More than 1,000 students of collapsed flights school Soar face waiting until September before their case for compensation can be heard in Victoria’s Supreme Court, Australian Aviation can reveal.
It means many of the pupils, some of whom claim to have ‘lost’ tens of thousands of dollars, are unable to afford to enrol for alternative qualifications as they have used up their limited student loan.
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’s licence.
The ATSB is also currently investigating a separate incident that saw a Soar Aviation instructor and student die when one of its Aquila AT01s crashed in the NSW central west.
Now more than 1,000 former pupils who studied a diploma of aviation at Box Hill Institute (BHI) in Melbourne are suing the TAFE provider, which partnered with Soar.
The class action, overseen by Gordon Legal, makes a number of claims, including accusing BHI of breaching its duty of care by working with the troubled flight school.
It also states BHI engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct” by suggesting to potential students that it would enable them to subsequently obtain a CASA pilot’s licence. The case will begin on 22 September and the 25-day hearing will be heard before the Honourable Justice John Dixon.
BHI is set to deny the claims and has told Australian Aviation it doesn’t wish to comment before the outcome of the case.
A date in September would mean two years of limbo for those who say they are now out of pocket, but the two sides are currently undertaking mediation with the hope an out-of-court settlement can be reached.
Gordon Legal told Australian Aviation in a statement, “Any group member who has not sought legal advice about the impact of the class action on their individual situation is welcome to contact us. Initial contact with Gordon Legal is confidential and without obligation. So far more than half of the 1,000 or so group members known to have enrolled in BHI’s Diploma of Aviation course during the relevant time have already contacted Gordon Legal.”
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.
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 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.
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.