Grounded by flight school cash dispute

Trainee pilot Robert Jenkinson who was learning to fly in Florida.
Trainee pilot Robert Jenkinson who was learning to fly in Florida.
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A FYLDE teenager’s dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot has come crashing down to earth due to a financial dispute.

Robert Jenkinson, from Stalmine, is among 80 trainees out in Florida who have been left high and dry after their training was halted.

They had been receiving tuition at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), which had a contract with the Pilot Training College of Ireland, but, due to a financial dispute, the Florida centre has stopped their training.

The parents of former St Aiden’s School pupil Robert, had paid around £70,000 for their son’s instruction – but now fear he will not be able to complete the course.

Mum Pam Jenkinson, 45, who works for St Annes-based G-Line Coaches, said: “We are a working class family with four children, but we paid our mortgage off a few years ago and agreed to borrow the money so Robert could fulfil his dream.

“Once he was qualified as a commercial pilot, he would start to pay us the money back.

“All Robert has ever wanted to do is be a pilot. He is a former air cadet at Poulton ATC and he wanted to join the RAF but he failed his medical due to his eye sight.

“All commercial pilots are self-funded, so this was the only way for him to train.

“His dreams have been shattered.”

Robert has completed 10 months of his course and has qualified for his private pilot’s licence.

He needs to complete further exams and another 100 flying hours to qualify for his commercial licence.

Mrs Jenkinson, whose husband Glen, 47, is a toolmaker, said: “We don’t know where we will find the money for him to complete his tuition.”

Now they are appealing for any Fylde pilots who may be able to help Robert complete his flying hours.

Mrs Jenkinson added: “We are not looking for anything for free, but if there is anyone out there who can help, we would love to hear from them.”

The Irish Aviation Authority has confirmed it is aware of the problems and it has made arrangements for the trainee pilots to be flown home with Irish carrier Aer Lingus.

No-one from the Pilot Training College, which is based in Waterford, was available to comment when The Gazette tried to contact the company.

They are reported to have had a contract with the Florida Institute of Technology Aviation, but it is understood difficulties have arisen in the USA in relation to payments.

The contract has now been terminated and the students have been told they will not be allowed in the air again at the Florida college.

Trainees are sent to Melbourne, Florida for 10 months training because better weather conditions mean better visibility.

They then return to either Dublin, Waterford or Cambridge in England for a further four months training before sitting exams.