flight training

Concerns mount over financial risks in UK Flight Schools as three CAA approved institutions collapse, leaving customers owed millions

Concerns mount over financial risks in UK Flight Schools as three CAA approved institutions collapse, leaving customers owed millions

Bristol Groundschool, the Wings Alliance, Flyer Magazine and The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) have together written to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask for action over the financial risks in UK Flight Schools as several Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved institutions have collapsed in the last few months, leaving customers owed millions.

Please see the attached open letter to the Secretary of State.

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, and the indications are that there is very little chance of getting anything back from the liquidators.

The CAA are required by retained EU law to operate an ongoing oversight program for the Flight Schools they approve, and this includes a requirement to establish evidence of sufficient funding. Despite this, the CAA have taken the public position that they do not regulate the ongoing financial viability of flying schools. It is understood that groups of students who have lost large sums of money are currently taking legal advice to establish whether the CAA can be separately pursued for compensation.

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.” 

The signatories to the letter have asked the Secretary of State to instruct the UK CAA to make it a condition of approval that Flight Schools do not take large amounts of cash up front and to make sure that the CAA’s regulatory activities in future comply with their legal responsibility.

BALPA are launching an ongoing campaign to improve regulation in the sector.

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.” 



Notes to editors 

  • Tayside Aviation provided courses from private pilot licences to full commercial airline licences over a span of 50 years. The company also delivered the RAF Air Cadet Pilot Scheme for more than 30 years. It went into administration in April 2023.
  • The businessman behind Tayside Aviation is set to sue the former owners
  • FTA Global provided training for over 20 years and went bust in May. Parents called for the CAA to “take responsibility”. 
  • Oversight and compliance for UK ATO’s is listed in ATO.105 in retained EU law.
  • Bristol Groundschool is a UK CAA Approved Training Organisation.
  • Wings Alliance is a support community for student pilots.