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Pilot who failed test must pay for training: Court

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Pilot who failed test must pay for training: Court

Old 22nd Aug 2010, 22:41
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Pilot who failed test must pay for training: Court

I apologise if this has been done already, I tried a search but nothing came up.


A pilot sacked by Jetstar after failing assessments at the end of his training period has been ordered by the Federal Magistrates Court to repay the airline $30,000 it spent on training costs, after it rejected his claim that flaws in the training system led to his failure.

Federal Magistrate Ken Raphael found the pilot hadn't failed to reach the required standard because of training problems, including a personality clash with one of the captains. Rather, he said, the reason he didn't succeed was "his own inability to fly the aircraft to the required standard". On that basis, he continued, the pilot's claim that Jetstar breached its employment agreement with him failed, as did his claim that he should not have to pay the $30,574 Jetstar sought for training costs.

The pilot had not flown an A320 before when in early 2008 Jetstar offered him a position as first officer on the aircraft provided he pass assessments at the end of both endorsement training, which is carried out on the ground and in simulators, and check-to-line training, carried out in the aircraft. Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training, which Jetstar contracts out, and the airline in its letter of offer required him to sign an endorsement agreement under which he would pay for the training in monthly instalments over three years, but with the full cost repayable if he were sacked or failed.

The pilot failed the first check-to-line test in September 2008, and a second check-to-line test the following month. He was sacked in November on the basis that he hadn't satisfactorily completed his required assessments, after which Jetstar requested payment of the balance he owed. He then commenced court proceedings including for breach of his employment agreement and breach of the endorsement agreement. Federal Magistrate Raphael said that if he could not be satisfied that poor training had caused the pilot to fail to reach the required standard because then all claims arising out of that allegation would fail.

The pilot's allegations against Jetstar included that it requested he take leave during his training period, but Federal Magistrate Raphael said this did not constitute a failure by the airline to provide him with reasonable access to training. On the pilot's argument that he had too many days between training sessions, Federal Magistrate Raphael said "I am prepared to accept that these gaps were not conducive to the optimum training of [the pilot] . . . . However, I think the evidence that the gaps themselves were a significant contributor to his failure is lacking."

Federal Magistrate Raphael said the pilot's most contentious allegation was that his training suffered because he had a personality clash with one of the captains who trained him - and that the airline knew about it and should have addressed it.

But, after examining the evidence, he said he was not satisfied that "it bears out the description of the relationship between [the pilot] and Captain McConnell as one of a "personality clash", and that their relationship never reached a breakdown stage. "I accept that Jetstar management and, in particular, the pilots tasked with training take their responsibilities very seriously and that in the case of a genuine personality clash the trainee and the trainer would immediately be separated.

I am of the view that when [the pilot] expressed this concern about his training with Captain McConnell, Captain McLaurie did agree to see what he could do to ensure that Captain McConnell was not rostered on to the second stage of training. He did do that. Captain McConnell provided the applicant with a significant proportion of his training period but I do not think the evidence goes so far as to allow me to conclude that none of his training was of any benefit to [the pilot]."

Federal Magistrate Raphael continued that the tone of the notes Captain McConnell made during training seemed to be encouraging, and did not reveal the views of a trainer who had given up on his trainee. "I accept that [the pilot] may not have been as comfortable flying with Captain McConnell as he was with other training captains but I have not been persuaded that this so affected his training that it ceased to have value," he said.

Federal Magistrate Raphael continued airlines invested "considerable sums of money in training their own pilots and had a vested interest in those pilots being checked to line and ensuring that training was not being wasted. Pilot training is not special needs training. Those who undergo it would be expected to cope with some stress, after all, a pilot’s work is by its very nature stressful, his having the responsibility of so many lives in his hands. [The pilot] has not charged Captain McConnell with teaching him bad flying procedures which no Check Captain would have passed had they been learned.

He charges him with impatience or frustration at [the pilot's] perceived failings. For the reasons which I give, I have come to the conclusion that these failings were inherent and were unlikely to have been overcome even without training from Captain McConnell." And while the pilot also alleged he had too many captains training him - six in his first training period – Federal Magistrate Raphael said it was possible he would have done better with fewer trainers "but the evidence does not permit me to say that his alone constituted the failure pleaded".

Federal Magistrate Raphael concluded that the reason the pilot didn't succeed in his check-to-line assessments was his own inability to fly the aircraft to the required standard. "The A320 is a significantly larger aircraft than he had ever previously flown. It was a jet aircraft and not a piston engine one. It required particular techniques, especially in the last 30 miles before landing. The evidence revealed that [the pilot] never mastered those techniques."

Jetstar's standards committee had recommended after his second check-to-line failure that he not be recommended for further training, and Federal Magistrate Raphael said he was satisfied the decision was made bone fide and in light of all the evidence. "The Standards Committee is made up of a number of very senior captains. All the evidence that I heard points to a general wish not to fail trainee first officers.

[The pilot] is well-liked and his enthusiasm and desire to learn was respected." He continued that: "In my view the applicant has not made out a case that he was "at all times capable of being checked to line with reasonable access to training." He said it followed that he did not consider that Jetstar dealt inappropriately with when, after receiving the report from the standards committee and discussing the matter with senior trainers, it decided to dismiss him.

Federal Magistrate Raphael said the effect of his finding was that the pilot's claim that he was not bound to repay the training fee that was the subject of the endorsement agreement failed. The pilot also claimed that Jetstar breached its enterprise agreement when it dismissed him on the basis that he was a probationary employee, and Federal Magistrate Raphael agreed that he was not.

While the airline argued that the requirement to check to line created a qualifying period, Federal Magistrate Raphael held that the assessment requirement was "merely a term of the employment contract". He declined to impose a penalty, however, saying the airline's breach was "entirely inadvertent". He ordered the pilot to pay Jetstar $30,574, minus $15,471 or whatever the airline owed him for his correct notice payment. He reserved his decision on costs.
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Old 22nd Aug 2010, 23:14
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Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training
This "tradition" must end.
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Old 22nd Aug 2010, 23:45
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Perhaps this decision will help/encourage prospective applicants think long and hard about what they are about to sign and do.
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Old 22nd Aug 2010, 23:59
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I understand the same situation exists at DJ. That is you are backing yourself to succeed because you are not finally accepted for line training until you have completed the endorsement and satisfactorily passed a simulator check. You then still have another check at the end of line training before you are fully accepted.

As a friend of mine who has undergone the process said, "It was a huge relief to get that last check done as there was a lot riding on it".

I don't expect this situation will change unless there is a gross shortage of pilot applicants and the airlines have to start encouraging people to join. However, perhaps the cadet schemes will have taken care of that by then so its a lost cause expecting the airlines to pay for the endorsement

Last edited by PLovett; 23rd Aug 2010 at 00:01. Reason: Afterthought
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Old 22nd Aug 2010, 23:59
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Link to decision found here:

McKellar v Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd (No.2) [2010] FMCA 509 (9 August 2010)
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 00:03
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"airlines invested "considerable sums of money in training their own pilots"
+
"Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training "
=
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 00:07
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Forgive me if I'm wrong but it sounds like this bloke was failed during line training which means he has already completed sim training and gained an A320 endorsement. That is what his $30,000 was for and so of course he should still pay it*. Not only did he receive the training but he got something at the end of it, so he should pay as he agreed to. That he couldn't make the grade during the line training is unfortunate but some guys just don't have what it takes and if the Colgan crash has taught us anything it should be that a poor pilot should NOT be given too much leeway in training and checks. Fail once, ok you might have had a bad day, fail again where thousands more have passed then perhaps you need to rethink your career choice.

*I don't like pay for training schemes at all, but if you agree to pay then you must pay.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 00:17
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I don't think the Magistrate knows much about this industry or has been poorly briefed. Traditionally Pilots DO NOT pay for this type of training. This is a recent and sad development caused by companies that are morally bankrupt preying upon idiots that will fly for food.

If this poor unfortunate was not able to get checked out at JQ that is one thing but thinking he should pay for the privilege of washing out is disgusting! Of course the Pilot concerned should have never signed an agreement that included a provision to repay costs if he failed (or was sacked).

One would hope this will send a strong message to aspiring Airline Pilots and they will realize that in the current environment the job is simply not worth doing.

Last edited by Exit Strategy; 23rd Aug 2010 at 02:37.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 00:47
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The bit I like is that J* said he had trouble in his training from 30 nm till touchdown, due to his lack of experience on Jet aircraft. So how is this going to go with all their new cadets that they are hiring and training from scratch.
Since they have acknowledged that you may need experience, all we need now is for all the J* checkies to fail the cadets on their lack of ability due to lack of experience and the rest of us will have job security for life.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 01:13
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"Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training, which Jetstar contracts out" How many years does it take to make a tradition? Jetstar haven't been around long enough to have any.

"Jetstar (included that it) requested he take leave during his training period" Training should be done over one continuous period. On each flight the pilot consolidates and improves over the last. This is why it takes less hours to get a license when you do your training all at once in a consolidated course rather that ad hoc with a flying club.

Six different Training Captains, please. Whilst each Training Captain is reading from the same book, each has his own interpretation and ideas, not to mention personality, another contentious issue with this case. Not everything is covered by the manual or SOPs. For a pilot to have the best chance, his line training should be undertaken by one and only one Training Captain, anything else is substandard.

A very dangerous precedent is being set here. The Jetstar Pilot Union should take a stand against the company and fight for the right of the pilot to have the proper, continuous training that everyone deserves. It is too late for this pilot, Jetstar should just accept the cost. They charged this guy for an interview and pre-employment testing which he passed. He completed an endorsement successfully. They failed him when they failed to provide him with proper training. No one can say what would have happened if he was treated differently, fairly. His life has already been pulled apart, don't make him pay for the shortcomings of Jetstar.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 01:32
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He paid for an endorsement and got one, where's the problem? If he had these issues during endorsement training and never completed the endorsement then it would be a different matter but why should he not have to pay for an endorsement that he received just because he has failed his LINE training.

If there was an issue with his line training being inadequate then he should be taking Jetstar to court for unfair dismissal and the pilot body could get right behind that, but disputing the $30,000 ENDORSEMENT cost is without merit.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 01:33
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What about his flying history before Jet*? Surely the company would check up on his previous history? These pilots generally have a history of marginal performances and in such a small industry it is not too difficult to find out anybodys history.I see Jet* as responsible for their own incompetence in this case.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 01:42
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Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training
The author needs to consult a dictionary. The use of the word tradition is totally incorrect in this instance, for something to be a tradition it needs to be over a generation, which ten years does not constitute.

Tradition
noun
the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.
2. something that is handed down: the traditions of the Eskimos.
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting: The rebellious students wanted to break with tradition.
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner: The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 01:44
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Originally Posted by long John Silver
"airlines invested "considerable sums of money in training their own pilots"
+
"Pilots traditionally pay for the cost of endorsement training "
=
First statement sounds like a load of wank when combined with second statement.
Second statement is like a "lead pencil strike" to remove action ability of my first point.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 02:05
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What about his flying history before Jet*? Surely the company would check up on his previous history? These pilots generally have a history of marginal performances and in such a small industry it is not too difficult to find out anybodys history.I see Jet* as responsible for their own incompetence in this case.
In my experience Jetstar have no interest in technical ability when checking references. All they are interested in is behavioral stuff. "So, you worked with Applicant Bloggs? Tell me about a time when he's had to resolve a crew conflict?"
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 02:56
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All qantas /jetstar interviews are like that afaik. Targeted selection.
Sometimes it works sometimes it fails miserably. You get the good talkers and Bullsh...ers over the quietly capable.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 03:27
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The federal judge has indeed been poorly briefed.

Traditional payment for endorsement training- the 5 jet type ratings I've picked up over the last fifteen years have all been paid for by the employer.

Of note, J* sent training bills for recurrent training to most of their A320 Dec's around that time- none of whom paid.

When the training captain tells the the trainee 'I've given up on you', this is more a reflection on the abilities of the trainer than the trainee. Not surprising really given the named trainers background.

While the trainees obligation to repay the endorsement amount isn't in question, his financial ability to repay has been severely hampered by J*.

The one dollar per week repayment option sounds good.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 06:20
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This post followed mine

"He paid for an endorsement and got one, where's the problem? If he had these issues during endorsement training and never completed the endorsement then it would be a different matter but why should he not have to pay for an endorsement that he received just because he has failed his LINE training.

If there was an issue with his line training being inadequate then he should be taking Jetstar to court for unfair dismissal and the pilot body could get right behind that, but disputing the $30,000 ENDORSEMENT cost is without merit."


Good idea. The jetstar pilot body does need to get involved one way or another. If the first case has failed, then a second case along the above lines needs to be brought against Jetstar.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 07:28
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And if a case were brought against Jet* on the basis of inadequate line training a better outcome is assured. The Jet* training department & certain trainers will crumble under such scrutiny. Even Bruce would have difficulty putting a positive spin on it.

Jet*'s strong legal defence of pay for training is linked to the large sum of money owed to them by their employees.
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Old 23rd Aug 2010, 07:46
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From a bar-room lawyer, I would argue this guy still has a case - but only if I've got my facts right - but not just against Jet*.

Aerocat and others, I don't disagree that he paid for the endorsement and that's what he got but you've got to look at the circumstances of why he did.

1. He had to, to get the job. Fine - on it's own probably as the judge decreed.
2. He had to use Jetstar's choice of provider (I assume) - this is where things should start to swing in his favour.
3. Jetstar subjected him to testing prior to offering him a job subject to...... If that testing was not aptitude based, that's not the pilots fault.

So, IMHO, there is still a case against Jet* and the training provider based on:
1. You put me up for something after checking me out. To then conclude that I was never going to make the grade points to flaws in your process and that I was led to believe something that you now concede was never right.

2. You forced me to use your training provider (and get CASA involved here!) and I can demonstrate (either contractually or anicdotally) that the standard of training was insufficient to prepare me for the position (not best practice in number of trainers, breaks)

3. You (the training organisation) passed me on the endorsement which I paid for as part of the recruitment process (presumably) without any warning that passing a line check might be problematic.


If it were I and I had buckets of money, I would try the following:
a) going for the training provider for not doing the job properly
b) going both the trainer and Jet* under the trade practices act for deceptive and misleading conduct - i.e. you selected me, told me to jump these hurdles which I did and then scrubbed me. The trade practices act is your friend here - it over-rides the conditions of any contracts and all that is required is to demonstrate a loss.


Ultimately, the AFAP should spend the money and publish a summary of this case as an ad in every Flight Safety magazine and on the front page of its website from now until infinity as a warning to those coming along.

I'm biased I know but an even worse scheme is the QL traineeship in it's current form - pay $18k for ground based training and we're not required to even necessarily start your endorsement training. That anyone signed up for that leaves me shaking my head...

UTR
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