Dáil Éireann - Volume 424 - 29 October, 1992

Written Answers. - European College of Aeronautics.

34. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if she will make a statement on the allegations made by a person (details supplied) that the College of Aeronautics in County Cork was forced to close because of delays in her Department in the scheduling of examinations and flight testing and also due to delays in receiving results, and that the officials involved in those tasks were understaffed and overworked; if she will give details of the funding which was made available to the college over the last two years, up to the time that the college went out of business; and if she will also contact the semi-State bodies involved in the college to establish the funding which was made available by them to the college in recent times.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): I regret the failure of the European College of Aeronautics at Cork Airport and in particular the position which that college left it's trainee students in. The training standards at the college were approved by my Department. However, I must point out that it was a private sector commercial venture and as such there could be no question of direct State financial support for the college. However, I would like to emphasise that I and my Department facilitated the ECA in every way possible.

As I have indicated, the standards at the college were approved by my Department. With a view to meeting increased demand for pilot examinations my Department introduced a wide range of new measures in the administration of pilot licences. These measures included:

— increasing the frequency of examinations from 3 per annum to 5 per annum;

— the holding of examinations in Cork, in addition to Dublin;

[1450] — rephasing written examinations and flying tests to facilitate ECA candidates;

— reducing the period between examinations and the issue of results from 3 months to 6 weeks.

Delays in flight testing of candidates were not due to my Department but rather to the unavailability of ECA aircraft.

When I became aware that ECA was in financial difficulties in May, 1992, I arranged additional funding for one month, so that potential users of the College could be consulted in an orderly manner. This consultation revealed that there was not sufficient domestic demand for pilot training in ECA, which would maintain the financial viability of the College.

In August, I established a Task Force to examine the overall scenario of pilot training in Ireland and to determine if there is a requirement for a National Flying School. The Task Force is composed of representatives from Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, Ryanair and the Air Corps as well as my Department and the Departments of Defence and Finance. The Task Force has had three meetings to date and work is continuing.

Finally, I should mention that shareholders in ECA included both Aer Rianta and the IDA. Such shareholdings, however, are matters solely for those bodies and it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in such arrangements.