Cabair administration

As a trainee pilot I have heard about a company called Cabair multiple times. So naturally I was curious as to what happened to this big integrated training school (they also offered modular courses) and did a bit of digging into the Cabair administration.
This sign is actually still attached to the building of my current flying school.
Cabair was one of the big flying schools that supplied pilots to multiple big name airlines.
They were based up in Cranfield which is actually where I do my training for my PPL (at a different school of course). Cabair also had multiple satellite sites.
Being an integrated school Cabair would hold large sums of students money at any point in time, and my instructor actually told me that the airport was covered in planes owned by the company possibly upwards of 100! This gives you an insight into the size of the operation.
They operated a fleet of PA28’s, DA-40s and DA-42’s.
The original Cabair, which was called Cabair college of air training, went into administration late in 2011 placing the money of their students and the jobs of their employees at risk.
However a buyer was found and the company was setup under the name of Cabair International.
Some students were offered the chance to finish their training with the new company as long as they paid a top up fee of up to £15,000.
With some of them being up to £70,000 in debt they may have felt that this would have been the best option. I can’t say I would have been up for that idea but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It is understood that around 80 students were enrolled when the new Cabair came into operation.
However just months later in the early part of 2012, the new company once again went into administration. Eventually the company was wound up and the students lost a LOT of money, as did the employees lose their jobs.
Cabair is now used by a lot of people as to why you don’t pay for flight training upfront, ever!
While the students didn’t foresee the difficulties at Cabair, it can happen to any school at any time.
The best way to pay for training is as you go, if a training provider demands all the money upfront be very skeptical and ideally find someone who has more flexible payment terms.
At the very least they should offer installments as you progress through the course.
A student who presumably lost a lot of money actually made this video around the time they went into administration for the second time. I must admit he took it well. By the date he said he started at Cabair I would assume he was closer to the end of the course, so he would have lost less than somebody who was at the start of the course.

Were you affected by the Cabair administration? Please feel free to comment below with your story.

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11 Replies to “Cabair administration”

  1. Hi Keelan,

    Thanks for posting this as it definitely brought back memories!

    I trained at Cabair on the integrated course, but luckily prior to the unfortunate downfall of the company in 2012 so was uneffected by it.

    Regarding the Cabair fleet size at Cranfield it was never even close to 100 during the time I was there. They had somewhere in the region of x5 DA42s and approximately x12 DA40s. The PA28s were generally used at fair weather bases in Spain/USA for initial VFR training. Although I believe Cranfield as an airport on the whole was a lot busier than it is today due to aircraft being used by other flight schools such as Bonus Aviation who operated there but have since closed their doors as well. This may explain why your instructor remembers the airport being so much busier.

    With reference to the guy in the video, I never met him as he was after my time but if I remember correctly he wasn’t that far through his training when the company went to the wall so more than likely lost a large amount of money, but I think he may have been from a wealthy family so the affect on him overall was probably negligible. Not sure what happened to the other poor students who were caught up in the mess at the time but I believe they were offered deals with other training providers elsewhere (although not sure how many of them actually continued after such a massive financial blow, it would be interesting to find out their fates).

    It was very unfortunate when Cabair went down as there were many good people working there (the odd one or two undesirable that you get everywhere!) and overall the training was good. However it was hardly surprising when they did close as the management was in my opinion diabolical at times!

    1. Thanks for the post, glad you cleared up the fleet size for me.
      I guess it makes sense that he comes from money as to basically say oh well to tens of thousands of pounds seems like a weird reaction.
      I would love to hear from someone who went through the administration but as you say some probably never got the chance to finish so likely don’t want to talk about it.
      I take it you went on to bigger and better things since completing your training?

      1. Yes I did but it wasn’t easy and took time. Plenty of students on the integrated course (from my era) had the financial means (or at least access to the financial means indirectly) to spend significant amounts of money to make things happen after Cabair (type ratings, line training programs, Ryanair etc). That said I know of some who didn’t have access to additional funding after Cabair and fell by the way side (some maybe gave up chasing the dream in the end but I’m not really in contact with them as it was several years ago now).

        One of the major downsides of Cabair as I’d touched on previously was the managment and their “don’t give a damn” attitude towards what happened after training was completed and money was exchanged. There was very little effort it seemed to whoo airlines to try and assist graduates into getting interviews/jobs, yet they were always happy to add those who did secure employment to their figures as “success stories” when in reality they deserved zero credit!

        I think the sad thing is that if the management had had a different attitude towards graduate placement/assistance and maintained a strong relationship with the airlines (as CTC appears to do with easyjet for example) then Cabair could still be with us as I believe they would have been able to more consistently attract a greater number of students in the 2008-2012 period after the recession and this would have helped keep them financially afloat.

        1. So it seems it was just as difficult then as it is now and the same issue that money seems to be the way to make things happen! I am glad you managed to make it happen, it’s nice to hear when people made it to the other side rather the constant doom and gloom.
          It’s funny you say that about Cabair, as some place do only seem to want your money and do little to actually assist you once they have it. There are still many places that take credit for a students job hunting success even though they had absolutely nothing to do with said success. You are not the first person to mention the management of Cabair to me and I get the feeling you won’t be the last.
          What is your current flying role now if you don’t mind me asking?

          1. I could give you plenty of doom and gloom but It’s always been difficult to get into I think but you only really discover that when you start sending out applications, however maybe it’s different now as there is a lot more active recruitment presently ongoing than there was for the last 10 years. But a quick glance of the job sites does indicate that the vast majority of positions are asking for a specific type and the typical 500hrs on it, this even rules me out of many of the positions regardless of the hours I’ve accrued, because of this I’d say that sadly money is still vital in getting into a job after flight school, or family connections I’ve seen that work too.

            I’d prefer not to say what/where I’m flying now as I’d rather remain anonymous

          2. Yeah I bet, so you just have to stick with it and try and make it through to the end, I just hope the situation is the same in 1.5 years when I will pass. Entry level jobs are very hard to get and as you say, connections are important.
            No worries on the staying anon part 🙂

  2. Hi Keelan,

    I am one of the guys that was enrolled at the time that Cabair went belly up! Just looking at that shabby old sign brings back memories!!

    Well, I lost thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds, was never able to claim any of it back and as a result never achieved my dream of becoming a commercial pilot. I am not unique, this was the unfortunate fate for a number students unable to consolidate such a financial blow.

    As you can imagine, I am still extremely bitter about this. To be so close to one’s dream, to really believe that you are on the way to achieving it and then to have it cruelly taken away was very difficult to deal with. And still is. I hold the senior management team at Cabair solely responsible for this. You accurately mentioned that a top-up was requested in 2011 – I would like to point out that “concrete” assurances were given to those who paid the top-up that they would finish their training and that the funds would absolutely be there. It turned out to be lies and Cabair were looking to offload assets just a few weeks after saying everything was fine. It soon became apparent that there were some very shady practices happening – they were taking students money right up until the day they locked the doors, forcibly preventing students coming in. They wouldnt even let us retrieve our logbooks. A few lads did manage to get in and pilfer a few headsets….the least Cabair owed them I suppose.

    With regards to the guy in the video – I remember him well and I remember him making this video. We all lived on campus together. He was a nice chap, but the previous commenter is correct in saying that he came from a wealthy family in the middle east and was also sponsored by an airline, so he really wasnt affected in the same way many others were. I dont know what became of him to be honest, but I know that most of the students from Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain were just enrolled by the respective airlines into other flight schools quite quickly. Much like the guys who were going through the FlyBe Cadet Program at the time.

    To be honest – Cabair had had its day lonnnng before I ever enrolled. It had been a good many year since any of the big airlines had come calling and it was something of a “spent legend”. I realised this whilst I was there, but I didnt for one moment think that I would be shafted in the manner that I was!!

    My opinion of the pond life who ran Cabair into the ground is that they are absolute charlatans. They manipulated young peoples ambitions to become commercial pilots to their own end (not to mention putting a good group of instructors out of work) and I hope they are thoroughly ashamed of their actions. By the time the company was wound up it was not a question of it being simple mismanagement, it was an out and out scam and I really believe that the CEO should have been held accountable. He effectively lied to students so that they would hand over vast amounts of money. Even up to the night before it was closed.

    Prospective students should use my case as a stark and somber warning. Cabair was once one of the largest commercial schools in the land, and talk of going out of business would have seemed ludicrous 10 years ago. But it happened. And not one sh*t was given about their students or staff and how much it would impact on their lives. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever pay for any flight training up front. Dont listen to what the shysters in the sales teams tell you…”if you pay upfront we can give you X% discount”……its not worth it. My dream since I could talk was to become a commercial pilot. I was very nearly there. I had sailed through ground school, I had sailed through single and twin training. I was so close I could touch it. But now I will never realise this ambition. I dont even have a PPL to show for it because of the way the course was structured. Its an extremely bitter pill to swallow and I would not wish it on anybody. None of the good schools will ask you to cough up everything in one go. The crux of the matter is that the top schools do not NEED you to pay up front. Do not give the time of day to any school that does.

    Apologies for the length of this reply!!!

    1. Oh no, my heart really goes out to you reading your story and I can totally see why you are bitter, I would be too.
      My old housemate was an ex cabair student but I get the feeling you lost more money than he did, he ended up at Atlantic in Ireland.
      What really annoys me is that the management actively conned you guys, they knew the state of play and still lied to get more money. For them to ruin you dream with out a care in unforgivable. Unfortunately they will sleep fine every night as these type of people have no empathy, they only care about themselves.
      I can only imagine how hard it is for you to wake up everyday and see planes flying knowing that you should be up there. To lose it through no fault of your own is a real bitter pill to swallow.
      I figured that guy came from money, because nobody who has to earn that sort of money would have such a carefree attitude to losing it.
      What do you do now if you don’t mind me asking?
      To anybody reading, pay attention to what he said. No matter the discount on offer never ever hand over large amounts of money. Also pay ok a credit card where you can.
      You should also pay AFTER a flying lesson. For big courses like an IR the payment should be broken into chunks and ideally this should be paid on a credit card.
      As you can read, the good schools shouldn’t need your money up front!

  3. Hi Keelan,

    Thanks for your kind words. Yeah, I was very down about it for a long time. With hindsight and the benefit of time I now see how very silly it was to pay so much up front and I do shoulder some of the responsibility myself. Obviously I will never forgive the people that ran Cabair, but if I had been a bit more switched on I would have my license by now and would be flying.

    Yes, I vaguely remember that Atlantic sent some guys over to Cranfield straight away to chat to students about re-enrolling with them. It seemed like a great setup, but at the time it was just financially impossible for me.

    The thing that really irritates me sometimes is that I actually had an offer from Oxford Aviation to do my full integrated course with them at the time I enrolled with Cabair. I had passed their two day assessment center and was very close taking up the offer…..I chose Cabair for the most trivial and stupidest of reasons….because I preferred the idea of a fair weather base in Florida rather than Arizona!! Oh what might have been if I had gone to Oxford!!

    By the way, you are 100% correct in saying that if you have to pay for things up front to use a credit card! There were a few lads who had paid tens of thousands on credit cards are were able to get it all back. Because of the insurance involved in your credit agreement you can be reimbursed by your card provider if you pay for a service and do not receive it. It doesn’t happen overnight though and they will obviously try all the tricks in the book to try and get out of paying, but perseverance is the key!

    After Cabair went bust I attended an assessment center for the Thomson Airways pilot cadet scheme. I was offered a place, but it was going to cost around 30K, so I couldnt take it up. I exhausted all other avenues of sponsorship etc and I finally came to the conclusion that I was just going to have to move on and bury my aviation aspirations.

    Things worked out fine for me though. I already had a good economics Degree and a few years experience working in finance prior to enrolling with Cabair, so I was able to land a good job pretty quickly. I worked in the City for a while before being transferred to New York which was awesome. I now live in Hong Kong. I earn a good salary and have a great lifestyle, but it doesnt matter how much I earn or how high I climb I will always regret not being able to fulfill my ambition. It will never be what I dreamed of doing. And that will stay with me forever. I travel a lot with work on Cathay Pacific and many of the pilots are young British guys, and that gets to me sometimes because Cathay was the airline that I always wanted to work for. But c’est la vie! I dont dwell on it for long because I usually get to travel in Business or First so I just numb the pain with a G&T or seven!

    I think its really admirable that you wrote this blog entry to warn others of the perils of paying lump sums for flight training. I have been out of the aviation loop for years now, but I seem to recall that the CAA at the time this all happened were not really very supportive. They were very much of the opinion “its your problem, not ours”. The CAA or EASA or whoever it is these days really should do more to safeguard people against situations like that at Cabair. There should be regulations governing flight schools which prevent them from asking for sums over a certain amount up front.

    Thanks again for your kind words Keelan and I wish you all the very best with the rest of your flight training and your further career in aviation!…and again, apologies for the length of this post….its been a long time since I have spoken to anyone about the whole Cabair debacle and I guess its cathartic!!


    1. No apologies needed, I am happy to hear your story and I am sure that others who stumble upon the blog post will be too.
      Most importantly I am ecstatic that it all worked out for you, granted you are not flying but at least you are not working minimum wage with huge loans over your head and for that I am pleased.
      As I said before we are all experts with the benefit of hindsight, decisions are always clear when you can look back an analyse them.
      This really is a sad situation as the fact that you got offered Thomson (btw 30k if only these days) shows that you had the right material to succeed in the field.
      Do you have the flying itch at all? Like even to get a PPL? I visited Hong Kong twice a few years ago and it really is a wonderful place to live so now doubt you are happy with your current situation.
      From the limited people I spoke to I also heard the CAA wasn’t very good. Why these schools are even allowed to take such money up front I have no idea. The CAA should hold it in escrow and provide it as the flying is done.
      I was lucky with flight training, my brothers friend had done it a few years before and he told me everything I needed to know, not many people have that so I figured I would use this blog to share with others. I know for a fact people will read your story and learn from it, so I guess that’s something.

    2. Very sorry to hear that. I stumbled across this as I was trying to track them down for transcripts for use towards an online aviation degree im starting in the States soon. This has happened with many other flightschools in the US and more recently with a small flight school in Ireland a few years ago. I did my modular ATPL groundschool with Cabair in Bournemouth a few years earlier but believe me you are lucky you’re not working for Cathay. I’ve been at a few airlines now and although I haven’t worked for Cathay, I see their conditions are appalling (at least for the new guys) and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I always wanted to fly but after 10 plus years in mainly low cost airlines the time away from home on the road is taking its toll. There are still some good flying jobs out there but very hard to get hence why I’m doing a degree now. Things are never as they seem. You’re not missing that much and if you ever did change your mind there will be plenty of jobs in the coming years.

      All the best

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