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HomeBusinessExclusive: Chilliwack flight school grounded as ex-student from India sues

Exclusive: Chilliwack flight school grounded as ex-student from India sues

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Bob Mackin

A Chilliwack flight training school that the provincial government suspended in March is facing a three-day small claims trial in Provincial Court beginning June 26. 

The registrar of the Private Career Training Institutions Branch suspended BlueBird Flight Academy Inc. on March 26 for failing to provide a student data report, failing to provide financial statements, failing to pay $562.29 in fees and payment to the student protection fund, and failing to refund students enrolled without meeting admission requirements. 

That decision was upheld by the registrar. BlueBird filed an appeal to the commissioner, just like the subsequent April 27 cancellation of BlueBird’s designation certificate. 

Niyas Vadakke Thoduvil

In moving to effectively shut down BlueBird’s courses, Private Career Training Institutions Branch cited BlueBird’s failure to provide financial statements and failure to refund students enrolled without meeting admission requirements. That means BlueBird is prohibited from offering or providing any career-training programs. The provincial government defines a career-training program as a “career-related program for which tuition paid is equal to or greater than $4,000 and the instructional time is equal to or greater than 40 hours.” 

Student Niyas Vadakke Thoduvil’s May 2016 notice of claim against BlueBird is scheduled to be heard over three days in Chilliwack Provincial Court. He is seeking $10,317.18 owing in course fees, $10,000 in monthly expenses and $1,400 interest towards his education loan. His claim notice said the he paid $37,000 in tuition. 

In March of last year, Thoduvil unsuccessfully offered to settle the claim for $10,317.18.

In the notice of claim, the 29-year-old Kerala, India-native Thoduvil wrote: “While my training was on track and I was prepared for my private pilot flight test, I was issued a termination letter from my institution without any valid reason. I was helpless and I didn’t get my remaining money back. Training was completely stalled which consequently affected my peace of mind and thereby my family members in thinking of my future and career. I immediately joined with Principal Air Ltd. and successfully passed my private pilot license flight test within a short period.” 

Thoduvil had complained of the revolving door of management and instructors, of which he had six during his time at BlueBird.

The Nov. 7, 2016 reply notice from Sodhi stated that no refund is due, as per the enrolment agreement, which was signed by Thoduvil. “Bluebird is not responsible for any monthly expense,” said the response. “Student was at fault for termination. Bluebird is not responsible for education loan obtain (sic) by student. Student was warned many times regards to training issues but failed to comply, resulting in termination.” 

BlueBird terminated Thoduvil on May 23, 2016, claiming he was a danger to himself, the aircraft and flight instructor. It refunded 70% of the fees remaining — $10,300 — on June 6, 2016 and told him that the school would pay another flight training unit $4,500 and the remaining $5,800 on a pay-as-you-go basis. 

Thoduvil applied to transfer to Principal Air. Sodhi allegedly told that company’s instructor Jeannette Nosko that Thoduvil was unsafe. Nosko did not believe the allegation and allowed Thoduvil to become a student. BlueBird paid Principal $4,500, but did not release the remaining $5,800.

Nosko’s Feb. 23, 2017 letter said Thoduvil had 75 hours of flight time and BlueBird allowed him to fly 20 hours by himself, but BlueBird’s training quality was deficient. 

“After flying with Mr. Thoduvil I determined that his previous training was inadequate. I found that required flight maneuvers and procedures were taught incorrectly or not at all,” Nosko wrote. “None of these items made him an unsafe pilot, however his flying skill was not adequate to pass a flight test.”

Nosko’s letter said that Thoduvil eventually completed his private pilot’s licence on Nov. 14, 2016 with Principal.

None of the allegations has been proven in court. Sodhi did not respond for comment. 

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