Pilots demand Government protect trainee pilots from losing tens of thousands of pounds from flight school collapses

Following the collapse of three UK flight schools in the first half of 2023, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and aviation industry representatives have launched a campaign to ensure proper financial regulation of flight schools and secure a stable pilot training pipeline for the UK aviation industry.


Earlier this year, students who paid in advance for flight training were left seriously out of pocket when Tayside Aviation and FTA Global collapsed. Some trainees are owed up to £90,000, sums that are unlikely to be recovered from the liquidators.


The Civil Aviation Authority has a statutory responsibility under Retained EU law to operate an ongoing oversight program for UK-approved flight schools (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 campaign is seeking the UK Civil Aviation Authority immediately:

1.       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. This will limit financial risk to trainees.

2.       Review its oversight procedures for ATOs in order to achieve proper compliance with ATO regulations.

3.       Consider the setup of a consumer protection scheme in the manner of ATOL that protects student pilot funds.


BALPA Interim General Secretary Miranda Rackley said: 

“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.” 


Alex Whittingham, Managing Director of Wings Alliance and Bristol Groundschool said 

“The CAA have been asleep at the wheel. They need to fix the system so this doesn’t happen again.”