Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Pilot Training Courses

Sorca Clarke (Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein)
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104. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason a company (details supplied) is using the airfield in Abbeyshrule, County Longford, to train pilots. [30638/20]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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My Department contacted the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the regulatory body responsible for aviation safety in Ireland, in relation to this matter.

The IAA provided the following information. The National Flight Centre (NFC) is a Pilot Training Organisation based at Weston Aerodrome, Lucan, County Dublin. NFC provides theoretical and flight training for professional pilots.

As result of national restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFC suspended all flight and classroom training on 20 March 2020. The suspension of training was followed shortly by the closure of the aerodrome at Weston, which remains closed to flight operations as it is undergoing a recertification process for the provision of air traffic services. It is expected that this will remain the case for a number of weeks.

Due to the continued closure of Weston Aerodrome, NFC re-located its flight training to Abbeyshrule Aerodrome on 7 July. The IAA understands that Abbeyshrule was chosen for flight training due to its suitability and relative proximity to Weston.

The completion of pilot training courses is time critical and, therefore, student pilots at NFC must continue their flight training within regulated timeframes and cannot simply wait for the completion of the recertification process at Weston. Many of the "student" pilots may already be qualified and employed commercial pilots attending NFC to get a particular additional qualification or rating. As such they would be qualified pilots and considered essential workers. In relation to ab initiotrainee pilots they are attending a recognised training organisation and therefore may travel outside their county for educational purposes.

NFC received the appropriate additional temporary acceptances from the IAA for satellite flight operations and satellite maintenance at Abbeyshrule. While the IAA does not have any statutory powers to regulate matters relating to COVID-19, NFC has demonstrated operational and cockpit procedures in line with HSE COVID procedures.

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