Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore urging the Irish government to get directly involved in helping the stranded trainee Irish pilots in Florida.
Deputy Adams said:
“The family of one of the trainee pilots, who is from County Louth, has contacted my office in respect of the termination of training arrangements in Florida. Other families from other parts of the state have also been in touch today.
“These trainee pilots are students with the Pilot Training College Waterford (PTCW) based in Waterford Regional Airport. They are currently in Melbourne, Florida where they were undergoing part of their training with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). According to the Irish Aviation Authority it was told on June 26th that the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) was cancelling all training for PTCW as a result of a commercial dispute over payments. For its part PTCW has claimed that it ended its contract with FIT over ‘non-performance.’
“Whatever the truth there are now scores of trainee pilots, many of them from Ireland, stranded in Florida. They have each paid significant sums of money and are not sure if they will be able to complete their courses.
“The IAA decision to suspend flight training approval for the Pilot Training College Waterford (PTCW) is a worrying development, as is the news that the Waterford College is investigating restructuring options.
“While the IAA’s assurances that it will seek to ‘ensure that all training conducted to date in Waterford and Floirida will be credited to the individuals training records’, is a welcome commitment, there is nonetheless a serious question over the IAA’s failure to spot this problem before it became a crisis for the trainee pilots now stranded in Florida.
“While the IAA says that ‘contracts between self-sponsored or airline sponsored students and their training organisation are matters outside the remit of the IAA’; this semi state company acknowledges that it also ‘has the capacity to seek evidence that the organisation has sufficient resources in place to conduct training to the approved standards.’
“Whether the Pilot Training College in Waterford (PTCW) had such resources to conduct training here or in Florida must now be a matter for investigation In the meantime the stranded students are extremely concerned about their visas and housing situation. I have been informed that their M1 Student status in the US will expire in twelve days on the 17th July, leaving them all illegal. Their housing contract with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) will expire on the 15th July
“It is a matter of extreme urgency that the IAA secure all relevant information and ensure that the students and their families are kept informed.
“This situation is so serious that I believe it now requires the direct involvement of the Department of Foreign Affairs and consequently I have written to the Minister asking that the Department become directly involved.”