Nightmare in Florida - grounded flight student set to lose €86,000

Conor Deeny (18) from Claudy whose dreams of becoming a pilot have been grounded amid a financial row
Conor Deeny (18) from Claudy whose dreams of becoming a pilot have been grounded amid a financial row

A Derry teenager says he fears he has lost more than €85,000 euros that he paid to train as a commercial airline pilot in the US.

Conor Deeny (18) from Claudy is one of around 30 students from across Ireland “stuck in limbo” because of a financial dispute between an Irish based flight school and the US facilities it subcontracted.

Conor and the other trainees paid thousands of euros in fees to the Pilot Training Centre (PTC) of Ireland, who in turn subcontracted the training facilities at the Florida Institute of Technology Aviation (FIT).

But now the two schools are at loggerheads - FIT claims PTC owes it around €1m in unpaid fees, while PTC says it has run into financial difficulty because of the Florida school’s ‘non performance’.

The Derry teenager says the dispute means he now stands to lose the €86,000 paid to the Waterford based PTC.

“We are alone and our money seems to have disappeared,” he told the ‘Journal’.

The Derry teenager moved to Florida in November 2011 to learn to fly and says “all had been going well” - the would-be pilot had clocked up about 50 hours of flying time and had started the academic side of training.

But on June 26, Conor and the other students were informed by FIT staff that their training was being suspended immediately. Conor says the dispute has caused a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for the flight students.

“We’ve given these guys all our money, and now we can’t get in contact with any of them.”

He says he paid PTC “ the guts of €90,000” and now fears he will see little of it back. The Derry teenager must also now leave the US because the course’s termination means his visa has become invalid.

Meanwhile the Irish Aviation Authority has now suspended the PTC’s training licence. The Waterford company says it is sourcing alternative training courses amid a financial restructuring.

It has also now been revealed that Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland gave PTC around €400,000 in financial assistance in 2010.