Leap man's dream shattered as US flight course cancelled
BY JACKIE KEOGH
A 19-year old West Cork man, Thomas Jennings, is one of a number of student pilots who paid massive amounts of money to attend a flight school in the US but had his dreams of becoming an aviator cut short when his training course suddenly closed on June 25th.
Thomas, like countless others, had paid the Waterford Pilot Training College (PTC) his fees – amounting to €84,875 – in four instalments. The money was paid into an Irish bank in Dublin, under his own name.
The first of these instalments was paid in October 2011 and the following month Thomas began his flight training with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), which had a contract with PTC.
Of the €84,875 that was handed over, Thomas’s mother, Mairéad, who lives at Gortroe, Leap, said: ‘we estimate that the sum of €24,000 has legitimately gone towards his training because he has completed 67 hours of flight training to date.’
As a family, she said they were delighted that Thomas had determinedly followed his chosen career path and had successfully completed his ‘ground school’ aviation studies before commencing his flight training.
She said: ‘he loved the whole experience and, on Friday, June 22nd, he told us on Skype the good news that he had also successfully completed the first module of his Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) exams’ – which are needed if a pilot wants to fly for commercial airlines – but, just two days later, ‘he was devastated to learn that he and his colleagues were grounded because FIT had terminated its contract with PTC.
‘Aside from the fact that Thomas is now in a position where he cannot complete his training,’ his mother said: ‘he is out of pocket to the tune of €60,000.’
She said: ‘the money was paid in good faith and should still be in the Dublin account because it was paid on the proviso that the money would be drawn down in instalments as his training progressed.’
‘We – his father John and myself – are devastated for him. We know that this was his life’s dream and it has been cruelly cut short by an organisation that is refusing to meet its obligations, or to even give the students proper information.’
Thomas is but one of the 30-plus students, who enrolled with the Pilot Training College in Waterford, and had been undergoing training at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).
PTC Waterford issued a statement to the media saying it had terminated its relationship with FIT over the ‘failure to deliver on training contracts in a timely and professional manner’ and indicated that it might be taking legal action for breach of contract.
Meanwhile, the students fear they are being left in a kind of limbo because their visas are contingent on them attending the school of aviation. With the visas due to expire next week, they could, in a matter of days, become illegal immigrants in the US.
Mairead said: ‘the situation is intolerable. You are talking about a large group of mostly young adults who have been treated with total disregard; have been told nothing; and have, as yet, received no assistance from the Irish Aviation Authority.
‘They are away from home, without representation, without recourse to their fees, and are liable to be classified as illegal aliens. It is an outrage. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Leo Varadkar should do something immediately to assist Thomas and his colleagues.’
The following day, a statement issued on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, confirmed that the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) would fund the flight costs of those self-financing students in Florida, who have an existing contract with the Pilot Training College, and who wish to leave the US.
He said: ‘this situation arises from the ongoing inability of the Pilot Training College (PTC), a privately-owned and operated flight training school, to meet its obligations to its students in relation to the completion of their training in Florida.
‘While the Minister, the Department and the IAA do not have any involvement in, or responsibility for, the contractual arrangements between PTC and its students, I regret the difficulties being experienced by students and their families and have agreed with the IAA to fund the flight costs.’
The minister said: ‘the offer is being made as a gesture of goodwill and is made without prejudice. It only applies to self-financing students who are unable to complete their current pilot training in Florida. The offer is for the cost of a one-way airline ticket for those students.
‘Self-financing students, who have already left the USA since June 26th, when the IAA was first informed that the Florida Institute of Technology was ceasing all training activities in Florida for PTC, may also reclaim the cost of a one-way economy class airline ticket. The offer will remain available to students until August 1st.’
- Video Promotion for The Southern Star's New Tabloid Sports Section
- West Cork island's school of baking is set to expand
- Wind farm decision overturned
- Southern Star MD takes over local newspaper association presidency
- UCC postgraduates win international business competition in Montreal
- Contracts signed for Wastewater Treatment Plants in Clonakilty and Ballincollig
- Crosshaven lifeboat aids dismasted yacht
- Official opening for new Castletownbere lifeboat station
- Southern Star app now available to download to your iPad and iPhone
- Clonakilty District: Local Information