Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by Flying Time Aviation (SV15)

1.  SUMMARY

1.1  The proposed restrictions on Tier 4 migration will impact unfairly on small, specialised training schools such as those for student pilot training.

1.2  Pilot training courses should be exempt from the restriction of Tier 4 to degree-level courses and the requirement of providers of below degree level courses to be Highly Trusted Sponsors.

1.3  Any cuts in the number of student pilots being able to enter the UK will have a huge impact on the viability of individual flight schools and ultimately the economy of the UK.

1.4  If the UK is to retain its place in world pilot training then any new restrictions or procedures for Tier 4 must not result in making it more difficult for student pilots to train in the UK.

2.  INTRODUCTION

2.1  Flying Time Aviation is a small company established in 2006 for the purpose of pilot training. Starting from a club-like business mainly involved in private pilot licence training and self-fly hire, the owners have invested heavily and expanded to offer the full range of courses (Private Pilot Licence, Night Qualification, Hour Building, Airline Transport Pilot Licence, Commercial Pilot Licence, Instrument Rating and Multi-Crew Co-operation) leading to the industry standard Frozen ATPL (fATPL) qualification. The fATPL is necessary for anyone hoping to fly as a career and is the entry point qualification for all commercial airlines.

2.2  As Flying Time Aviation expanded and our reputation spread we started receiving enquiries from international students who wished to train in the UK. Without a licence from UKBA we could not take any non-EU students. Therefore, in 2009, Flying Time Aviation started the long and costly licensing process by firstly gaining accreditation from the BAC (British Accreditation Council) before obtaining the licence from UKBA in June 2010. Since then we have substantially increased our enquiries from international students and currently have two visa students on our courses with another due to join us in the next couple of weeks. We are also in the process of securing a contract to train at least 10 Chinese student pilots and this contract, together with our other visa student income, will be worth nearly a million pounds in revenue to us this year. In 2011 we expect around half of our revenue to come from non-EU students. In addition, we expect to employ up to eight more flying instructors during the year.

3.  INFORMATION

3.1  The UK is chosen by many student pilots for their training for a number of reasons. English is the international aviation language so by training in the UK students will be trained and become proficient in their professional language. The UK has challenging weather conditions and also complex and congested airspace which ensures a more thorough training in all conditions. The UK has a reputation for the high standards required by the examining body (the Civil Aviation Authority) along with one of the best aviation safety records in the world. Thus a student trained in the UK will have undergone one of the most comprehensive training programmes in the world.

3.2  The comments below relate to the main points of the enquiry which are of direct relevance to student pilot training.

Whether cuts should be limited to certain types of courses (eg pre-degree level)

3.3  Our courses are classed as NQF level 4, which is below that of degree level (NQF level 6). The proposal to restrict Tier 4 to degree level courses with only Highly Trusted Sponsors being permitted to offer courses below degree level, would, therefore, affect us greatly. We would be unable to accept any non-EU students unless we obtained Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status. Although we should be able to obtain HTS status, this cannot be applied for until at least one year after obtaining a licence (so precludes any new flight schools being able to take visa students) and there is no guarantee that UKBA will award the HTS status. If we should be unable to obtain HTS status then we would lose around half of our yearly revenue and be forced to reduce the number of staff employed. The student visitor visa route is no use to us as the full course of training for a fATPL takes between 18 and 24 months.

The impact different levels of cuts might have on the various sectors

3.4  Whilst the number of student pilots may be small compared to the overall number of students coming to the UK, any cuts in the number of student pilots being able to enter the UK will have a huge impact on the viability of individual flight schools and ultimately the economy of the UK.

If flying schools lose the ability to train visa students then arguably many could have to close with a resulting loss of jobs and businesses in the private sector. Ultimately facilities for UK students could be reduced with those considering a commercial flying career having to train abroad.

The impact, if any, that reductions in student visas might have on the UK's standing in the world

3.5  The UK currently enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellent pilot training and is one of a few countries which an international student would consider for their training. A licence gained in the UK is valued as being accepted by commercial airlines worldwide. If student pilots can no longer obtain visas for the UK then they will most likely train in the USA, the Philippines, Australia or Spain and the UK will lose its reputation as one of the leading countries in the aviation world.

4.  RECOMMENDATIONS

4.1  Pilot training courses should be exempt from the restriction of Tier 4 to degree-level courses and the requirement of providers to be Highly Trusted Sponsors.

4.2  If the UK is to retain its place in world pilot training then any new restrictions or procedures for Tier 4 must not result in making it more difficult for student pilots to train in the UK. Professional pilot training should be considered as a special student category and not subject to the same rules as pre-degree, degree and post-graduate degree level students and English language students.

January 2011



 
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