Pilot Careers

CAA 'asleep at the wheel' as flight schools go bust

UK CAA asleep

The UK CAA has been ‘asleep at the wheel’ as flight schools have gone bust over the last few months leaving trainee pilots owed millions, according to a hard-hitting letter sent to the Secretary of State for Transport by a group of industry chiefs.

Bristol Groundschool, the Wings Alliance, Flyer Magazine and The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) have together written to the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP at the Department for Transport to ask for action over the financial risks in UK flight schools.

Some of the students at Tayside Aviation and FTA Global, both of which have gone bust in recent months, are owed up to £90,000, and there is little chance of getting anything back from the liquidators.

See also: Campaign for fairness in financing professional pilot training


Tayside Aviation also trained RAF cadets as well as would-be airline pilots

The letter says, “There is no reason for an ATO to ask for amounts like this up-front other than to fund their liquidity, and that is exactly the time that they should be prevented from doing so because the risk of insolvency and of customers subsequently losing their money is already high.

“We also note that the CAA has a statutory responsibility to operate an ongoing oversight program for UK-approved ATOs which includes requiring ‘evidence of sufficient funding’.

“We do not believe that to date the UK CAA has discharged this responsibility diligently, or indeed at all.”

The letter writers make three recommendations which they believe the UK CAA should implement immediately. They are:

  • Make it a requirement of an ATO’s ongoing approval that they may not take advance payments or ‘deposits’ from consumers in excess of £5000 and that the option of payment by credit card must always be available, and with no surcharge applied.
  • Review its oversight procedures for ATOs in order to achieve proper compliance with ARA.ATO.105 in retained EU law.
  • Consider the setup of a consumer protection scheme in the manner of ATOL that protects student pilot funds.

Alex Whittingham, Managing Director of Bristol Groundschool said, “The CAA have been asleep at the wheel. They need to fix the system so this doesn’t happen again.”

BALPA Interim General Secretary Miranda Rackley added, “Flight schools going bust is financially devastating to hardworking students who deserve to have their money better protected from flight school failures.

“Pilot training is amongst the most expensive training of all professions, and unlike other careers such as law and medicine, there is no student funding available. Many trainees’ resort to family support to fund their training, such as remortgaging family houses.

“Government needs to step up and protect students that are so vital to the future of the UK aviation industry.”

The letters concludes, ” These matters are of critical importance to the future success and prosperity of the UK aviation sector: we would like to meet with you urgently to discuss this.”

Wings Alliance
Bristol Groundschool



  • peterjspencer says:

    What? Student funding available for Medicine? A medical student at the end of his/her 5-6 year medical course will end up owing circa £70k of student loan, which will need to be paid back.

  • G-BLEW says:

    Yes, but medical students can access that loan through the student loan scheme. That is not open to commercial flight students.

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