EASA Examiner Paul Thompson
Of the many posts I have made on my site, few – if any – have put others down. Sadly, that’s about to change as I write about Paul Thompson – a British expat living in Florida. He used to be in Vero Beach but now he’s in Poinciana – not a million miles away from Orlando. As a long time customer of Paul’s, I was disappointed by his dishonesty on my most recent trip to Florida.
Draw your own conclusions from what I say and take to the skies with Paul if you please, but don’t assume that his completed paperwork will ever reach the CAA and don’t be fooled by his signature in your licence. It is not an indication that all is well for another year.
Unfortunately, before getting into the aircraft for my revalidation flight, Paul failed to tell me that he was no longer an EASA examiner. In fact, Paul didn’t tell me even after the flight or after I returned home. I had to find it out for myself. If this was an innocent mistake, then I would really love to hear an explanation, but just as I recognised that my own ratings were nearing expiry, I cannot understand how this man failed to realise that he was no longer an EASA examiner. Simply put, Paul is not permitted to sign anybody off for anything EASA or JAA related.
For those not familiar with how things work with an EASA pilot licence, it is a requirement to keep ratings (a rating being an endorsement to fly a specific type of aircraft e.g. single engine or multi-engine in specific conditions e.g. instrument meteorological conditions) current and to prove from time to time that you are still capable of flying.
In my case, my multi-engine piston and multi-engine instrument ratings were to expire on 31 January 2016. If you ‘revalidate’ (that is to be assessed before expiry), it can be as simple as jumping in the aircraft with an examiner and proving that you can still fly it; dealing with emergency situations, taking off, landing, manoeuvres and some single engine operation. When there’s an instrument rating, it’s just a case of flying some holds and some instrument approaches in addition. After revalidation comes ‘renewal’ so if you are assessed following the expiry of your rating, the Civil Aviation Authority requires you to undergo mandatory training before being signed off again. This extra training, especially at UK prices, can burn a huge hole in your pocket.
I have flown with Paul Thompson many times in the past. My first flight was in May 2010 when we took to the skies on a hot day for my CPL (commercial) test. Next was November 2013, when I returned for the renewal of my SEP (single engine piston) and then again in January 2014, January 2015, and, more recently, January 2016 for the revalidation of my multi-engine instrument rating.
Revalidating and renewing in Florida has always been hugely appealing. First of all, I spent a lot of time there during 2009 and 2010 so it feels like a second home. Alongside the flying, there’s also the added bonus of being in the Sunshine State. It’s Florida; good weather is almost guaranteed and when not in the air, there’s plenty to do elsewhere. Lastly, the cost of flying in Florida is so much cheaper than home. A fully fuelled Duchess in Florida can be picked up for around $225 per hour, whilst the slightly larger Seneca in the UK will cost in excess of £400.
It was on 18 December that I sent off an email to Paul Thompson. I was keen to get back in the air during the month of January and I wanted to take advantage of his services again. There was no reply.
Later, I sent a message via Whatsapp, but still getting nowhere, I was losing hope. I made one last ditch attempt to reach Paul on 7 January 2016. If there was still to be no reply, I would have been happy to make alternative arrangements – and, in hindsight, I wish I had. I would not have minded if Paul would have told me “I don’t want to fly”, “I can’t fly” or the more honest “I’m not an examiner any more”.
On 10 January, Paul responded, and my mind was put at ease. My expiry date was looming, and, if I am honest, I hadn’t really planned financially for revalidating in the UK. Even taking into consideration the cost of a flight, a hire car and somewhere to stay, it worked out cheaper to head to Florida.
We later agreed to fly on Monday 25 January at 10:30hrs. I was to fly in the same aircraft, a Beechcraft Duchess 76 with registration N2009Y, out of Orlando Apopka Airport. This was an aircraft I had flown in two years prior. I must point out that I have absolutely no concerns about the aircraft or its owner. If given the opportunity to rent this aircraft again, I wouldn’t hesitate. It’s great value and in great shape too with the owner investing lots of time and money in it’s complete overhaul.
I set off to Florida feeling quite pleased that all had come together. Since I get to fly once in a blue moon, I was excited to be spending a few hours in the air and getting my two ratings revalidated for one more year.
As planned, we met in Apopka and took to the skies shortly after 11.00am for a little over 2 hours 10 minutes of general handling, landings in various configurations, a VOR hold, an ILS approach and a GPS approach back into Apopka – concluding what seemed to be a successful flight.
I woke up that morning feeling terrible and through lack of sleep, an awful headache and a quite persistent cough, I wasn’t on top form. In my hurry to get on the road, I rather stupidly left without my licence. When you revalidate, the examiner will sign a couple of lines in it and away you go. The examiner also has to complete his own CAA paperwork and get that back to their offices in the UK – and that confirms everything.
It wasn’t a problem though. Paul allowed me to visit him at his home in Poinciana the following morning, where we stood on his driveway signing the CAA form – which he had me sign in two places – and he put his signature in my licence twice. One for the MEP (multi-engine) and another for the MEIR (instrument rating).
A few days after the flight, I started to hear some rumours about Paul, which, having seen his signature in my licence and his completed CAA paperwork, I thought nothing of. It had been suggested that Paul ceased to be an examiner as of September 2015. I continued my holiday and it didn’t cross my mind again.
When I was contacted again, with a more reliable source confirming that Paul was no longer an examiner, I sent Paul and the Civil Aviation Authority an email – one to him asking for the paperwork that he would normally have sent by now (copying me into his email) and the other to CAA asking if there was truth in what I was hearing.
Paul’s silence and the Civil Aviation Authority’s reluctance to give away too much information too soon confirmed that the rumours were true. Frankly, I would have been more surprised if he or they would have come back and said, “don’t worry, Michael, everything is in order”.
On 9 February, in black and white, I had the email from the Civil Aviation Authority confirming what I had expected for a few days now – “I am afraid that you are not able to exercise the privileges of the ratings revalidated by Mr Thompson”.
Putting aside the cost of the trip itself, the cost of my flight with Paul was $845.00. That was $420.00 for the aircraft, $75.00 for fuel and $350.00 in fees for Paul. His rate had been the same for at least three years – and some of that was meant for the Civil Aviation Authority.
To be honest, I am not sure what infuriates me more. Is it that Paul has taken my hard and honestly earned cash in exchange for something that he could no longer offer? Is it that he put his signature in my licence when he wasn’t authorised to do so? Is it that he went to such extreme lengths to convince me that all was in order e.g. having me sign a CAA form? Or is it that he signed my licence to say that I could go flying in the clouds, when actually I couldn’t? What I do know is that I feel cheated by a man that I had trusted for some years – a man that I had flown with five times over five years – and this is how he rewards my loyalty.
So, Paul, thank you. Thank you for deceiving me, thank you for going to such great lengths for a miserable $350 and thank you for putting an end to my dream of one day flying for one of the big players.
Please, please, please, all learn from this mistake. If you have flown with Paul in the past, get onto the Civil Aviation Authority now and check whether or not your rating(s) are valid. If you are due to fly with Paul soon, cancel your plans and make sure you don’t pay a penny for his ‘examiner’ services.
And if you are flying with any examiner – whether at home or overseas – don’t be afraid to check the credentials of him or her.
Finally, I leave you with my angry email sent to Paul on 10 February:
Even before sending the email below to you, I was making enquiries with the CAA about the validity of your examiner rating, after information was given to me (by two separate sources) to suggest that it expired a long time ago. It was confirmed to me by the CAA yesterday that this information is correct and that you were not permitted to revalidate my multi-engine piston and instrument ratings on 25 January 2016.
I cannot think of any logical explanation for this oversight. Just as I realised that my ratings were nearing expiry, you as an examiner must have known that you were no longer permitted to assess me, nor put your signature in my licence.
Not only have you taken my money for a flight that was never going to count for anything, you have put a signature in my licence suggesting that I am competent enough to jump in a multi-engine aircraft and go flying in the clouds. You also went to the trouble of completing your CAA paperwork – and had me put my signature on it in two places!
What you have done is committed fraud – you have obtained property (my money) by deception. You have defrauded me (and others – from what I can understand from the Civil Aviation Authority). This is not something that I will be brushing under the carpet.
I would like to insist that you reimburse me my flying related costs of $845.00 – that is your fee (which included a test fee) of $350.00, fuel costs of $75.00 and aircraft hire of $420.00. This needs to happen as a matter of urgency.
Furthermore, I am considering pursuring you for additional costs. It was made very clear to you in our early exchange of emails that with my ratings expiring on 31 January 2016 I was still able to revalidate. Since my revalidations with you counted for absolutely nothing, I am now faced with a very costly renewal, no doubt at UK rates. I feel that you should cover my extra costs in addition to those that I have already incurred. The CAA has also confirmed that there can be no exceptions. My ratings are now expired so I have to spend an unspecified number of hours in the air undergoing further training.
I have no idea what action the CAA will take against you – if any – but I will be raising this matter to the appropriate authorities in Florida when returning home this evening, including the Federal Aviation Administration. I feel so strongly about how you have defrauded me that I am tempted to book myself onto another flight to Florida and see this through – ensuring that you are dealt with harshly for the crime that you have committed. A nine hour flight and £400 is a small price to pay.
I am not sure what I find more astounding – the fact that you went to so much trouble to get a mere $350.00 out of me or that you put your signature in my log book, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to exercise my multi-engine and instrument rating privileges. What would have happened if I had taken a multi-engine aircraft for a flight back at home and I had run into difficulties in the air?
If there is an explanation, I would really like to hear it, but given that a week has passed since my last email to you, I suspect that there will be no further contact.
Please do not think that by ignoring me, that this problem will go away. I will pursue this to the fullest extent, making sure that you are reprimanded for what you have done.
11 February 2016
Rather surprisingly, Paul has responded to my email. His reply was severely lacking in words because of a “small screen”, but small screen or not, he must have gotten the gist of what I was saying. With the tables turned, if I were receiving an email accusing me of fraud and deception and talking about reporting me to the authorities, I would be panic-stricken, and I certainly wouldn’t be so relaxed about making contact “next week”.
11 February 2016
I have informed the Federal Aviation Administration of my dealings with Mr Thompson.
20 February 2016
It’s Saturday night now and there has (unsurprisingly) been no word from Paul. Did I think he would reply, as he said he would? Honestly, no. I sent a further email to him earlier today:
I am not sure that you are taking this serious matter seriously enough. In fact, I do not think you have given it any more of your attention. I have said before and I say again – the problem will not go away by simply ignoring me.
I have demanded from you the $845 in flying fees that I incurred – including aircraft hire, your fee and fuel. You took me into the air under false pretences, and so, you will reimburse me all costs. You can cough up now without any further action being taken or I will instruct a solicitor to pursue you. If I have to go down this route, I will be looking for significantly more – to cover my entire trip to Florida (which, without my revalidations, was a huge waste of time and money), one week of lost earnings and the extra costs that I will now incur to renew in the UK. I believe around $7,000-8,000. It’s your choice.
Your silence is, in my opinion, an admission of your guilt. Whilst others might have tolerated your antics – I will not. I have already reported you to the Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration and to [name removed] – whose aircraft we flew for ‘revalidations’ on 25 January. I would also recommend, if you haven’t done it already, that you put your name into Google.
Please confirm within the next 7 days when I can expect my refund. Things are otherwise going to get much more complicated and expensive for you.
Only written contact please. I will not discuss this matter by telephone where there can be no record of any discussion that takes place.