Flight training debated in UK House of Commons

Tim Loughton MP, whose constituency of East Worthing and Shoreham was home to FTA Global, raised a debate in the House of Commons concerning the plight of students impacted by the closure of flying schools around the country. 

The full transcript of the debate can be accessed on the UK Parliament website, and the video of the debate can be watched on Parliamentary TV here.

Earlier this year, Bristol Groundschool, Wings Alliance, FLYER, and the British Airline Association of Pilots (BALPA) collaborated to address a critical concern within the aviation industry. A letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, highlighting the pressing issue of flight training schools requesting substantial upfront payments from aspiring pilots. 

As I said, my interest goes beyond Shoreham airport and my constituency. There are implications in what has happened there and elsewhere for the future of integrated flying schools across the country and the future capacity of the United Kingdom to train pilots sufficiently. No fewer than three major flying schools have gone bust in the last 10 months alone. The first, back in May, was the FTA flying school in Shoreham, which employed more than 12 instructors and had 160 students, typically paying up to £90,000 for a full pilot training course.

Ian Paisley MP, of North Antrim, supported Tim Loughton’s comments and revealed that his own son is currently undertaking commercial flying training in the United States:

Although this is not a registered interest, I declare that my son is a trainee pilot. Thankfully he is not in one of the schools that have been mentioned in this debate. He has nearly completed his training. He is currently in the United States of America finishing his night school training for jet aircraft and hopes sometime next year to be a pilot flying the skies around the United Kingdom and Europe. I wish him all the best, because I am immensely proud of him for the job that he has done.

He continued:

I feel for the parents and the students. The sagas described by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham are personal lives; they are the stories of young kids who dared to dream, who wanted to get their jet licence, who wanted that as their career, and whose mothers and fathers sacrificed everything for them. We heard about parents putting houses on the line and remortgaging to facilitate that for their children, because they believed in them, and then that being cruelly snatched from them. There is no chance that they will get to start again, get a refund, or get picked up and taken on by another school. Their stories are heartbreaking.

The activity in Parliament comes after multiple approved training organisations (ATO) closed, including Tayside Aviation, FTA Global and Bournemouth Commercial Flight Training.