Following our previous coverage of Royal Air Maroc's (RAM) refutation of P2F collaboration, despite already proven deals, the time has come to probe the existence of its ties with the rampant cartel involving P2F advocateBaltic Aviation Academy(BAA).
RAM Initial claims
"Slanderous allegations aired on the "Pièces à conviction" TV show. [BAA's] claims according which [our] company resorts to foreign pilot training without "requiring prior evaluation", are untrue [as we] never collaborated with [them] [...] The producers relied on a bogus testimony to bolster erroneous conclusions [so we] will sue"_source
We contacted Julien Fournier that agreed to share his mail exchange with anonymized BAA Projects ManagerRenata Kudabaitė, prior the release of the TV show. We enhanced authentication with the provision of Ms Kudabaite's business card collected on site (both recto and verso):
"Regarding your questions: You are right, [€62,5k for RAM] are only for line training [...] during [which] there is no salary [...] To start any of [these] programs, pilot needs to have TR already [...] For [...] RAM and Vietjet, pilots can apply with TR from other ATO's [than BAA]".
The network - insider revelations
Comes the story of John.
Instead of accepting a P2F proposal with Blue Air in Romania, John, B737 Type Rated at BAA's in july 2014, settled for 500 hours with RAM like 27 other pilots, as shown in his communication with BAA Project ManagerIngrida Reket:
Vilnius-based aviation conglomerate Avia Solutions Group (ASG) trading in Warsaw since 2010 (€12m turnover in 2015) oversees 20 services firms in Baltic countries mostly, Russia, Cyprus and the UK (Storm Aviation Ltd) as well as Indonesia (Avia Technics Dirgantara). Chaired by Lithuanian oligarch Gediminas Ziemelis, since 2013 the group capitalizes on Deputy CEO Daumantas Lapinskas's network, former Lithuanian Vice Minister of Economy.
John met CasaAero Technical Director Abdel Ilah Zamrane, that coordinated his ground courses between Jan.6 and 17 2015, a test on Feb.4, other courses between Feb.11 and 23, and the final exam the 23. The sim check didn't take place until May 19. Due to several delays, John rated Mr Zamrane's services as "disorganized, disrespectful and unprofessional".
ATCT gave rise to indivuals like Tarek Benaissi, Quality Manager and contact of the firm. He can be seen "pimping" pilots for Qatar Airways, on social networks here and there, and "recruiting" platforms such as DirectaeroJobs for Lybia or even... on AviationCV of course (see above) !
At this point, every middle man providing no discernible services whatsoever, walks away with a commission... except for the actual pilot. Mercifully, we omitted the involvement of RAM with EagleJet, yet another P2F broker...
Worst, by May 19,
John and his colleagues waited for
their moroccan licences, badges, uniforms
and be transfered from CasaAero to RAM. One last training day took place in June 9, after which flights were supposed to happen. Mr Tritar tried to reassure his "customers" in June 12, only for John to figure out in Aug.25 only 3 or 4 Captains were willing to fly with them.
Disgusted, John left RAM in Aug.26, 2 pilots having left already with 6 others to follow a few months later. Over 27 pilots, only 3 had their agreement honored and flew with RAM. Judiciary action was attempted but rebutted.
Already getting media attention for all the wrong reasons, one of our readers drew our attention on the Avia Solutions Group. As a reminder, the Lithuanian holding (overseeing 20 services firm) owns the largest eastern p2f cashing machine known to date:
Reviving Greek mythology, it seems Avia Solutions wants us to believe in Sirens, beautiful creatures luring nearby sailors pilots with enchanting commercial songs to shipwreck transfer money on the rocky coast of their island exotic bank accounts.
Well, we have bigger fish to fry. Either successful models are extremely playful, or someone somewhere understood 96% of pro pilots are male ! Mr Linas Dovydenas might want to check on the tooth fairy, this one is up to no good :
This March 23 aired a French TV report about p2f notably (with our proud participation), exposing Small Planet Airlines, Vietjet and Royal Air Maroc among the offenders.
We knew since 2012 Royal Air Maroc(RAM) was involved in pay-to-fly, selling 500 work hours 14,000€ through its subsidiary RAM Express via the Toulouse base of the ETOPS intermediary agency (as proves this contract), but it seems media caught up to further facts only today, triggering a scandal long overdue :
We hope this technicality won't distract future investigators from the facts: RAM does make some of their foreign pilots pay to work... while local pilots asked 2 extra years of education to reach engineer degrees remain unemployed for some reasons.
Back in October, Quebec put taxpayers on the hook for a $1 billion bailout of planemaker Bombardier (which was having one hell of a hard time creating a buzz around its CSeries commercial jet program).
Bombardier has been around for nearly 8 decades and employs more than 40,000 people in the province. The company’s role in the provincial economy is “incalculable,” Quebec’s Economy Minister Jacques Daoust said last year. “How can I let them go?” he asked.
For its money, Quebec would get a 49.5% stake in a new business that will own the assets and liabilities of the CSeries commercial jet program (which isn't exactly going well). In exchange, the company promised to manufacture the aircraft in the province for at least 20 years.
“How confident is Quebec that this will fan out for the economy and taxpayers? That’s what we don’t know,” Paul Boothe, a former senior Canadian official
...who was the federal government’s lead negotiator with the domestic units of GM during bailout talks in 2009 said at the time.
Well, now we do know. On Wednesday, Bombardier announced it’s cutting 7,000 jobs as part of a “global workforce optimization.”
“Impacted positions are mostly based in Canada and Europe,” the company said this morning, after reporting results that missed estimates on both the top and bottom line. Here’s the breakdown:
So obviously that sounds bad, but don't worry because the job losses will be "partially offset" by hiring in "certain growth areas." Like the CSeries program. Which is "growing" so fast that the company had to take a $1 billion bailout from the provincial government to shore it up.
"Production rates for some models have been modified," Bombardier goes on to say, in an attempt to explain the layoffs, "due to macroeconomic conditions." For those who don't read a lot of quarterly reports, that's a polite way of saying this: "demand is really, really soft."
The company says the CSeries program has "generated new jobs at the Bombardier facility in Mirabel, Québec," although the number of new jobs isn't specified nor does the company indicate what the net job creation (or, more likely, "job destruction") will be in Canada after the "optimization" is implemented.
As for the company's 2016 outlook, revenue guidance looks well short of estimates at $16.5-17.5 billion (consensus was $18.2 billion), while FCF usage is generally in line at between $1 billion to $1.3 billion, although if it comes in at the high end, that will be close to the highest analyst estimate. The company burned $1.82 billion in 2015. Here's the full guidance breakdown:
On the bright side, Bombardier and Air Canada announced today that they've signed a Letter of Intent for the sale and purchase of 45 CS300 aircraft with options for an additional 30 CS300 aircraft, including conversion rights to the CS100 aircraft.
Oh, and the company is going to try a reverse split to make it seem like its shares aren't worthless.
So there you go Canada, Bombardier thanks you for the $1 billion you gave it. Any time you want to fork over some more money in exchange for thousands of layoffs, make sure to let the company know. They'll be happy to oblige.
Following the pending MPL gutting(only the Spanish & French DGAC were against), and showcased only once in specialized media so far, another plan for the future of pilot training is emerging subsequently to a May 2015 meeting of the EASA Pilot Training Advisory Group, led by Ryanair's Head of Training Andy O'Shea :
the Approved Pilot Certificate Course(APCC).
"the product of current regulation and training practice [...] many young pilots legally qualified as professional pilots but deficient in the competencies required for them to advance to the standard required to be employed by an EU operator"
Data relevance... "Ryanair assesses over one thousand different CPL ME/IR MCC qualified pilots every year".
Discarding the inconsistencies that
• cadets are assessed through CAE
• and data sample shows discrepancy (385 vs 387),
Let's put in perspective RYR's claimed annual assessment number with only 4 out of 32 EASA pilot unemployment figures :
...or lack thereof :
. "This is a reasonable sample of the young pilot population in Europe".
We'd be less categorical.
Shall Mr O'Shea agree unemployed pilots are mostly the young ones and including the 32 other countries' data would at least double our established total, it would take 10 years for Ryanair to process the combined unemployed part of the "young pilot population in Europe" alone.
Either the young pilot population is staggering... or the unemployment ratio is, reason why 13,807 people deem Europe has a more legitimate concern than weak training asumptions.
Yet, even considering Ryanair had cornered the employment market(thanks to practices other airlines wouldn't go down to, like questionnable micromanagement, p2f, outsourcing, subsidies... ) in such an extent that 450 pilots/year below their criteria became a sound base for a European training proposal, numbers point towards high turnover and poor attraction from pilots that'd rather stay unemployed for which "Europe’s favourite airline" has no one to blame but itself.
APCC - the incentive
Pursuing with pilots "deficient in [...] competencies", competency based MPL was specifically designed to "bridge [that] gap", alas :
"[it] is encumbered with some disadvantages that have led to [its] low uptake by Operators and ATOs. It is very complex, heavily regulated and cumbersome. Its structures and processes require very significant long term management and resource investment by the Operator. It is a rigid path that, once set out upon, provides little flexibility for the student or the Operators".
In other words, Ryanair discovered personnel required investment and long term thinking, reason why instead of fixing the MPL(that can only drop in support from a pilot perspective), Ryanair wants its way tosave costshelp the "50% of EU pilots not capable of passing a very straightforward assessment of their piloting skills [...] to be [...] safe professional pilot[s]".
APCC - the recipe
To produce a profitable "flexible, efficient and effective [way] to educate our young pilots", Ryanair wishes to bundle together:
Except that, contrary to the MCC which is an ATPL(A) requirement(FCL.510.A(a)(2)), all other items have no regulatory existence, institutionalized by airlines and paid for by candidates, not for convenience but only as more and more of them enforce those items as recruitment requirement minima.
Incidentally, here is part of the origin of young pilots' stress no amount of long or "long[er] assessment" will offset :
increasing gamble stakes (+€150k) to reach assessment stage alone.
They do "it" already
Occulting(after 12 pages) the data that mattered to them, namely the price of the course and who was going to foot the bill, we leave the guessing to our readers with O'Shea's "three ATOs in Europe currently offer[ing], or hav[ing] offered, training products such as [...] detailed" :
"We deeply regret the latest developments in the fields of aviation that young pilots with no or low hours have to pay their way into the right hand seat instead of being rewarded for their efforts and commitments. But we would like to state that we only cooperate with trusted agencies that have proven to be able to deliver what has been promised"._Kay Wachtelborn, CEO @SKY4u
MPL, APCC & unintended consequences
Based on clumsy grounds, altruistic Ryanair is pushing into obsolescence part of existing regulation almost tailored to them while blindly deflecting Europe from the very root of the problem they're about to worsen for cost's sake, only to discover they're reaping what they sowed : not necessarily the best, but the pilots willing and able to pay(in the meantime, the anti-p2f proposal is being finalized)...
Conveniently flying under most radars (in this time of holidays), this 3rd of December, an amendment to Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 was drafted by DG MOVEPetrova Irina(on behalf of the Commission)and fast-tracked to vote today by Member States within the ‘EASA Committee’.
If approved, part of it could be detrimental to the job market as follows.
Context and motives
Adopted in 2006, Multicrew Pilot Licence(MPL) credit could be given to now-retired Lufthansa's(LH)Capt. Dieter Harms notably, known as the "father of the MPL".
Aimed at answering inhouse airline-oriented pilot needs, as of nov. 2012, Capt. Harms assessed:
"Be assured, MPL will continuously grow.
The recovery from the current crisis will augment this trend, provided that the international airline training and regulating community is able to facilitate a globally harmonised and standardised implementation."_source
Comes today, LH got more "MPL growth" than they bargained for, unwilling to process or complete its 800 MPL pilots conversion course from its training school(both ATO & TRTO) with no recovery in sight.
EASA to the rescue
First, lest we forget, MPL programs are at pilots' expense.
Air Arabia case in point, pilots fund their training like regular ATPL... except for €142,5k including TR to which is added a €27,5k LT(Line Training - p2f here) "security" cheque given back upon successful completion, tantamount to a down payment refunded with equivalent provided labour (the airline would reimburse only the netted sum hadn't a pilot finished LT).
As far back as 2008, the AAIB itself suggested something was off since "training organisation[s] pa[y] the airline[s] for [their] involvement in the training, enabling [them] to generate revenue through their training department" (incident report we shall detail another time).
Too busy reaping profits, EU AOC holders should have deemed deterrent enough to comply with regulation stipulating:
"the [MPL] licence [holder] shall be restricted to that specific operator until completion of the airline operator’s conversion course"
...which is why they decidedit was decidedto assume HR mismanagement responsibility, rationalize recruitment policies and bear resulting financial burdento hastilyhelp airlines stuck with pilotshelp unfortunate pilots stranded with airlines worldwide by amending regulation (blessed by ‘light’ EASA impact assessment rating).
"(6) [...] There are cases where, due to the fault of the operator, some MPL holders cannot complete that operator’s conversion course and are consequently not able to work neither for that operator nor for another operator. The restriction on exercising MPL privileges elsewhere puts those MPL holders at a disadvantage without it being justified by safety reasons. Pilots who change operator are required to complete the new operator’s conversion course despite the fact that they have taken a conversion course on the previous operator. Moreover, any operator’s conversion course must take full account of the level of experience of the pilots joining that operator. It is therefore necessary to remove that restriction. MPL requirements are thus also aligned with the ICAO standards".
MPLs were built on the link between pilots and operators, giving tacit guarantee to the former they would later join the latter. That "restriction" will be waived. Even though:
operators turned their training dpt. from investment to cash cow,
operators weren't forced to queue MPLs beyond their needs,
"operators' fault" ensued, having failed duty to uphold and enforce regulation,
...pilots will foot the bill again, not working for the airline they paid and having to complete (fund?) the conversion course from whatever other operator will accept them at their discretion. Worst :
Lifting this restriction will incentivize ATOs to work with airlines that purposefuly have no job to offer, with the sole intention to generate profit.
Unblocking the operator-link restriction will flood the already saturated list of unemployed pilots, putting on the same footing the unemployed MPL pilots who followed the “fast track” and the ATPL pilots that followed the “normal track.”
Under the pretense of helping the few (stranded pilots) at the expense of the many (future MPLs and pilots at large), the EASA proposed to pervert regulation to ease operator's accountability and feed pilots' job insecurity. Glad no one noticed... yet.
Though not primarily about it, this "investigation" is the closing chapter of answer n°1 of MEP Steinruck's questions where three neither-exhaustive-nor-conclusive "pay-to-fly" occurences emerge:
Page 21:Pay-to-fly is acknowledged in published literature(e.g. Atypical employment study, Ghent University)as an issue however stakeholders did not specifically comment in this area.
Page 159: 7.149 Pay-to-fly schemes are schemes that require pilots to contribute financially to an airline “in order to be allowed to fly and thus gain requisite flight experience”. Junior pilots without significant amounts of flight (type rating) experience are particularly vulnerable to such practices, although it is not clear how prevalent this is, or precisely which airlines are offering these schemes.
Page 163: 7.173 Training opportunities are broadly considered by the industry to have increased across all professions by all stakeholders except the worker representatives [...]. Pay-to-fly is acknowledged in published literature(e.g. Atypical employment study, Ghent University)as an issue however stakeholders did not specifically comment in this area.
Unfortunately for whatever decision European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc will make (and European pilots at large), SDG missed:
the exhaustive list of "precisely which airlines are offering these schemes"available on the internetfor more than a year, based on...
Despite the fact that we tried to forward aforementioned documents during the summer and unlike the Atypical employment study that preconized p2f "should be prohibited, not only in the European Union, but globally", SDG's stance on the matter could be summed up as:
"Yes, junior pilots pay to work, but as we're unsure how many and airlines refused to confess, the abuse may carry on".