Let’s just briefly explain MPL. It stands for Multi Pilot License. It is a commercial pilot license and when it was introduced it was like the new black.
Another thing that places MPL among the Rolls Royce of pilot training, is that MPL is only something the really well connected flying schools can offer. This is because MPL is designed to work with an airline in the other end. Of course in principle there is nothing preventing an airline to go to any licensed flying school. In reality airlines have generally teamed up with some of the biggest and commercially and financially strongest flying schools. It kind of makes sense as of course the airline is interested in a strong partner that has a capacity to supply the airline with the pilots they need.
When you think about it the whole MPL idea is beautiful. You get an airline involved with flight training and you as the student is almost guaranteed a job in the end. What is not to like?
It is important to understand that compared to the “traditional pilot training” consisting of a CPL, ME-IR, MCC etc. a MPL is different. The MPL flying program is designed to make the transition from the flying school and into the airline as smooth as possible. High level you can think about it like there is focus on making you a co-pilot in a multi pilot operation. As the final goal is so well defined you can tailor make the MPL training and actually take some things out of the traditional pilot training package and instead add other things like more simulator time (flying big planes). Overall you get a really good specialized package and student pilot, flying school and airline are all very happy of the outcome.
The MPL marketing show when a flying school and an airline go together is impressive. It is almost like if you are not part of the MPL line you are not among the best pilots. You can almost hear the Top Gun Theme in the background. The aspiring pilot and bank of mom and dad are very satisfied. Even if you don’t have bank of mom and dad behind you it is not a show stopper. Many banks have fallen for the marketing of the MPL and have provided loans to MPL candidates.
The horrible truth about MPL
The MPL route has always had one big weakness. If the airline pulls out of the MPL arrangement then you don’t have a license you can use elsewhere. This is because you have taken a lot of things out of the training program. You have done your training in such a specialized manner using the airlines procedures that you basically end up with a license that cannot be used outside the airline.
The question a lot are asking themselves now is why the MPL students signed up for such a deal. We think it is because the whole program sounded so promising. No-one had imagined a world wide pandemic would change aviation. Also last time aviation was effected with the economic crisis in 2008 MPL was not around, so no one had actually had any experience with these programs during difficult times.
It is very easy to sit now and be clever but you have to remember that there was a lot of effort put into making MPL sound great. It was also presented as an option where the airline could invest in the pilot training because they had a guarantee that the pilot wouldn’t go elsewhere. To everyone it looked like a happy marriage.
Another thing to remember is that many compared MPL schemes to cadet schemes. Some even called them rich mans cadet scheme. This was because a cadet scheme in its traditional way tied the student into the airline but the funding was often paid by the airline. This investment by the airline was offset by the student signing a contract to work x amount of years for the airline. The MPL kind of had the same “smell” but with MPL the student paid the full amount. That is why MPL was only available to those that could come up with a lot of money – hence the rich mans reference.
Historically Cadet schemes have also faced troubled times. They have been suddenly closed and the students have been without a job. Some have ended up in a holding pool to wait for better times. Eventually the airline would most likely write of the training cost and set the student free. The student could then go to another employer having had basically a free pilot education. The big looser was clearly the airline.
If it goes wrong with a MPL the big looser is sadly the pilot. It doesn’t even get bad it gets catastrophic.
In the UK we have been made aware of one MPL scheme that has been closed. And now we are filled with horror of the consequences for the effected MPL student pilots. The closure of the MPL scheme means that the student has begun a pilot program that is not going to end up with a job with the airline. There is not even a holding pool, it is just closed. This is where you will start seeing the difference to the cadet scheme. What happens now is that the pilot is left with having paid for pilot training that is of not much use. Of course the flying school has a solution to the MPL students. The solution is to convert the MPL training to a traditional pilot license. But of course that will come at an extra cost which the MPL student has to pay.
That perhaps doesn’t sound that catastrophic but just wait.
- The price of the MPL is EUR 120.000.
- The price for the extra training the student has to pay is EUR 70.000. This is for converting the MPL into a traditional pilot license.
- This brings the total price, for the MPL students to EUR 190.000.
If the student want to stop their training, they do not have to pay the EUR 70.000 but then they are entitled to EUR “0” refund.
As a little comparison traditional pilot training usually cost about EUR 100.000. This means that the MPL students will end up paying EUR 90.000 more than other pilot students. All because they signed up for a fancy course with an airline.
In these Covid-19 times finding about EUR 70.000 will no doubt be extremely hard. The MPL student are therefor in high risk of loosing EUR 120.000 and end up with nothing at all.
For those students that can find the extra money remember they now have to pay interest on a training loan of EUR 190.000. Getting a pilot job doesn’t look easy with EASA predicting air travel to return to pre Covid-19 levels by 2024. All in all we think it is fair to call the situation catastrophic.
As a pilot community hopefully we will learn of this
We hope that every effected MPL pilot will find a solution and we also hope that every one considering becoming a pilot will learn of this heart breaking MPL story.
The good times will for sure return but when they do please do not fall for the marketing show that some flying schools will show you. Be critical and have a plan B for what you are going to do if aviation suddenly takes another nosedive. And please take any guarantees from a flying school or any airline as no more than a statement of intend.
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