Bombardier: $1 billion bailout, 7000 fired

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.


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Pilot training: Ryanair’s APCC

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).

APCC - premises & caveats

With official presentation having occured during last EASA Annual Safety Conference Training in Aviation, and echoing his 2014 EATS Conference keynote speech, Cpt. O'Shea's confidential paper reveals the APCC adresses :

"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 to save costs help 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:

  • Aircraft Systems Technical Training (new)
  • Operator Standard Initial CRM (cost ?)
  • MCC (from 2300 to 5,500€)
  • JOC (from 974 to 8,800€)
  • Airline Oriented Theoretical Training (new)
  • Operator Standard LOFT (new)

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)...

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MPL – From “competency” to “wallet” based training

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 MOVE Petrova 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 decided it was decided to assume HR mismanagement responsibility, rationalize recruitment policies and bear resulting financial burden to hastily help airlines stuck with pilots help unfortunate pilots stranded with airlines worldwide by amending regulation
(blessed by ‘light’ EASA impact assessment rating)

The proposal

A thorough look at the amendment draft and annex reveals:

"(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.

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SDG – DG MOVE study on EMPL

Finalized this december 4th by Steer Davies Gleave's (SDG) associate Rosie Offord, expected for summer 015 as we were directly told by DG MOVE last May 22th, their "study on employment and working conditions in air transport and airports" is now available.

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:

  1. the exhaustive list of "precisely which airlines are offering these schemes" available on the internet for more than a year, based on...
  2. the extensive number of legally binding contracts gathered during that time span (also publicly available).

Between the lines

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".


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EC – decisive p2f answers

As reported three days ago, a p2f-dedicated meeting occured today dec.9th at 14h00 (Brussels local time) on DG Tran premises to present and engage in Q&A which, for the record, unfolded in accordance with the following canvas :

The dice are cast.

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Frontrunning: december 6

  • As expected, DGAC's lax initial ATO renewal decision officially backfired this Dec. 4th with SAT bankruptcy. 7 employees, 49 students and several hundred thousand euros in debt left in the wild. No DGAC officials to be held accountable.
  • French AGEPAC released pilot employment statistics update this Dec. 5th; slight improvements overall notably :
    • 53% working as airline pilots (45% on JAR25).
    • 2 to 3 years necessary for 50% of a class to find an employment.
    • 30% can't maintain IR/ME ratings with their jobs, 6% have an activity not related to the aeronautics.
  • Key meeting to be held wednesday 9th between the ECA and EC DG Tran in Brussels on potential backing of anti p2f proposal.
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School demise to drag students in limbo

The list could go on, :

  • Dutch Stella Aviation in a series of bankruptcies ending in april 2014;
  • in the UK amidst CAA warnings, Cabair in february 2012, formerly bankrupt as Cabair College of Air Training
  • in France, the EPAG (Ecole de Pilotage Amaury de La-Grange) in april 2013,
  • the ESMA (École supérieure des métiers de l’aéronautique) -or rather ESMA-HNA- twice bankrupt if not for Chinese investors, De Heerd Investments Limited (in 2006) then Hainan Group (in august 2013, also 48% Aigle Azur shareholder);
  • and in a lesser extent the SEFA (Service de la formation aéronautique) that merged into the ENAC (French Civil Aviation University) in january 2011 which currently operates "at industrial minimum".

This 6th of november, Sud Aviation Training (SAT) confirmed the trend in France, entering a one month receivership period at the end of which either a settlement or bankruptcy will seal the fate of the 49 students pilot group... and their estimated joint €500k.

Accountability - the 500,000€ question

With the student group willing to recoup their stakes (should SAT go out of business), the question arose: who is liable to refund its members?

Before answering "the school", let's consider the audit report that sanctioned SAT's first fiscal year : fullscreen

Out of 20 items (of which 3 were not applicable at the time of the report), one learns SAT failed to display compliance of 14 of them with regulation !

While some ORA (Organisation Requirements applicable) violations appear mild at first glance (like ORA ATO 120 and flight time not being logged in hundredth of hour), all of them fell under level 2 findings, reportedly:

"[...] established by the DGAC when any non-compliance is detected by the applicable requirements of Regulation (EC) No 216 2008 and its implementing rules, procedures and manuals in the organization or in the terms of the license or certificate, which could lower safety or hazard flight safety"_ref

DGAC - Paved with good intentions

Following this audit, the French Aviation Authority decided to revoke ATO accreditation give SAT a 3 months probation period to change its ways, concluding :

"Numerous discrepancies were found during the audit, asserting a lack of both professional maturity and enforcement in established procedures. The multiplicity of aforementioned discrepancies would be such as to put ATO certification into question. However [...] new Head of Training [...] firm will to improve [!]".

Changes must have been conclusive since SAT still operated to this day EXCEPT ORA.GEN.210 (a), financial viability, that proved non-existent.
Sources close to another ongoing legal dispute involving SAT confirmed:

"[...] SAT had a negative balance sheet of 140,000€ by the end of its first year [...]"

In other words, the DGAC tolerated deviations to rescue a business when ultimately said business was bound to leave its "clients" on the hook in what probably ended up as a ponzi scheme (a money sink, new entrants' money covering other participant's liabilities).

What scenario will unfold? Will DGAC bureaucrats man up should SAT bankruptcy occur? Will the students be offered a solution/recover their investment provided it hasn't vaporized? We're not holding our breath.

edit Dec 6th: and sure enough...

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Frontrunning: October 28


  • June 9: previously covered French National Assembly question met answering over state sponsored elite ENAC pilot training's relevance. School arguing EPL program already at industrial minimum, with further tightening to trigger "long term damaging loss of [both] expertise [and] national credibility at European level". (Assemblée Nationale)
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P2F baron & the FBI

With now more than a year under our belt on p2f (5 months after the official campaign kicked in), we gathered enough information to expose the enablers.

Since most media are quick to report the trees for the forest like the Germanwings 4U9525 crash (outing copilot Andreas Lubitz as an outright psychopath without questioning our industry)*, today is our turn to focus on the "trees" to sort the bad apples out, starting with:

Founded in September 1995 with CEO Jean-Marc René Bollinger, former Continental Airlines pilot (picture above), and headquartered Miami FL --like Stephane Hoinville's EagleJet (and former spearhead Gulfstream International)-- , this company offers services such as Cockpit and Cabin Crew training for which, as of 2015, the pilot training offer could read as follows:

fullscreen english translation

Ludicrous commercial deception aside, one learns WAS has allegedly delivered "over 2000 pilots to airlines worldwide including Air Gabon, Air Madagascar, Asiana Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, TAAG (and many more)" with a training for which:

"there is nowadays in France a lot of polemic going on about [...]"

The catch? After a "line training [...] at the candidate's expense" (pay-to-fly - p2f), you are supposedly entitled to an employment "official letter" to secure an employment? interview (example given of Hong Kong Airlines)!

The man behind this program...

In light of such business innovation, is it fair to assume our entrepeneur's character would reflect on him? Fast backward July 8th 2006.

That Saturday afternoon, an Air France flight 95 was supposed to leave from Miami International Airport to France, but police were summoned to the airport after they received a call from a man who said his wife, a Lebanese citizen, was a threat to the safety of the flight.

A few minutes before it was scheduled to take off, that man (with their 17-month-old daughter) went to the Air France ticket counter and said that his wife, who was onboard, planned to blow up the plane, saying at first that she was angry about the arrest of a Lebanese citizen in a terrorist plot, and that she had said that "les américains allaient voir ce qu'ils allaient voir".

All 400 passengers onboard were evacuated. Investigators found the woman, who was traveling to Lebanon, and questioned both her and her husband.
FBI agents said that during the interview, they found out the woman never made any type of threat and instead arrested her husband, Jean-Marc Bollinger.
It was determined that the woman wanted a divorce (she showed bruises that she claimed were from her husband hitting and pushing her) alleging he abused her and wanted to go to Lebanon with the couple's daughter, but that Mr Bollinger refused, making up the story about the threat to try to keep his wife from leaving on the flight, as he later confessed.

French Bollinger was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and filing a false police report, avoiding several years in jail.
Incidentally, the mishap is said to have cost Air France $15,000 in operating costs while the plane was delayed and searched (no word as to whether his wife took another flight).


Seq No. Charge Charge Type Disposition

  • ID: 66145180
  • DOB: 9/14/1959
  • Court Case No: F-06-022316
  • State Case No: 13-2006-CF-022316-0001-XX
  • Date Filed: 7/10/2006
  • Date Closed: 10/17/2007
  • Warrant Type: N/A
  • Assessment Amount: $0.00
  • Balance Due: $0.00
  • Stay Due Date: N/A
  • Hearing Date: N/A
  • Hearing Type: N/A
  • Court Room: REGJB - JUSTICE BUILDING, ROOM No.: 2-3
  • Court Address: 1351 N.W. 12 ST
  • Previous Case: N/A
  • Next Case: N/A
  • Defense Attorney: MAULTASCH, RANDY
  • Bfile Section: F021
  • File Location: SCANNED
  • Box Number: N/A
  • Probation Start Date: N/A
  • Probation End Date: N/A
  • Probation Length: N/A
  • Probation Type: N/A
  • Defendant in Jail: N
  • Defendant Release To: HARVELL/ILM
  • Bond Status: DISCHARGED
  • Bond Issue Date: 8/24/2006
  • Bond Amount: N/A
  • Names / Aliases: N/A your pilot "provider"?

There you have it. While the picture above is probably the closest thing pilots will ever witness to a p2f felon behind bars for abject labour law discrepancies profiteering, that such a "colorful" profile could -and still does?- provide pilots to airlines (simultaneously preying on his kin) is beyond belief.
From there, with an added value of "zero", the need for intermediaries and brokers is anyone's guess (particularly after such blatant displays of integrity and candor). Sure, pilots are screened against criminal records, though perhaps it is time we come to realise criminals/psychopaths are not necessarily where we're led to believe.

* Except for these articles in The Atlantic, The Conversation, Boulevard Voltaire and excellent Global Research, notably.

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