Students at a well-known flying school in Florida are plotting their next move after the establishment suddenly ceased operations last month. According to students, Airline Training Academy staff were assembled the evening of Feb. 27 and told the school was closing. Feb. 28 found some portion of 150 active students and about the same number of inactive students asking grim-faced instructors why they were packing their desks -- and where their money is. Student Steve McCabe told AVweb he's owed at least $15,000 worth of prepaid training. The students have launched legal action and a creatively named Web site to keep each other apprised of developments. AVweb tried to contact ATA but its Web site is not active and we were unable to find working phone numbers for the company or its principals. McCabe said he and his fellow students aren't having much luck tracking them down, either. "Students have never been officially notified of the school's closure," he said. McCabe said. He said students showed up for training the next day and found and office staff cleaning out their desks and offices. All the school's aircraft had prop locks on them, McCabe said. He said calls to ATA's lawyer of record, Robert White, have also gone unanswered.
In addition to his $15,000 still held by the school, McCabe said he's looking at some $5,000 more to complete the multi-IFR rating he was working on. Still, McCabe says his isn't the worst tale and that he met three young people from California who arrived at the school Friday -- each had arranged bank loans of more than $50,000 to attend. A civil suit, representing 100 students, alleges, among other things, that ATA kept taking new students until it closed and the owners bought expensive cars "and otherwise engaged in a lifestyle that would belie any financial distress or difficulty." The early efforts may already be paying off. According to the Web site, officials of one Cleveland bank are trying to retrieve unexpended loan funds from ATA so they can be used at other schools. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, however, the Key Bank isn't having any more luck reaching company officials. "There's nobody around. There's nobody to talk to," a bank official told the Sentinel. The students are also looking into criminal proceedings against ATA. According to the student's Web site, ATA has not filed for bankruptcy.