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Yet another sad flight training story!

Old 11th Sep 2020, 15:00
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2018
Location: Palm Beach
Posts: 36
Yet another sad flight training story!

Without mentioning any names (not the purpose of this thread) I recently learned of a group of students who seem to have been completely conned by their flight school.

A Modular training EASA ATO based USA, contracts signed middle of last year, zero to CPL/IR for $98,000 (part of training conducted in Europe), yes not a misprint, $98,000!! The incredible part - full payment upfront required and made by several students!! Terms, if cancelled at any time you lose 50%, all housing costs for the term of the original contract are charged, all training to date adjusted to full retail price.....bottom line you might get 10% back if you are lucky. From what I understand, one student spent 12 months for the PPL and 30 hours time building, visa ran out had to leave - probably most expensive PPL ever.

Can it still be possible for young men and women to be so insulated from facts and reality that schools can still get away with this? - I suppose I can answer my own question, YES it seems.

What I find sad is that such practices are not being exposed on this or any other forum as far as I can see by the students, they are likely too scared to do so and are worried about possible consequences? I guess if I had paid such a huge sum of money I would stay quiet in the desperate hope I might get finished and get a licence.

It serves no purpose either to call this company out and end up with a slagging match on this Forum - I think only the students would be entitled to do this anyway using first hand knowledge - I personally detest the concept of an anonymous slagging contest as it can often be abused by competitors.

So why mention it?, well it gives me one more opportunity to say to any new students reading this - DON'T DO IT. - don't pay large sums upfront and vote with your feet if you are not happy with the school.

Last question, especially for those seasoned veterans who contribute to this forum, do you think there is a possibility of successfully lobbying the authorities to pass a Regulation to prohibit approved ATO's from taking more than say 25% of a course costs upfront? Anybody agree with me this could be a good way of protecting the good schools and students in the future and make the industry a better place?
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 15:29
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Europe
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As you rightly mentioned on the RYR thread, no matter how many experienced people try to convince some of our future colleagues of the facts, there will always be some who believe that they know better and that the salesman has their best interests at heart, unlike people like you or me who lose nothing and gain nothing out of someone's choice of ATO. I'm not very optimistic about the army of believers in an alternative reality becoming much smaller thanks to a forum thread (another one), but, nonetheless, stories like that should be voiced. Even if they prevent just one single guy or girl from screwing up royally and ending up with no money, no licence and no good prospects in sight - that will still be a worthwhile cause.
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 15:35
  #3 (permalink)  

de minimus non curat lex
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: sunny troon
Posts: 1,281
You will always get mug punters who have been promised the earth by smooooth talking snake oil salesmen, and simply cannot see the potential risks they run by large payments upfront.

Although you hear of these horror stories, in fairness you also need to hear from the ATO as to their position.
Full disclosure of the facts are necessary to form any conclusions as to whether sharp practice has in fact occurred.

CAVEAT EMPTOR / DUE DILIGENCE: any reputable ATO would require sensible staged payments. Read the contract carefully as invariably it will be weighted in favour of the ATO. Think about the worse case scenarios before signing.
Take professional advice.

Sufficient customers will need to complain to their MPs / Lawmakers to gain any momentum.

Last edited by parkfell; 11th Sep 2020 at 15:50.
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 17:15
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 2,492
If you pay $98k upfront for a dream you need your head examined.
I have tried for years to help people like that, known several that were forced to quit their training with massive debts.
’Independent’ agents that drive around in new Porsches getting hopefuls to sign on the dotted line to go to a “academy”.
Disgusting and immoral is what that is.
Absolutely horrendous training ‘contracts’ and intentional failing students on stage or progress checks to get just a couple more hours out of them.

As far as protection, there isn’t any.
No law against prepayment.
Litigation? PPRuNe used to be a lot more vocal in calling certain questionable places out.
Since it’s been sold it has been waaaay different.
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 17:36
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Москва/Ташкент
Age: 50
Posts: 829
Another warning, if the training "guarantees" 6 months (or whatever hours etc) line 737/A320 walk away, better still run a mile... such promises are not only worthless... but that time (which would likely never materialise) would be worthless as well. This is the sweetener dodgy companies use to lure you in.
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 17:45
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Bristol, England
Age: 61
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one can't help wondering if the usual suspects were involved
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 18:59
  #7 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2011
Location: France
Posts: 118
Can't help think but with such a business model, you want to fail your clients as fast as possible.
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Old 11th Sep 2020, 19:55
  #8 (permalink)  
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Seems all agree, so far!

Anybody interested in commenting on my last paragraph? - couldn't the flight training industry lobby the Regulators, or are believing we are not sophisticated or motivated to do anything? Perhaps thats part of the problem?

When VW got the wrong side of an emissions scandal, it cost them 8 billion or so, surely we can hold ATO's accountable with a fairly simple Regulation?

Alex W, have you ever made recomendations about this to the CAA especially has you have been fairly vocal about this over the years?, did you get any response?

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Old 11th Sep 2020, 22:25
  #9 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Bristol, England
Age: 61
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The CAA don't care, they are not your friends. They do not consult with industry, they do not take account of your views, or the damage they create in industry. IMHO they badly need a rocket up their ass, which would probably come through an exension of the all-party parliamentary group on general aviation here being extended to cover professional licensing. If you try to find a responsible manager at the CAA you cannot, their heirachy is hidden, there is no realistic way to complain about their behaviour. You cannot even find a manager to complain to.
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Old 12th Sep 2020, 08:17
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Latvia
Age: 33
Posts: 29
How the ATO can charge full cost of all modules at once and provide cancellation policy for modules which may not even be started? The whole point of modular is that You pay per module... Is it legal?
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Old 12th Sep 2020, 18:24
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Location: FL, USA
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Anybody interested in commenting on my last paragraph? - couldn't the flight training industry lobby the Regulators
To do what exactly?
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Old 12th Sep 2020, 18:40
  #12 (permalink)  
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B2N2 - To make it a condition of maintaining approval to allow only a certain percentage (say up to 25%) of the full course cost to be on deposit with the ATO at any time.

IMHO, it would be fairly straight forward to include an 'audit' of student account balances picked at random by the inspectors who 'audit' at random student training records for compliance as part of their function.

Such information would not be commercially sensitive from the standpoint of profit or loss, just a simple tabulation in the file provided by the school and signed by the student which can be kept on a simple spreadsheet throughout the training....
1. Total Course Cost......
2. Total Course Balance Remaining....
2. Total Student Account Balance.....

I don't believe any ATO needs a bigger percentage at any one time on deposit to fund the training.

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Old 12th Sep 2020, 20:50
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: UK
Posts: 678
Flight training is in dire straits. I hope it dies out and airlines are forced once again to invest in their future flyers. Here’s to hoping.
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Old 12th Sep 2020, 23:11
  #14 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Europe
Posts: 426
spitfirejock, that's one truly smart suggestion. Although it's easier said than done, it could actually be a game changer.

To everyone out there - time and again, be careful about what you sign up for. Myself, I have a certain concept which I applied to my own training back in the day and have regarded as a sort of a "golden standard" ever since:

Sign up with a school running a deposit system. I.e. somewhere where your contract only contains the general conditions and hourly rates. In schools running such a system, each student has their individual account which they top up as they go and the school only withdraws funds from it after each flight in accordance with the price list set out in the contract. That's what "pay as you go" truly means. Not even paying for a complete module at enrolment time, let alone paying for a zero-to-hero course upfront.

There comes a small catch. Some of those schools offer a discount if you agree to prepayment of a certain number of hours upfront. Which is fair enough, but only as long as said discount is not unusually generous. Something like 1% per 10 hours upfront, capped at 3% or 5% maximum, doesn't sound unreasonable. But, if you're offered a 20% discount if you pay for the complete 0-ATPL course upfront - steer clear of that place. Flight schools don't normally operate on profit margins which are large enough to offer such generous discounts. Which effectively means that they're offering you something at a loss to themselves. This spells trouble because it's a certain sign that the school has short-term liquidity problems and is desperate to get some cash in with no thoughts about tomorrow. That's one situation where you're likely to end up with no licence and no money. And it becomes a long way worse if it's an integrated course as the transfer from integrated to modular is not quite straightforward, unless you're willing to bin all your progress and start from zero with all the associated losses.

Myself, the greatest number of hours I have paid for in advance was 10 hours. And that with the firm intention of using them within the next week or two.
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Old 12th Sep 2020, 23:25
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
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Nobody forces you with a gun to your head to go to this particular school and nobody forces you to sign the training contract.
Aspiring aviators are blinded by the apparent ‘lower’ cost and are lured in with “only 3 slots left available”.
Frankly, it’s partially because of their own greed that we are even talking about this.
Oh it’s €30k cheaper?!
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Old 13th Sep 2020, 01:54
  #16 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: United Kingdom
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Have to agree at least 50% with Alex, the UK CAA have only one interest - the UK CAA. Where I disagree is in the efficacy of the APPG - I took a serious issue to them a few months ago and all I got was a copy of a response from the head of GA that was so ill-informed and factually incorrect as to be laughable. Rogue training organisations will never be properly regulated by the UK CAA, it's far too much trouble and far too expensive.
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Old 13th Sep 2020, 09:43
  #17 (permalink)  

de minimus non curat lex
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: sunny troon
Posts: 1,281
Junior birdmen must be really careful during these unprecedented times as the majority of ATOs will be struggling to survive and cash flow is a critical issue for them.
Their beancounters & marketing will be tasked with coming up with creative ways to entice customers through the door.

PilotLZ highlights the warning signs to watch out for when contemplating signing on the dotted line.
The better the apparent improved deal offered (and even improved again), the potential higher risk you take.

Those of us who have been around the block a few times give advice and our thoughts, not for our own amusement, but out of genuine concern for those contemplating joining the industry.

There are real and live threats out in the world which Junior Birdmen must simply avoid.

parkfell is online now  
Old 13th Sep 2020, 12:44
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Wilts
Posts: 40
Combination of naivety and ignorance. An 18 year old me would have made some ridiculous decisions; thankfully 16 years later I have a lot of life experience to help me make better choices.
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Old 13th Sep 2020, 14:22
  #19 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 2,492
They’re not offering a discount.
Even small retails stores do this with pricing.

Quick example

Training course is $78k with already a decent profit margin.
For marketing purposes we’ll go for $89,995 then offer you a 10% if you enroll before a certain date or if you pay in advance.
This fake discount can also be used to get stragglers to sign.

Here is the problem with paying in advance and this was the case with at least one of the usual suspects in Florida:

The money you’ve paid is being used to pay other expenses then your flight training.
From an honest business perspective there is no need to pay in advance.

With one notable exception which is paying in advance for the flying you intend to do that day or couple of days.
Show up at 7:45am, check the schedule with your instructor and the flight and ground time in advance. That is a perfectly reasonable way of ensuring there are no issues with credit cards, bank account transfers or whatever.
Even as a private pilot student you can easily spend $1000 a day.

Back to the previous usual suspect.
They may be behind on fuel bills, rent, insurance payments or employee payroll.
They may use it for airplane purchases, real estate, vehicles or else.
So by the time you’re finished with your Private training your $98,000 is already spend.
There is no way they can pay you back because they do not have the money.
Places like this do not put your money in an escrow account that you have partial control over.

You have to consider the following:

Once separated from your money consider it gone never to be seen again....
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Old 13th Sep 2020, 17:33
  #20 (permalink)  
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Location: Palm Beach
Posts: 36
Don't forget B2N2, one of the so called 'usual suspects' in Florida, advertise on their website that about 50% of the training is done in southern Europe (CPL/ME/IR/MCC). I don't think this is a Florida issue, its a training industry issue devoid of essential financial Regulation.

It does seem, based on the replies so far, there would NOT be support from ATO's in general to lobby the Regulators for a change, unless of course, the people in charge of ATO's don't follow this forum very much or indeed would like to keep it "as is".

Maybe a long shot, or even a crazy idea when I started this thread, but worth a least 5,000 plus people have viewed, hopefully mostly potential new students pondering their options!
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