Flying Schools fly by night

The Real Score

Justify Full
By Recto Mercene

July 7, 2010
Part 1
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CAAP Starts Cleansing: Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief Alfonso Cusi (right) signs pilot’s licenses. Cusi has called in the National Bureau of Investigation to ferret out the syndicates issuing bogus examination results and pilots certificates in exchange for hefty bribes. Looking on is Capt. Raul Trinidad, technical assistant and Caap lead investigator into the manufactured documents.
THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has found strong evidence of collusion between flying-school authorities and some officials of the former Air Transportation Office (ATO) who issued fraudulent pilots licenses and fabricated certificates signed with the forged signatures of former Air Transportation assistant secretaries without actually taking the written examinations.

Some examinees may have taken only a few of the five test subjects but were eventually made to appear that they hurdled all the tests, then applied or received commercial pilot certificates from the school where they enrolled.

To expedite the long hours of flying needed to qualify before taking the examinations, some student pilots, with the tacit approval of their schools, padded their flying hours by logging flights that were not actually flown.

These were among the findings that the NBI reported to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Director General Alfonso Cusi.

Cusi called in the NBI after he was informed, shortly after assuming office in March that a syndicate had been operating within the aviation body for decades, dispensing licenses and certificates in exchange for hefty bribes.

Cusi has appointed Capt. Raul Trinidad, a former Philippine Airlines Boeing 747 captain, as lead investigator, coordinating closely with the NBI to flush out the members of the syndicates and hale them to court.

Passing the airmen’s examination and getting certified as a private pilot is a highly expensive and time-consuming process, since airmen’s examinations are difficult and an aspiring student pilot needs to pass different examinations like a lawyer wanting to hurdle the bar or a physician taking the board examinations, said Trinidad.

Only when one had successfully hurdled all the examinations can a pilot be certified either as a student, private or commercial pilots.

However, the NBI has found that one foreign student passed the eight subjects on the same day and got an 80-percentage-point grade on each subject taken.

Not content with that, the foreign student allegedly took the written examination to get a rating to fly a twin-engine airplane and an additional rating for a Cessna 172 four-seater trainer.

“This guy is a genius,” says Trinidad, who says that, usually, a student takes the test one subject per week or, at most, two subjects a week if he is really a good student.

The student pilot in question was also found to have received his flying certificate from private pilot to commercial pilot within one month.

The NBI and the Caap have found that the certificates given to some students bore the signature of the former ATO chief, Daniel Dimagiba. However, the latter denied that it was his signature that was on the document and submitted specimens of his signature to the NBI for comparison.

The NBI also impounded the typewriters at the Caap’s examination board’s office to trace the source of the bogus certificates.

Trinidad added that the NBI has hired forensic experts on signature identification to find out who forged the bogus documents issued to the pilots, many of whom are foreigners.

Trinidad says the criminal syndicates usually make arrangement with some flying schools to agree on a package deal where the examination results and certificates would be delivered for a fee of between $30,000 and $50,000, depending on the student’s degree of achievement.

From student pilot, which usually takes only 25 hours of flying, the pilot-trainee conducts more flights and take another set of examination to be certified as a “Private Pilot.”

Thereafter, through the years of continuous flying and examinations, he becomes a “Commercial Pilot,” an “Instrument-Rated Pilot,” an “Air Transport-Rated Pilot,” which eventually qualifies him to become an airline pilot, although starting as a copilot.

A similar flying school at Clark Field in Pampanga charges P2 million, guaranteeing that the applicant would graduate within two years and be qualified as an Airbus 320 pilot, Trinidad said.

Most of the victims are Indian students.

There are some of them—willing and unwilling victims—from India, who said they enrolled in the Philippines because of the proficiency of Filipinos in English, aside from the reasonable tuition.

Another Indian student, who will remain anonymous, find out to his surprise that he has a bogus certificate when he applied to become a commercial pilot.

Trinidad says the student went to seek the help of the Indian Embassy, who coordinated with the Caap to try to clear the issue.

That was when Cusi discovered the anomalous procedures at the Caap licensing section, forcing him to seek NBI help.

“I want to bring back the integrity of our flying licenses,” Cusi said.

Flying Schools Probed
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines on Tuesday said it was investigating at least 63 flying schools in the country after the agency confirmed reports of fake pilot licenses and leakages of flight examination answers given to aviation students.

In a press conference, CAAP consultant and head investigator Raul Trinidad said several Filipino and foreign aviation students were able to obtain “packages” in return for US$30,000 to US$40,000 (P1.4 million to P1.86 million) cash. They are given correct answers to a series of tests they have to take as part of their certification and a genuine license to show that they passed.

Trinidad said three CAAP teams, with the help of National Bureau of Investigation agents, have been undertaking a nationwide probe for the past three weeks. At least nine CAAP personnel from the licensing division and examination board of the CAAP have been asked to submit affidavits to explain their alleged involvement in the irregularities.

The CAAP official showed reporters one “fake” certificate indicating a foreign student taking five different examinations for just one day. The certificate showed that the examinee scored 80 percent in each subject, namely, civil air regulations, theory of flight, meteorology, emergency procedure and navigation.

“One exam is usually taken for one whole day but in this certificate the student took all five exams in one day, which is not possible. There are really irregularities,” Trinidad said.

The sample that he showed has a control number that is not found in the records of the CAAP examination board, he added.

He said there were also cases wherein certificates for commercial pilot, training aircraft, twin engine and airmen exams turned out to be fake. The performance and training certificates were submitted to the CAAP so that it could issue a corresponding pilot’s license.

Trinidad said licenses were indeed issued despite fake certificates that were submitted, which only means students who did not undergo a real skills testing may now be flying aircraft.

Trinidad said 63 flying schools, which he declined to identify, will be undergoing a “thorough inspection.” He also declined to identify the foreign students issued fake licenses or to say if they were already flying aircraft.

“If the schools aren’t compliant, it will be investigated and eventually be suspended. If it’s proven that it’s just fly-by-night flying schools, they will be closed down,” Trinidad said.

He also called on the flying school graduates to come to the agency and expose the school officials responsible.

“We won’t go after them (the students). We’re here to help them,” he said, adding that the investigation was in compliance with the requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

He said the fake licenses and exam leakages were one of the factors behind ICAO’s negative assessment of the Philippine aviation industry. This had led to industry’s downgrading by the United States Federal Aviation Administration in 2008 and blacklisting by the European Aviation Safety Agency this year.

Probe hopes to bring back lost prestige
By Recto Mercene
Part 2

The number of foreign students enrolled in local flying schools has gone down over the years owing to a perceived decline in the worth of Philippine-issued pilots’ licenses in the eyes of the international community.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) chief Alfonso Cusi cites one cost of such decline: thousands of these foreign students bring in plenty of hard currencies into the country’s coffers, preferring to enroll here because it is cheaper to graduate in the Philippines compared with other countries.

He said foreign students also find the English-speaking community of Filipinos easy to deal with, aside from their hospitality and friendly nature.

Foreign students who have gained their wings in the Philippines include Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sudanese, Saudi Arabian, Malaysian, Korean, Jordanian and Canadian pilots.

India alone has sent to various countries, including the Philippines, about 20,000 students to learn how to fly in anticipation of the growth of the subcontinent’s commercial airline industry, according to Ronie Briones, a senior aviation safety officer of the CAAP.

He said many foreigners also choose the Philippines over other countries because Manila readily offers student visas or special student permits to those wanting to get training that includes ground schooling, supervised flying and simulators.

The United States has many flying schools, but foreign students are usually discouraged by the expensive tuition that schools there charge.

Meanwhile, Cusi said the ongoing investigation into the reported issuance of fake licenses and certificates is aimed at getting back the prestige that once made Philippine flying schools famous and prestigious.

 Even as the investigation is going on, Cusi said the Caap issues about 1,000 licenses a month to would-be captains of commercial airlines.

He added that since the investigation started three weeks ago, the aviation body has temporarily stopped conducting licensing examinations, but had since resumed this after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) entered the picture.

He said that with NBI’s help, the Caap would be able to identify the flying schools issuing bogus licenses and certificates, including some corrupt insiders.

Some flying schools and foreign students are cooperating in the investigation.

“These fake licenses and certificates are very serious matters that undermine the credibility and integrity of Philippine flying schools, and we would like to see this investigation to lead to some convictions,” Cusi told a press conference.

He added that the Caap had seen to it that no foreign students linked with any terrorist organization gets enrolled in the Philippines. Student visas are subject to scrutiny by the Immigration bureau, in coordination with foreign embassies.

One of the best of these schools used to be that run by Philippine Airlines (PAL), where many of the captains who used to command some Asian airlines were graduates, according to Capt. Raul Trinidad, a senior adviser to Cusi.

There is a mad rush to get a pilot’s license because of the projected need for about 20,000 pilots worldwide within the next 10 to 15 years due to the expanding air-travel business and the unstoppable movement of people around the globe, according to Lino Zapanta, president of Seair and professor at the University of the Philippines.

Zapanta said airlines worldwide are preparing to buy thousands of airplanes in the next 10 years because of the expected rise in the number of air travelers all over the globe.


  1. this is all the handywork of these corrupt ex-ATO and ex-PAF guys. at least now a good guy has taken over and is trying to clean the place up! is Pnoy interested in guys lke cusi and his team, who are cleaning up the government system of corrupt and dishonest officials? or do they have already their own agenda of corruption?

  2. Let's give Cusi a chance. He's an industry outsider, and that seems to be his strongest point. Most say it is also his weakest point. But we've had enough of the stilted, parochial thinking of retired generals. Look where it's brought us.

    I would advise Mr. Cusi to extend his investigation beyond pilot licenses to that of A&P's as well. I'm sure he will find a lot of anomalous goings-on there as well. The rot in the AEB extends to ALL airmen licenses.

  3. hopefully dg cusi can make the change in caap finally. he seems to be a straight shooter and his team look very serious in what they are doing.

    it takes a manager to see the sicknesses our caap has. god speed to him and his men!

    hopefully they will finally succeed! mabuhay

  4. Am a foreigner sry its not like hurting anyone this people cannot clean up this corruption within a day,week,or month it will take a year to clean up. the schools under trouble bcoz of different country requirements so they give loggings but they fly all hours with till achieve there knowledge.
    bcoz of this sum good schools affected and the foreign students are very much affected bcoz of delay in caap on releasing licenses.
    am here for 1 year i just completed PPL applied 172 rating am waiting for 3 months to get license mines is not fake i wrote the exams i failed 1 time i wrote it again and cleared why my license is nnt released? why its stopped? our ctry requirement is different so we are getting loggings but we fly all flying hours..
    its truth if u check the CAAP peoples they itself will have loggings...
    this wat happening u cant clean up in 1 day if u take a long time foreigners will be suffered lot it can lead to dangerous sitiation for there lifes...
    capt trinitad helping us but make it fast plzzz

  5. Sorry about your plight mate. CAA is on a crackdown right now, including its own men. We are sure if your school is on the A list you probably won't have problems like that, but if they are listed as one of the 64, then we are very sure that you have to wait for a little bit longer. In fact, there is a chance that you may have to re-take all of them. Other AV schools doesn't have problems though. Check with CAA and see if your school is listed, if not then surely you would not be having those problems.

  6. Even if caap is on a crack down on it's own men it needs a leader like cusi to lead by sample. What will happen if cusi is gone? Happy days again for the buyans and the ex paf guys to fill their pockets.

    How will we ever improve our aviation industry without strong and Incorruptable government leaders?

  7. The rumors have it that a ex PAF Col. is eyeing the position desperately also he is well aware that the present DG has a term in office of 4 years.

    Looks that PNoy is not serious in his campaign against corruption if he would even think taking out the existing DG and replacing him at all wosre, replacing him with another ex-PAF flyer.

  8. Daniel Dimagiba, CAAP deputy director general for operations came forward this afternoon amidst allegation of involvement in the proliferation of fake pilot licenses in the Philippines.

    Dimagiba argued that his signature appearing on the fake licenses was merely forged by those producing the counterfeit document. Intelligence report however confirmed his participation.

    The Deputy Director had been probed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in 1991, regarding a similar incident of a fake pilot licenses but the case against him was dismissed for lack of evidence.

    This time Cusi is not about to let him loose as they build case against him.

    Dimagiba in his defense claimed that people in the agency were trying to discredit him, he being a "threat" to the post of CAAP director general Alfonso Cusi.

  9. Daniel Dimagiba is the root cause of all corruption in ATO or CAAP! Its his wrong doing which caused our downgrading!

    Liars go to hell!

  10. Ohh man. i guess the government must keep an eye on this issue.