Hundreds of students that enrolled with collapsed flight school Soar are set to receive a five-figure payout after agreeing to a $33 million settlement.
Soar collapsed into administration on 29 December 2020, and it came with the company indirectly facing a class action from students arguing its standards were so poor it didn’t meet the subsequent requirements to obtain a pilot licence.
The payout means many former students will now be able to enrol in new courses and qualifications after having used up their limited student loans.
The case was brought by Gordon Legal against Melbourne TAFE provider Box Hill Institute (BHI), which partnered with Soar for the course.
Of the final amount, $5.455 million in legal fees and $4.8 million in administrative costs will be deducted, and the settlement still has to be approved in a court hearing scheduled for 17 November.
The class action made a number of claims, including accusing BHI of breaching its duty of care by working with the troubled flight school.
It also stated BHI engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct” by suggesting to potential students that it would enable them to subsequently obtain a CASA pilot licence.
In January 2020, Australian Aviation reported how those calling the flight school in the days after its collapse were were presented with a voice message bluntly informing them that the business wouldn’t be taking or responding to any messages.
It was the last chapter in a difficult history for the once-prestigious flight school.
Founded in 2012, the company grew to have campuses at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, Bendigo Airport in regional Victoria, and Sydney’s Bankstown Airport.
Its fleet of 50 aircraft comprised Bristell LSA, Technam P2006T, Foxbat A22LS, Vixxen A32 and Aquila A210 aircraft, as well as a CKAS 7D0F simulator.
However, things turned sour in 2019 when partners Box Hill demanded the business supply documentation about its fleet and trainers.
Soar’s registered training organisation status was then revoked after an audit by the regulatory body for vocational education before Gordon Legal launched its class action.
While the business eventually had its accreditation restored, it still faced sanctions before it finally collapsed into administration late in 2020.
Founder Neel Khokhani resigned in early 2019, though has insisted it was purely a result of personal health reasons unrelated to the company’s struggles.
More seriously, the ATSB is also investigating an incident that saw a Soar Aviation instructor and student die when one of its Aquila AT01s crashed in NSW in 2020.
More recently, in a separate incident, the ATSB in May 2021 said a Soar Aviation student pilot who crashed his Bristell aircraft and suffered serious head injuries didn’t have permission to conduct the flight solo.
However, the report revealed the trainee believed he did have authorisation, despite clearly not following the correct procedures.