‘We won’t take your call,’ says collapsed flight school Soar

written by Adam Thorn | January 4, 2021
An image from Soar Aviation’s Facebook page, taken in 2019.

Callers trying to contact collapsed flight school Soar Aviation on Monday were presented with a voice message bluntly informing them that the business wouldn’t be taking or responding to any messages.

The reply comes after the controversial training institution entered administration, with unsecured creditors reportedly owed $850,000, leaving many of its current trainees in limbo.

Callers, many of whom are likely to be current students, trying to get through to Soar were given no advice on how to seek help, and were simply told, “Unfortunately, as of 29 December 2020, we are unable to take your call, take any messages or return any messages. We apologies for any inconvenience caused.”

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On that date, the business entered administration with KPMG partners Brendan Richards and James Stewart appointed to help the business pay off its huge debt pile.

Richards later told The Australian, “When we were appointed there wasn’t sufficient cash in the business to continue operating it. We have taken the decision to close the business.

“We’ve retained some core staff to assist us in developing a plan for the future of the business.

“We are canvassing the market for potentially interested parties who may be keen to do a quick deal having regard to the fact it’s a really good turn-key operation.”

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Founded in 2012 as Bendigo Aviation Services, the company was renamed Soar Aviation in 2013 and offered Diploma in Aviation courses and other flying courses in partnership with the Box Hill Institute.

It has 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, according to the company’s website, as well as a CKAS 7D0F simulator.

However, things turned sour in 2019 when 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 sparked by complaints by former students, alleging they didn’t receive the training they were promised.

Gordon Legal then launched a class action on behalf of 200 students arguing its teaching standards were so poor it didn’t meet the basic CASA requirements to obtain a pilot’s licence.

While the business had its accreditation restored it still faced sanctions.

More seriously, the ATSB is currently investigating an incident that saw a Soar Aviation instructor and student die when one of its Aquila AT01s crashed in the NSW central west last year.

Both Saket Kapoor, 38 and Shipra Sharma, 26, died when the incident occurred at a private airstrip. No conclusions have yet been reported by the ATSB.

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.

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8 Comments

  • Yet CASA has failed to oversee the operations of this College.
    This unconventional get rich quick model was never going to work.
    I wonder how much students have borrowed under VET-Fee Help that the Commonwealth will chase.
    The model was never going to work and I am amazed that greedy private equity were sucked in to fund it.
    The conventional model is very workable for commercial pilots. One only has to look at Australian Wings Academy and Flight Training Adelaide and just forget the Johnny come lately.

  • Peter

    says:

    A total scam from start to finish, where was CASA & ASQA/VRQA ?? The light touch regulator is a total waste of time !!

  • Josh

    says:

    Soar was not “founded as Bendigo Aviation Services”. Soar was founded as an RAA-only operation in Melbourne and later (circa 2015) purchased Bendigo Aviation Services so it could expand in to GA operations. The previous owners of Bendigo Aviation Services have had no interest in Soar since this time.

  • Jon

    says:

    With students being owed a ton of money, shafted by management and wondering where to turn, should be the PERFECT introduction to the industry and what to expect for their ‘career’ for its entirety.

  • Eran

    says:

    There is an employee at the Bankstown office who answers the phone and tries to help. I got my training file without any problems, but as a private student I’m not owed anything so less affected.

  • Ash K

    says:

    The death of the instructor and student was the final nail in the coffin. I am a former student at Soar and repeatedly raised concerns their Bristells and Aquilas were being pushed beyond safety limits during airwork. Hope Gordon legal take this into account

  • Nick B.

    says:

    I remember looking around YMMB for a flight school. I drove and looked at them all* asked questions, met the CFIs (if they were available) and made my decision on balance. I met the former head of Soar, and chose another flying school. It’s nothing personal, he seemed like a real “entrepreneural” type and I was more conservative. So his school wasn’t for me even though it was the cheapest by far.

    Bottom line… Check out all your options before you choose and flying school. Don’t pay upfront and an extra $30 an hr is saved when you get your ticket in less hours.

  • Alistair

    says:

    It bewilders me how people assume that every student who set out to become a Commercial Pilot will actually succeed. You cant simply pay your way to a Commercial Licence, you need to want to do it, and get it done. Many did at Soar, in fact 100’s of graduates achieved their CPL. The one’s who couldn’t when they had the chance would most likely have failed elsewhere too, the vast majority of whom hadn’t even passed a single CASA exam. You can dress this story up in a million ways with ‘red lipstick’ as much as you like but facts are facts. A spud is always a spud, a spade, is always just that, a spade. Truth

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