Varadkar rules out cash aid for stranded pilots
EIGHTY pilots who paid up to €80,000 in fees for a now defunct course have been left "high and dry" by the Government which yesterday refused any form of compensation except a ticket home, an angry parent said last night.
Martina Kealy said her family has been left with a "ghost loan" of €100,000 that will take decades to re-pay after Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday poured cold water on their hopes of the Government offering any compensation for fees paid following the collapse of the Pilot Training College of Ireland (PTCI) in Waterford.
He did promise, however, to cover the cost of flights home for the student pilots from Ireland who were stranded at the college's affiliate, the Florida Institute of Technology Aviation (FITA) in Melbourne, Florida earlier this month.
Mrs Kealy said she re-mortgaged her family's home in Castleknock, north Dublin, in order to enroll her son Richard, (20), in the training programme.
He was due to get his private pilot's licence at the end of August but now needs another €60,000 in order to obtain his commercial pilot's licence with another training school.
He was among a group of Irish trainees, based in Florida, who paid €80,000 in fees.
Another 91 trainees were sponsored by airlines. An additional 18 self-funded students and 18 sponsored students were training in Waterford at the time of the PTCI's collapse.
The college was appointed an interim examiner at the High Court on Wednesday.
But Mrs Kealy told the Irish Independent last night that the chances of recovering the fees as creditors are slim as the trainees are at the end of the queue of a long list of creditors.
"We're devastated," she said after meeting with Mr Varadkar and Eamon Brennan, CEO of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) yesterday. "They said there's nothing they can do because it was a private contract," she said.
"We couldn't believe that Leo Varadkar was just washing his hands of it."
The minister issued a joint statement on behalf of his department and the IAA yesterday, stating: "I have huge sympathy for the situation in which the trainees and their families find themselves," but "regrettably I had to inform the group once again that neither the Government nor the IAA would be able to compensate them for the monies lost and have no liability in this regard."
Mrs Kealy spearheaded a protest outside the Dail on Wednesday as part of the newly formed pilot training college action group. Protesters, including trainee pilots, demanded that the minister and the IAA intervene.
Now the families have no other recourse except to apply as creditors, Mrs Kealy added.
"This could take months if not years to resolve," she said. "I do feel we're left high and dry."
A government source said the taxpayer could be on the hook for millions in euro if the Government set a precedent by compensating the trainee pilots because the other creditors may also claim compensation from the State.