Open letter to SABA President Khurshid Khoja, Esquire

In Re: American School of Aviation

Dear Mr.Khoja

I applause and thank you for the SABA’s decision to come to aid for the American School of Aviation students stranded in Atwater. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel with a hope of getting out the quagmire at long last.

Early this year, Silver State Helicopters (SSH) school in Las Vegas closed by filing a Chapter 7. Over 2,500 students lost $70,000 each. They operated 250 helicopters at 40 school locations. If the past similar school closure cases are any indication, the prosecution of the ASA case seems less likely. Your writing to the county DA requesting criminal charges to be brought against the unscrupulous school owner(s) is a step in the right direction.

For the recovery of student fund in absence of any disposable assets likely to be left with ASA, I am of an opinion that only viable means is to name both the Kingfisher Airlines and the student loan lending institutions as co-defendants in the lawsuit. The desire to keep their public image from tarnished is likely to make them think twice to get entangled in a lawsuit and it would bring them swiftly to the settlement table.

While no lawyers are miracle workers, I trust that one of your able member lawyers with legal expertise in this venue and judicial connection in India could rise to an occasion to build a strong enough case to achieve success in recovering the lost student’s fund.

In July 2007, the Bureau for Private Post secondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) was abolished much to the public dismay leaving the consumers statewide unprotected. While your organization’s bifurcated effort in civil and criminal front continues, it would serve a great public interest at this juncture if you could take one step further to push for a timely legislative enactment for the Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF) to safeguard student’s tuition from school failures and closures in the future. Real social justice then becomes apparent not as something that will be but something that is. I wish you success in this endeavor. Until such time, sir I am.

Respectfully submitted.

Echo Yankee
ATP/A&P

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South Asian Bar Association of Northern California to help ASA students

It seems that help is on its way for the students of the American School of Aviation,  South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA) has offered assistance to the more than 100 stranded students for assessing their legal options to get justice and remain within the U.S.

A press release issued by the South Asian Bar Association confirms the report. “These students have been placed in a really tough situation. They did not receive the opportunity to complete their coursework as promised and have not been assured that refunds will be provided. Many of them do not have permanent housing and some of them are still attempting to transfer to other schools,” said Shaamini Babu, Co-chair of SABA’s Pro Bono Committee, who is working with Ashok Sinha, consul for community affairs at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, to ascertain the facts of the case and the legal issues that the students are facing.

Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security has expressed its wish not to pressurize the students to leave the country upon the expiration of their current visas.

SABA President Khurshid Khoja has asked Merced County District Attorney to bring criminal charges against the owners of the American School of Aviation, a critical move, which will help students obtain U.S. visas for them to remain in the country indefinitely and receive work authorization.

SABA also provided the students with referrals to attorneys in the area willing to take on the civil matter on a contingency basis.

“Our Pro Bono Committee normally doesn’t refer clients to counsel willing to work pro bono unless the public interest is directly implicated. However, in this situation we were able to find SABA members willing to work on contingency because this potential breach of contract renewed our community’s outrage over the exploitation of immigrant South Asians by swindlers, traffickers, and other opportunists who prey on the vulnerable,” said Vid Prabhakaran, SABA Vice President-External.

In this type of contingency arrangement, the attorney receives a percentage of the recovery, only if a recovery is made. In the event that the attorney is unsuccessful, he suffers the costs of bringing the legal action including the costs of filing fees, expert fees, investigation fees, and the attorney’s own legal fees.

Students can contact SABA members and discuss their further plans on below given contact details:

General inquiries about ASA cases should be directed to SABA President Khurshid Khoja via e-mail or mail to:

South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
c/o The Chugh Firm
4800 Great America Parkway, Ste 310
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Only chance of recovery of the student’s fees from ASA is……………….

Hello ASA students,

First off, I’d like to express my sincere sympathy for those students stranded by the recent ASA fiasco and wish you all the early arrival of meaningful assistance to alleviate the current enduring hardship. I have no personal stake in this ordeal and neither lost nor gained anything from this occurrence. Nevertheless I can’t stop being indignant about both Prince and Reny of their incompetence and deceit whichever the characterization is appropriate that brought to cause a current plight onto those young aspiring Indian students.

In as much as I’d like to believe that Prince and Reny stashed away a sizable amount of cash somewhere as some still like to speculate or believe and therefore there’s some chance of recovery of their prepaid fees, it pains me to tell you all such chances to exist is literally infinitesimal if not nonexistent.

I know it’s easier said than done but give it a rest on a hope of recovery by a means of law suit. In the Breach of Contract case such as this, you will most likely prevail in the court and obtain a judgment. But think about it, what good is it that the judgment that can collect nothing from the defaulting party. A writ of execution issued from the court is just a useless paper of no value. Remember no one wins in a law suit except lawyers. (been there, done that, fought an airport use permit issue against a county ordinance in the US Federal Court and won the battle but lost the war in the end after consuming 3 years and $150K in legal fees, .a Pyrrhic victory indeed.

Judging from the reported size of operation,(110 students, 43 instructors, 40 aircraft) the monthly operating cost could be anywhere from $225k to $250k/mo. or more to keep that size of operation going. Remember ASA did not have $4.4 mil in a lump sum cash to start with. It’s an accumulative total revenue over the time they were in business. Unless they had an sufficient operating capital set aside which I doubt, their monthly operating expenses were entirely relied on one source; student fees. There’re good months with some surplus fund left and there’re some bad months with an insufficient amount of income even to cover the monthly overhead. It’s highly probable that ASA needed at minimum 4 to 5 new students to keep its doors open. All fees collected from the students were all spent long since and I bet they’re just scraping by from month to month with a hope of someday getting ahead with an arrival of new enrollment group consisting of substantial number of students. Unfortunately, that day never came and the KFA fallout was the last straw. And while they were still at it, the problems started to pile up one after another. It probably started with a minor student’s complain and then rapidly growing to many issues that eventually raised red flags and invited all kinds of government scrutinies from all directions FAA, County’s office, IRS, FTA (Calif. State Franchise Tax Board) and all. Despite less than honorable character references made about both Prince and Reny in many posts, I doubt they had planned this outcome from the beginning. It’s a case of pure incompetence and mismanagement. They had somehow managed to slip their foot in the door and pried open the business opportunity just in time to ride the surging tide of pilot shortages beginning to be faced by the Indian airlines.

Some of you already know about another flight school closure earlier this year which draws some parallels to the events at ASA in the order of far greater magnitude.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_State_Helicopters

Silver State Helicopter (SSH) school headquartered in Las Vegas closed abruptly by filing Chapter 7 leaving 2,500 students out to the street. They operated over 250 helicopters at over 40 schools nationwide in the US. All students prepaid $70,000 each for their training fees. A Class action suit is pending in the Nevada Court and the lawyers are having field days. Good lawyers can compose an opposing lawyer’s argument before composing his own and they are very good and capable indeed and naturally they command high fees most can’t afford.

The only chance of recovery of the student’s fees from ASA is by naming KFA along with banks and lending institutions as co-defendant on the premise that they too are culpable for the damages sustained by those entrusting students. Their failure to perform proper audit and due diligence on the flight school led to the demise of the program today otherwise succeeded. This premise has a much greater chance of succeeding and the judgement amount of $5 mil range plus legal expenses has far more chances of collection from KFA and the Indian lending institutions involved than nonexistent collection probability from the duo Prince and Reny.

Now sit tight and think hard about the good advices offered in the Capt. Kishore’s post and begin to make a check list of your own action plan and proceed to follow thru on it one by one. BTW, make sure to insist on a kind of insurance policy like the one mentioned in the navdeev’s post if you’re fortunate enough to take out another loan again.

Before too long, you’ll be out of the soup and turbulence and you’ll be back cruising in the smooth blue skies again. How do I know this? Well I went through the similar ordeals few times myself since my first arrival in the US in 1968 from Asia and got my ATP, A&P, MEI, AD and few more ratings and pursued my aviation career until my semi-retirement from flight duties few years ago. Well, that’s my two cents. Hang tight and never ever give up your goal.
All the best.

Echo Yankee, Real identity not revealed……

Recovery may not be possible if Prince & Reny file for Bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Law, feels Capt C Kishore

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Capt C Kishore, Director, Arrow Aviation Solutions writes

Dear ASA Students,

At the outset I am sure those who took the Psychometric test under me for the ASA-KFA program, would remember me and my steadfast criticism of students who did not perform well. Anyways, we had severed ties with ASA after they did not renew the contract with us and inspite of that on personal requests from Hasher Khan, Reny and also their Indian Representatives (Study Abroad), I continued doing tests for 3 more months. Later realized that I was being conned and would never get paid for the tests done on the pretext that I had not released results… that’s obvious, why should I release the results unless we are assured of being paid for our services. Repeated phone calls to Hasher/Reny/Sergio yielded no result and when I did a bit of research I was sure that ASA would shut down sooner than later and I had predicted this as early as Nov’2007 after the KFA fall out. In fact I had advised a few students who were in touch with me to get out before it is too late. I was told by these students that Prince has threatened not to return the money if anyone leaves.

Just some food for thought from my visit to Atwater from 4th July to 9th July’2008. I went there on request of few parents and Study Abroad, Chennai to help students secure transfers to better flight schools and also organize a good attorney to file a law suit. Firstly my observation was that there are far too many groups of students and each group with their personal agenda on how to solve the situation, unfortunately I found most of the groups far too immature in their actions as well as long term objectives, it appeared as if they had lost focus on why they had gone to USA. I do not blame them considering the trauma they would have undergone after being evicted from the barracks and realizing that their flying dream has crash landed.

1. As Bhavna brought out, Who is “Prince”? if you just go back a few years behind you will realise that apparently he started out as a Flight Instructor in Amritsar Flying School, Punjab, where there are unconfirmed reports that he was involved in cases of fraud following which he fled to USA/Canada.

2. Can Kingfisher be indemnified from the whole scene as they play a major role in the whole deal, most of the kids joined ASA because of the KFA (Kingfisher Airlines) tie up, inspite of knowing that they were going to pay more than other flight schools. The fact lies that ASA continued to use the KFA tie up to lure new students even after the fall out. How come KFA never did a audit on a flight school they endorsed for their cadet program? Which should have been a mandatory practise in view of KFA allowing ASA to use their logo for co-branding…. this beats me totally… unless Prince had been paying KFA officials responsible for such an audit.

3. $4.4 million and counting, I am not a great finance expert, but being a Pilot and an aviation consultant with thorough knowledge on what goes into running a flight school from fuel, maintenance, aircraft lease, spares, landing charges,etc etc….I can safely say that it is next to impossible to expend such a large amount of money in such a short period of time. Well the finance experts might want to prove me wrong by putting pen to paper, yet they would fail miserably. I visited the ASA ramp in Atwater, personally and saw that there were hardly 7 or 8 airplanes on the ramp, wonder whatever happened to the 40 odd aircraft if they were actually owned by ASA. Well if they were on lease then on what did Reny/ Prince spend money on.

4. I am sorry to say but, after extensive talks with various Attorneys I can say that recovery of the money of all the students may not be possible if they file for Bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Law, but still a lot depends on discovery of assets within the USA to recover the money. Knowing Prince and Reny, I am sure there is no money in USA coz I don’t think either of them is so foolish to have assets in USA and are waiting for those assets to be attached through a Court injunction. Yes, sending them behind bars maybe a probable proposition, even though it is too early to say that. So, basically there are far too many variables and let us all accept the fact that no miraculous recovery of fees paid is going to happen overnight.

5. I was told that the Indian Embassy in SFO has provided 2 attorneys who are willing to fight the law suit against ASA, without any money being paid upfront and want 40% of the money recovered as attorney fees, which I feel is ridiculous. I wonder what the hell is the Indian Embassy doing, are they trying to get the students be duped of their rightful claim of damages for what they have undergone. I would rather pay the attorney his fees and enjoy the money he recovers as damages. Because if there is money to be recovered from assets then I might as well as recover my complete money. How do we know whether there is money to be recovered, well that can only be ascertained through a thorough investigation by a competent financial investigator. Please keep in mind that this is a huge lawsuit and the claim for damages can amount to as high as $5 million upwards. even that might be an understatement. So just tread the road ahead with caution, those offering help may not actually be a knight in shining Armour.

As they always say advise is always free, whether you take it or leave it is your choice…. so here goes my two pence on this issue to all of you ASA students.

1. Those with funds crunch right now, try and organize funds enough to fund your Private at least, get your PPL and head back to India, put your head down and study, clear your DGCA papers and then re assess your finances and try and get into Indigo or Air India Express cadet program, which shall at least assure you a job in the current volatile market.

2. Those who can afford to complete their training and are not a part of the KFA cadet program, you better think about getting yourself a CFI and work towards time building before getting back to India, try getting add-on ratings on King Air B200 or a Citation CJ2, so that the chances of your enjoyability increase in Corporate sector.

3. Along with your CPL get yourself an Aviation Management Diploma from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University so that you can get placement in Airline Operations while you slowly work your way back towards the flight deck.

I wish you guys all the best in all your future endeavors and all of you are most welcome to mail me at kishore@arrowaviationsolutions.com.

Happy Landings

Capt C Kishore   Director, Arrow Aviation Solutions

Story from the other side (part II). Reny Kozman responds to widespread criticism

At least we do not deserve to be stoned all the way. Our main goal was the quality of training, we may have made our mistakes along the way, but we are also humans with a limited capacity… and ASA was a business, a successful business for 6 years in a row. but if the US and countries governments still can’t solve the fuel problems, why did people think we can? Consider this, Six months ago, we went to all the students saying you have to pay an additional $6,000 to $8,000 more for your training, what would have been the response? i personally went to UAE, China to get more profitable business so your families does not have to come up with the additional funds.

I am surprised, that Sasha Puri, Vikram Pawar, Suraj Chopra and Ameya Kameth did not mention to any one, that they paid their tuition in Gurgaon and that ASA in California never got a penny out of it?!! Specially that 3 of them already graduated, now was ASA out to Scam student? How about each one who paid the $2,000 deposit in Gurgaon? And the US never got a penny of it, but all of you got the credit on your account?

Now every one is going after the management, fine, put your self in Prince’s shoes and he admits he is an AW!!

On New Year’s Day, Juana opens up the school and is feeding the fish in the tank; guess what she found in there?
A: HUMAN POOP!!

On a weekend evening, a drunken student pulls the fire alarm (Accidently!!) who had to leave the house to baby sit the reset of the students?

Students playing cricket in the parking lot, using the school’s furniture as goals..
For God Sake, we had to teach students to take a shower before showing up for class!!

Add to that, dealing with the FAA, Mechanics, India, lawyers, accountants, airport management for every little thing that students do!!

Parents, how do I tell a father, that your son is drinking every night and I have an arrest warrant for him? How do I tell your parents, your son is not showing up for lessons because the schedule is too early?! How do we tell them, your son is too busy with the bank teller and does not have time to study?!! Etc…

Here is what happened,
April last year 2007, Gurgaon was shut down costing a lot of money
July, was the last KFA interview
November, KFA staff came to visit to expand the relationship, instead, students complained about the housing and God knows what else, so they did not give a damn and cancelled the tie up!!
Still in November, 17 Students panicked and left the school creating more negative publicity.

Here is a quick lesson in business, if your current customers are pushing your new customers away for whatever reason, you run out of money and eventually your business runs out!!

ASA lost the market in India, even though, over 200 students graduated form there, all of the sudden, every one forgot that fact!!
November, I go to UAE to get some business, I got one student
March I got to China to get some business, it takes time
April I go to Egypt to get some business, we got 3 .

All of that and the FAA is on our tail to shut us down, in 2007, we had 109 inspections, and my question to them, if we were so bad, why did not you shut us down?!! And if we were not so bad, why did you inspect us 109 times?
I still do not have an answer to that, the FAA alone, costed 20% of Prince’s work week just to entertain them!! Why is it, that none of the students asked them that question?

I am sorry the management had to be strict as we did not have time to baby sit adults who were suppose to be in the air lines in a matter of months, I hope your future captains will make sure to tuck you in your seat before you fly!! Our main goal was to make you a pilot because we truly believed that one day thought out your career, the only thing that will save your life is your training, and that was our priority number 1.

They took our airplanes, cars and our house is about to be taken, but no one can take this from us
Our safety record is 100%, 98% of our graduates are successfully employed and satisfied with the training.

Mr. Minister please do something……… Open letters to Vayalar Ravi from parents of stranded ASA students

  • S.D.Hegde,Mumbai // July 8, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Dear Sir,
    The authorities Of “ASA” closed the school from May 2008 (15th May ).
    They admitted my son on 1st May & took from him $41000 / = & they told school would not be closed. Now they are not returning the money & saying closing the business is not difficult in America & leaving innocent students stranded & their parents in deep worries.
    American Govt. immediately help giving some money to join other Flying school which will be returned to the Govt.after getting the money from “ASA” through court.
    Indian Minister in charge of this affairs has said he would look after the case & we hope immediate action from him & hope to receive a reply.
    It is the biggest aviation school scam in America.

  • Gordon D’Mello // July 8, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Dear Sir
    My son Mikhail D’Mello joined ASA in Sep 2007. According to the contract they were to complete the course in 6-8 months. It is now over 10 months that the boy is there and they have not even completed the Private Pilot stage. They have USD 26,000 still lying with them from the 38,000 USD paid to them. Shifting the boy to another school is going to cost us another 30,000 USD, not including USD 600 per month as living expense. We have mortaged our homes to fulfill the boys dreams and career ambitions. How are we to organise such a huge sum again to complete the course? We plead that the government provide or organise some funds for these misfortunate aspiring young pilots of the age group 18-21. They are far too young to bear the trauma they have undergone, and some help from the government will be the only source to heal their wounds.

Indian Government opens helpline for ASA students


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A sigh of relief at last. Indian Government has reacted sharply to the unpleasant news coming from American School of Aviation. Helpline for the stranded students and their parents in India has been set-up by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs at last.

Minister for the overseas Indian affairs, Mr. Vayalar Ravi is taking personal interest over unfolding events at the American School of Aviation and his office is keeping a close tab on all the latest developments related to ASA. Ministry is in regular contact with US Department of Homeland Security over the issue.  Fortunately for the stranded students, the Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman

MR. VAYALAR RAVI
MR. VAYALAR RAVI

Virginia Kice has said they are under no pressure to leave the country upon expiration of their visas.

Typically, when a school closes, international students are given a five-month grace period in which to find a similar, accredited school where they can complete their studies. But in ASA’s case, the school closed virtually without notice. “The ICE is working with the State Department and authorities in India,” she said. “We are trying to find other schools with a comparable curriculum at a comparable cost.”

Here are the contact Details of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. Students and their parents can either contact the officials by phone or emails given below.

Shri Vayalar Ravi

POSITION

Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs

PHONE(O)

91-11-24676836/37

FAX(O)

91-11-24197985

E-MAIL ID

minister@moia.nic.in

RESIDENCE

7, Safdarjung Road, New

Delhi-110011

PHONE(R)

91-11-23792148/49

FAX(R)

91-11-23792142

Shri K. Mohandas

POSITION

Secretary

PHONE

91-11-24674143 /44

FAX

91-11-24674140

E-MAIL ID

secretary@moia.nic.in

Shri G Gurucharan [Financial Services Division]

POSITION

Joint Secretary

PHONE

91-11-24676836/37

E-MAIL ID

jsfs@moia.nic.in

Shri D.N. Srivastava [Diaspora Services Division]

POSITION

Joint Secretary

PHONE

91-11-26874240/24197940

E-MAIL ID

jsds@moia.nic.in

Shri J. Panda[Overseas Employment Services Division]

POSITION

Protector General of

Emigrants

PHONE

+91-11-24197972 /26874250

E-MAIL ID

pge@moia.nic.in

Dr. Ranbir Singh [Emigration Division]

POSITION

Director (EP)

PHONE

+91-11-24197952 /26874247

E-MAIL ID

diremig@moia.nic.in

Ms. Sandhya Shukla [Diaspora Services Division]

POSITION

Director(DS)

PHONE

+91-11-24197918 /26874231

E-MAIL ID

dirds2@moia.nic.in

Dr. Shailja Sharma [Emigration Services]

POSITION

Director (ES)

PHONE

+91-11-24197952 /26874247

E-MAIL ID

dires@moia.nic.in

Shri N. Balasubramanyam [Diaspora Services Division]

POSITION

Deputy Secretary

PHONE

+91-11-24197910/26874246

E-MAIL ID

dsds@moia.nic.in

Shri. Mithilesh Kumar [Management Services-I]

POSITION

Deputy Secretary(Admin.)

PHONE

91-11- 24676145 /24197909

E-MAIL ID

dsms1@moia.nic.in

Shri K.B. Arora [Management Services-II]

POSITION

Deputy Secretary (Vigilance)

PHONE

91-11- 24197908 /24676146

E-MAIL ID

dsms2@moia.nic.in

T. Q. Mohammad [Financial Services]

POSITION

Deputy Secretary (FS&Budget)

PHONE

91-11-24197914 / 24676841

E-MAIL ID

dsfs@moia.nic.in

For General Queries

info@moia.nic.in