The Maldives’ only pilot training school based in Addu City’s Gan International Airport is planning to relocate to Noonu atoll after failed negotiations over a new lease.
Run by the Asian Academy of Aeronautics, the flight school will move its operations to a new international airport to be opened on Maafaru island by June next year, AAA CEO Suranjan De Silva told newspaper Mihaaru on Wednesday.
Negotiations with the Addu International Airport, which manages the airport in the southernmost atoll, broke down after the state-owned company proposed to increase the rent, according to De Silva, who said the rent proposed by Maafaru was much smaller in comparison.
“We plan to build accommodation for 200 students as well. This will lower the accommodation expenses for students too,” he was quoted as saying.
The school also plans to start aeronautical engineering courses after the move to the northern island.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, AIA Director Ibrahim Nooradeen testified to parliament’s state-owned enterprises oversight committee about the airport company’s finances.
AIA did not earn a substantial profit under the 10-year lease agreement with the flight school, which expires this year, Nooradeen told MPs. But the flight school collected US$7 million in course fees for 2018, he added.
“From 2012 to 2018, Addu Airport only got US$38,000 [in airport charges] and US$400,000 by renting some buildings. So what the atoll gets or the government gets from the lease is very small,” he said.
Nooradeen noted that 80 percent of the airport charges for the flying school operations, such as airport aviation charge and the night-flying charge, were not levied under the existing agreement.
AIA proposed to take a share of profits during negotiations to renew the lease, which was turned down by the AAA.
Nooradeen stressed that AIA’s expenses of MVR3.9 million (US$253,000) exceeded its revenue of about MVR2.9 million.
Amid uncertainty over the future of the flight school, the higher education ministry announced earlier this week that loans issued to students for pilot training in the Maldives can now be used to complete their studies abroad.
The move came after parents complained about two-year courses at the school taking much longer to complete, alleging to local media that some students have had to wait years due to delays in their final examinations.
But AAA CEO De Silva denied the allegations and blamed poor attendance and failure to pay course fees on time for the delays.
Nearly 100 Maldivian students are currently studying at the Addu flight school.