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Flagler flight program grounded: CAPT

Northpilot

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January 26, 2009
Flagler flight program grounded
By AUDREY PARENTE and AARON LONDON
Staff writer PALM COAST -- The Chinese New Year isn't starting out well for about 160 Chinese flight students of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Program at the Flagler County Airport.
While some students connected to Chinese universities and airlines prepared celebratory dinners at their Palm Coast apartment complex Sunday to welcome in the Year of the Ox, they held serious concerns for their futures.
Following Friday classes, students received e-mails letting them know flight operations -- for the time being at least -- are grounded.
But problems are worse than the school is letting on, said several students in their mid-20s who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal.
Because visas are for full-time students, students fear the closing might put them in legal jeopardy, including those from Nan Jing University, Civil Aviation Flight University, Shen Zhen Airline and Shan Dong Airline.
"The contract said we should finish in one year, and we have been here nine months," said one of the students. "At the speed we are training here, we would have to stay here for two years (to get a pilot's license)."
Also, students complained of not receiving weekly stipends for more than five weeks -- money already paid to the school by their sponsors.
The school, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Flight Training International, took over from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2006, and recently added eight student pilots from Air Astana in Kazakhstan.
In an e-mail from Chris Kokai, flight school executive director, the company said economic conditions of the operation are being reviewed.
"CAPT is operating at limited capacity the week of Jan 25th," Kokai said. "We have suspended full operations in order to take a closer look at our operating expenses. We are evaluating our operating expenses to ensure we can remain profitable in these tough economic times. We hope to resume a full operating schedule in early February."
Last September, Flagler County commissioners approved a tax incentive for the company to expand its Flagler County operations; the company expected to hire about 60 employees within 2 1/2 years -- average expected wage: $33,960. Also, the company was seeking a Qualified Targeted Industry tax credit from the state.
CAPT is part of the county's Airpark Phase I development, but the original agreement signed with Embry-Riddle officials requires monetary contract terms to be fulfilled even if the flight school closes.
"We're monitoring it closely," said Flagler County spokesman Carl Laundrie. "We'll be talking to them."
As far as the county knows, a "glitch" in operations caused a week-long shutdown, but "it could be longer, we don't know," Laundrie said.
No matter what happens, the county is protected for the cost of the facility because "Embry-Riddle is still part of that arrangement," he said. "They have a financial obligation to us for the facility."
But that doesn't help the students, said Alison Munro, who works in Palm Coast and lives in the same apartment complex as many of the Chinese students. She said she's tried to help them contact attorneys, the Chinese Embassy and the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I have been helping the boys, because pretty soon these boys will run completely out of money," she said. "They have all had an impact on me, sharing their culture. It's a beautiful thing, but now they are stuck."
Kokai said the company is aware that any disruption of operations could have a serious impact on its students.
"While we are always concerned about the welfare of the students, and have thought through plans for worst-case scenarios, we are focused on the success of CAPT right now," he said.
"We are working day and night to ensure the success of the organization and continuation of the flight training schedules for all of our students."


link:http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Flagler/flaHEAD02FLAG012609.htm
 

Golden Falcon

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What an industry...can you imagine going to a dealer, paying for a car...then being told the manufacturer can't deliver it because they can't afford to make it for the price they sold it to you for??
 
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