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Thu, Jun 16, 2005

TAB Express Closes Doors

Student pilots training with TAB Express in DeLand, Florida, got something they didn't bargain for with their large (reputedly in some cases, up to $100,000) up-front payments:

Locked out.

Last night the five year old school abruptly closed its doors, leaving 49 employees and at least 80 students hanging. An unscheduled 135 commuter operation that TAB Express had operated as an adjunct to the flight school for about a year also shut down.

The company said it took this action "to insure the safety and well-being of its students."

This afternoon, TAB Express's websites were not operating.

Other flight schools in the region are considering whether they can do something, individually or collectively, to help the stranded students.

In a statement provided to local, but not to aviation media, TAB attributed its shutdown to "a dispute with Key Bank regarding funding of its students and operations of the flight school."

Key Bank is an Ohio bank that has been in the forefront of lending to pilot training programs -- not just TAB, but also many other professional pilot schools. Earlier this year, Key stopped lending, at least to TAB students.

In April, TAB filed suit against Key Bank in Federal district court in Orlando.

(DeLand attorney Timothy Fiedler, representing TAB Express, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that since the lawsuit was filed Key has stopped lending to students at other flight schools).

TAB Express is well known through the industry for its large (half-page), full-color ads in glossy aviation magazines. In a 2003 ad that still touted the availability of up to $100,000 through Key Bank and a relationship with American Eagle, one of the selling points of the ab-initio school was that "90% of all flight training to FAA Commercial pilot license, instrument and multi-engine ratings are in a King Air turboprop, at prices most flight schools charge for training in a Cessna 172 or Piper Seminole."

FMI: www.tabexpress.com (Best Bones McCoy voice: "It's dead, Jim.")

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