Professional Pilot Training (includes ground studies)A forum for those on the steep path to that coveted professional licence. Whether studying for the written exams, training for the flight tests or building experience here's where you can hang out.
According to a number of sources, it seems that both Bonus Engineering and Bonus Aviation at Cranfield went bust yesterday (9th August).
Slightly surprising in view of the fact that they have seemed to be busier of late than was previously the case, although I am told that they had approached another flying school group about 18 months ago with a view to a buy-out.
As the hitherto biggest operator at Cranfield following the double demise of Cabair, that only leaves a couple of small schools and one or two one-man bands.
I'm on site at Cranfield today - the evidence is that this may well be true.
The hangar is locked up, the airfield buildings are locked up with the blinds down, and there's a lot of milk uncollected on the doorstep.
I did my CPL and a few other bits with Bonus Aviation, and have on occasion had bits on a private aeroplane done by Bonus Engineering. In my experience they were whilst a bit disorganised at times, they've always been nothing but professional, never less than completely honest with their students, never took money up front - in other words they were most definitely not Cabair. If they have gone tits-up, then I have utmost sympathy with the staff, but at-least no students have been left high and dry as happened with a certain other company.
It will also leave Cranfield airport somewhat vulnerable - lacking both Bonus and Cabair, and with the BAe-146 increasingly operating elsewhere because of the poor services it got at home base, there's not a lot left. Certainly not to finance the Cranfield infrastructure.
Postscript: a reliable but firmly unofficial source on site told me the following this morning:
- The company went into receivership at 1100 yesterday
- The engineers have all gone home with their tools.
- The instructors seem to have marched, with their student notes, en-mass over to Cranfield Flying School.
Distressing, but the last point does sound as if students will probably not need to suffer anything like they did with Cabair.
He does seem to have presided over a steady deterioration over the quality of service at the airport.
Restricted hours, removal of out of hours flying permissions, closure of the crosswind runway, recently issued airside passes despite no security gates - it's a miracle anybody is still there, and he must be presenting the university with an ever increasing deficit they can't be very impressed with.
What a shame and a waste! I did my CPL flying and half my CPL writtens with Bonus nearly twenty years ago. Bonus were as faultless as any flying school could be. Their reputation was second to none. If you wanted modular then you went to Bonus. There is a perceived wisdom that Bonus suffered an insidious decline over recent years, however one might interpret that. I am not able to comment. I did not know Bonus' present staff but I knew of them. From what I hear they maintained the very high standards and dedication that I was familiar with nearly two decades ago. This demise should not have happened!
I used to post here many years ago but I lost my loggon at some point. Only this thread compelled me to re-register and post this reply. My heart is broken! Best wishes and Godspeed to all Bonus staff and students. Another sad day for GA.
There will be other schools go bust before the year is out unfortunately.
I reckon we will loose around 50% of the schools by April 2014. Safety Management and the requirement for all RFs to become ATOs - is going to mean you'll have to be big (high turn over required) with appropriately qualified staff, meaning it just won't be financially viable for small schools to survive.
Costs will go up as well, which will be passed to students. Margins in flight training have always been low, which means I 100% concur with Mad Jock.
I agree with MJ and BigGrecian in particular. One club I fly I at has determinedly buried its collective head in the sand regards the impact ATO status is likely to have on them. I used to operate a tommy through a club and anything less than 280 hr/annum meant loss; 300 I started to get twitchy; 350 was the sweetspot ; at 400 all that extra revenue went on additional wear and tear. Clubs I'm familiar with don't come close to even 280 per annum at the moment. 50% going's probably a good estimate
I'm sure MJ is absolutely right and as Genghis points out, the problem for Cranfield is that they must now be way below the critical mass of movements required to make the airfield viable.
I'm pleased that students will have lost little or no money in the latest failure, but concerned for those working elsewhere at the airport such as re-fuelers and ATCOs. I'm just waiting for an ATC limited-hours move as has happened at other cash strapped airports. My understanding is that even the 'Olympics boost' only totaled about 45 movements, which won't get them far.
The other issue will be whether CFS and Billins will have the capacity to take on the 'new' students - obviously they should have the (ex Bonus) personnel, but aircraft may be a problem in the short term.
It's sad to see the present level of (in)activity, even pre-boom Cranfield used to be a really busy, vibrant place.
There are several things that led to the demise of Bonus and some are going to be common to many other institutions as well. Some of the common areas are: 1. Cost of Avgas 2. Aerodrome Operating cost and environment 3. Catchment area 4. Aging aircraft fleet 5. Competition overseas and from lower cost operators 6. Economic climate For Bonus the above, but additionally they lost a lot of their key personnel most especially Jo Bampton and latterly their iconic CFI Pete Godwin who “retired” from Bonus but not from flying/examining. I think with the departure of these persons particularly and ultimately the death of the owner all led to its demise. If they owner had not been so anxious to secure an unrealistic price for the company and had not rejected a realistic staff buy-out last year it may not have come to this. The problem was that a trust owned the aircraft/capital equipment and the company basically only had and the approvals and reputation as assets; so it was not a worthwhile investment for anyone. Is there a future for these FTO’s? Maybe not – but there are companies out there who will make it and these are the ones who have a more realistic and enlightened approach to the future.
I agree with most of what Porridge wrote but do believe that one of the key issues was the management style of the late George Ward. Whilst Jo and Peter got on with their own areas of responsibility there was a distinct lack of co-ordination with Bonus Engineering and no effective experienced Managing Director keeping his/her overall eye on day to day activities of all of the 'company' and importantly the cash flow.
Jo was there from dawn to dusk with no thanks from GW. Peter came in about 3 days a week, the flight school was full of stale and recent cigarette smoke and this would offend many potential customers.
The hangar was full of aircraft in long term storage or owned by 'friends' who didn't pay for occupying the space. Aircraft were released back to customers without bills being paid, try that at your local garage. Bonus were late payers to their suppliers so many would not deal with them.
Much the same happened at Rogers in that engineering did not talk to the flight school, sales were remote in London and Neville Rogers never held a collective management meeting with all of the key managers.
In flying training and in engineering you're in the retail business just as you are in the high street, it is all to do with footfall and cash flow. But if you want to charge top rates then you need to provide a quality service and the aircraft were of poor quality.
Afraid the list is even more restrictive, as Billins gave up on them a while back. Rather a shame, because it was a place where you could do the whole course on the aircraft for what most others charged for 50% in the air and the rest on a "simulator".
Perhaps he may reconsider now that the competition has been drastically thinned out !
BG is being very optimistic about a 50% survival rate for RFs/ATOs, I think. I have had another bill for £102, which is now the annual charge to be a registered facility - something that used to be free.
The requirement to be an ATO will mean that a selection of manuals will have to be provided and I am guessing they will try to charge a 4 figure sum per year from 2014 onwards at the CAA Puzzle Palace.
Why is it that a double set of hoops has to be jumped ? Give the approvals to those qualified to offer training (IE the instructors) and then have done with it. They can then work at any place which has the aircraft and facilities to do the job.
And if the CAA needs revenue, tell them to go the the Treasury and ask for some of the Airline Passenger Duty money paid each year.
I think that Richard Billins policy, if he has one, seems to be "stay small, work at capacity" - to be fair, he does seem to have outlived numerous other flying schools at EGTC by following that model.
Despite that however, when I switched to Billins from Bonus to finish a rating off a couple of years ago, the instructor availabability was far better after the switch.
Realistically, I'm sure that this won't have done Billins any harm at-all, but the real move of work will have gone to CFS. I imagine that in the short term the receivers of Bonus would be glad to rent them some aeroplanes!
Very sad to see them go. I used to hear both Cabair and Bonus on the airwaves all the time on their cross-country sorties. With any luck, this will wake up the airport management. The first (and last time) I went to Cranfield, I was astonished by the high landing fees and the lack of infrastructure!