David Learmount/LONDON

THE UK'S OLDEST flying training school has become the first victim of a Government policy loophole enabling UK pilots to gain UK commercial pilot's licences in foreign training establishments.

The 60-year-old Air Services Training (AST) at Perth, Scotland, announced on 26 April that its pilot-training section is to be run down to care-and-maintenance status by October 1996. The company's engineer training section is to continue.

Schools in the USA and Australia started training pilots for UK commercial licences in 1995, offering cheaper courses and better flying weather than their British counterparts.

AST marketing manager David McKinnon says that overseas training was "a very important factor" in the decision to abandon flying training, and that UK policy had "...added insult to injury by allowing national vocational qualification tax relief to be claimed by trainees while they are [learning overseas]".

UK General Aviation Manufacturers and Traders Association (GAMTA) chief executive Graham Forbes says: "Now that overseas schools can apply for approval to train to UK standards, our industry will face continued pressure."

The UK is unique in allowing foreign schools to issue its national commercial pilot licences. The UK Civil Aviation Authority, which recently reviewed the original decision to let in foreign trained pilots, says that it has "...no mandate, except to ensure that licensing standards are met. Neither the geographical location of flying training schools nor protection for UK schools from foreign competition are requirements of the Air Navigation Order, so it is a UK Government matter."

New European Joint Aviation Regulations on flightcrew licensing, in their present draft form, require training organisations which issue the new European pilot licences - soon to supersede European Union member states' national licences - to have their main office and operational base in the European Union. The CAA is understood to be requesting "grandfather rights" for foreign schools offering the UK course.

Source: Flight International