10-10-05 - Airman Flight School, which has closed and disrupted the aviation education of dozens of students, will not reopen, the school's owner said.
Airman owner Jerry Carroll, 52, said he will file for bankruptcy and has no way to refund tuition payments.
Sixty-six former students and employees are suing the school, which closed Sept. 5, for breach of contract. Some allege that the school deceived students by taking their tuition when owners knew the school was closing.
Co-owner Brenda Keene denies this allegation.
"We did not take any money knowing that the school was going to close," Keene said. "We only took two small payments on Monday (Aug. 29) when we enrolled a class. We did not know the school was closing until Friday (Sept. 2)."
Many of those attending the school were international students.
Maggy Lin, 34, a former flight attendant for Eva Air in Taiwan, said she used her life savings of $25,000 to come to Norman and become a commercial airline pilot. She was about a month away from completing her flight training at Airman Flight School, which operated out of Max Westheimer Airport, and had paid all of her fees up front when the Airman closed.
"I just want to get my flight training done and I want to go home," Lin said.
If she transfers to another American flight school she will have to start over and pay up to $15,000 tuition to continue training, Lin said. Lin is in the country on a vocational student visa and fears having to leave before a settlement is reached.
Oklahoma City attorney Mary Travis, who is representing Carroll, claims 75 percent of the students listed as plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against Airman received more flight training than they paid for. The rest are owed money.
Among the defendants in the lawsuit are Airman owner Carroll, president of Airman Flight School, and KJB Flight Management LTD, an entity of which Keene and David Batton are principals. KJB has tried to buy Airman and was managing the school until it closed.
Batton blames the terrorist attacks in 2001 for the school's troubles
"That is part of the problem," Batton said. "The biggest impetus is 9/11."
Carroll said the school's insurance rates doubled after the attacks.
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the terrorist attacks, attended the school. Flight instructor Juan Carlos picked up Moussaoui at Will Rogers World Airport when he came to Oklahoma and took him back to the airport when he left. As a result, Carlos was on a federal terrorism watch list, said Pamela Tarling, Carroll's cousin who also has represented him in previous legal matters.
But Bret Glenn, who is representing the plaintiffs, said not all of Airman's woes were directly related to the terrorist attacks.
Glenn, who has a pilot's license, attended Airman earlier this year. He said he quit going to the school because the airplanes were down too much, often because of scheduling problems.
"I think it has been a complete mismanagement of a flight school," Glenn said.