FLYING SCHOOLS based in the UK have reacted angrily to the UK Civil Aviation Authority's decision to allow two flight centres in the USA to run CAA-approved courses for commercial pilot training (Flight International, 2-8 August, P20).

Acting on the UK schools' behalf, the General Aviation Manufacturers and Traders Association (GAMTA) has already expressed its concern to the UK Government, and is preparing a policy statement which is expected to call on ministers to make an urgent review of the situation.

GAMTA chief executive Graham Forbes says that some of the association's member companies are "very concerned" about what they see as an increase in unfair competition.

Many UK flying schools have been feeling disadvantaged competing against their transatlantic rivals because, they say, airport subsidies, lower taxation and cheaper aviation fuel automatically reduce the cost of courses in the USA. Until now, however, they have been confident of training all pilots wishing to gain CAA-approved licences.

Forbes says that they are particularly concerned about the timing of this latest development because the move towards a joint European air crew licensing scheme, due for adoption in 1998, will allow CAA-approved pilots trained in the USA to meet the common standard in all European Community countries. This will provide a further drain on customers from the home market, say the UK schools.

The schools also draw attention to the fact that the UK offers tax relief to student pilots under the National Vocational Qualification scheme whether they train at home or abroad. One flying school executive points out that the tax relief in the case of a $60,000 course being undertaken in the USA might represent "...a loss to the UK economy of some £10,000".

The CAA says that there is nothing in its remit from the UK Government to prevent it approving foreign flying schools if they apply for a licence and are able to meet the required standards.

The two US schools, so far concerned, are Everything Flyable based at Long Beach, California and FlightSafety International in Florida. Other US schools are expected to apply for CAA approval, and it is understood that at least one school in Australia is considering a similar move.

David Parsons, director of operations at Everything Flyable, which gained its CAA approval in April, says that enquiries for pilot training at the school have increased by 100%, and that revenue from UK pilots has "...trebled in the last six months".

The GAMTA recommendations, are expected to be published, before the end of this month.

Source: Flight International