It would be interesting to see some informed response here to this media coverage (nb I’ve not tried looking at Prune or The Goat yet in respect of the claims)
RAF blows £50m on flying lessons with zero students as school refuses to refund cash
Story by Christopher Sharp • Wednesday 17 May 2023
A private flying school is refusing to refund £50million spent by the RAF on flying lessons which never took place. Ascent was paid the vast sum for 86 courses which never took place as part of a £2.5billion pound deal to privatise training.
Following the shocking revelation, former Armed Forces minister Mark Francois described the contract as a “basket case” and vowed that MPs would investigate, The Sun reports.
Mr Francois added that the situation was like “paying for a driving test you never take”.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it wasn’t aware of how much each course cost, but analysis shows that each course cost a staggering £600,000.
The UK Military Flying Training System was reportedly supposed to save millions of pounds, but this scandal suggests the opposite has occurred.
According to reports, top officials were forced to guess how many classes were needed rather than work out how many were required.
They booked 560 helicopter flying courses between 2018 and 2023. Of these, 86 were no longer required after the end of the war in Afghanistan.
Ex-fighter pilot Tim Davies said the deal was forced on the RAF which he said “cannot flex to cope with new numbers”
Mr Davies added: “The taxpayer ends up picking up the tab.”
In response to the news, Ascent said they worked “as one team” with the MoD and its procurement arm DE&S.
Ascent has said they will not refund the courses or use the time to clear the backlog of other pilots.
The news comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ordered an audit of flying training after leaks showed 350 trainee pilots were waiting years for courses.
In a statement, the MoD insisted the payment was not per class.
A spokesperson said: "Payment is made for a complete service provision which includes aircraft, engineering, hangars, schoolhouses, instructors, syllabus, courseware, flying kit and admin support in all areas.
“The contract has been designed to meet the needs of the frontline which informs the numbers of aircraft, simulators, instructors and even informs the size of hangars, this translates into the requirement against which the UKMFTS contracts are placed.”
The controversy comes during a period when the RAF is trying to save money and modernise its fleet as they try to balance the books whilst maintaining Britain’s status as a major air power.