assurances on the security of their finances and whether training will be completed.

The FIT has been contracted by the PTC to train the pilots in Florida where the better weather conditions make it a preferable training base to here.

Students have paid significant fees for the 15-month training programmes to become commercial airline pilots.

They have now been given the option to continue training in Florida, independent of the PTC, but they claim this would cost them around $70,000 (€56,000) extra.

Tensions between the FIT and PTC emerged a number of months ago and have now resulted in the cancellation of the course. But this has left the students in the dark regarding what will happen next.

Apart from the financial concerns, the students said they have not been given any information on how they can return home. Their visas are also due to run out on July 17.

Neither company could be contacted for comment last night.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has sent a representative to Florida to meet with students and to act as a mediator between the two companies.

It said last night that it had met with the PTC and suspended its flight training approval, and operations in Waterford, while the company examines financial "restructuring" options.

Clarity

The families of the pilots said they have been unsettled by the PTC response to date, particularly in relation to clarity surrounding fees. They said they have had no support from PTC on the ground in recent days.

Trainees who signed up for 'integrated' courses covering every stage in one long, intensive 15-month period paid around €84,500.

According to those on the ground in Florida, many have paid the entire fee, some have paid an initial instalment of €24,000 and the majority have paid at least €60,000. Exact numbers remain unclear.

The trouble began on June 25 when flight training was temporarily suspended "due to a dispute" between the two companies.

According to an email circulated by the PTC last month, the conflict had been ongoing for "several months".

"We have been, and continue to be, in negotiations to resolve the issue in relation to ongoing delays," it said.

"We fully expect this issue to be resolved in the coming days and will provide regular updates."

Efforts to contact FIT yesterday were unsuccessful because it was a holiday in the US.

Irish Independent

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