Sligo Senator Marc Mac Sharry has called for the establishment of an International Aviation and Pilot Training Centre in the North West.  The Fianna Fáil Senator, along with Cllr. Jerry Lundy and other party members, has been researching the scope for the project and the value to Ireland of such a centre.

The issue of pilot training has been highlighted in recent months by the 80 Irish trainee pilots who were left high and dry by the school in Florida, which went bust.  The students have been left with no qualification and so far have been unable to recoup their money. A total of 350 students were affected by this closure.

Mac Sharry and Lundy say there is a huge opportunity in Ireland, and particular in the North West region, for the establishment of an International Centre of Excellence for the Training of Commercial Pilots for Large Aircraft. 

“There is clearly a gap in the market,” said Senator Mac Sharry, “And we have all the necessary infrastructure and skills, as well as the capacity needed for such a facility.”

To further this proposal Mac Sharry & Lundy held meetings with Ireland West Airport Knock Managing Director Joe Gilmore and Head of Development & Business operations at Sligo IT Gordon Ryan. 

Senator Mac Sharry said, “It is clear from our discussions that there is grounds to undertake a professional feasibility study for this proposal.  Clearly we have a network of aviation infrastructure in the region, with Ireland West Airport in a position to cater for the largest commercial aircraft and Sligo capable of adding value to such a proposal in terms of lighter craft.

According to Cllr Jerry Lundy, “In working on this project it has become clear to us there is the academic potential offered by IT Sligo, as well as the infrastructure and expertise of Joe Gilmore and his team in Knock and Joe Corcoran in Sligo.  We must capitalise on our capabilities.

Senator Mac Sharry added, “The possibilities for the North West and for the country as a whole are significant. Our research shows there is huge international demand for pilot training.  This is complemented by the demand for learning English, which is the international median of communication in aviation.

“Such an opportunity could bring many international students to our shores while also catering for Irish demand removing the need to travel to the United States or elsewhere to complete commercial pilot training at great cost.  The revenue and employment potential to this region and to the country is significant.  In my view, this is too big an opportunity to ignore.”

Senator Mac Sharry continued, “I am calling on the Minister for Jobs Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to carry out the feasibility study for this project.”