What to Know
- Dean International Flight School is closing its doors after more than 20 years in business in Miami-Dade
- The news comes after four people were killed in a mid-air collision last week involving two Dean International planes
A South Florida flight school that has endured a number of deadly crashes in recent years including last week's mid-air collision that killed four people has told its students that it will be closing its doors.
"Today is a very difficult day for us. The doors to our business will close permanently," Dean International Flight School said in a letter to students Monday. "We regret this decision and apologize for not being able to complete the training to the students currently enrolled in our school."
The school, which has been open since 1995 and operated out of Miami Executive Airport in West Kendall, cited the plane crashes and lower student attendance as factors in the closing.
"We pride ourselves on the maintenance of our fleet and the training of our students. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and up to now all the fatal ones have been due to pilot error," the letter read. "These accidents have placed us under a microscope by the FAA and under scrutiny by news media, costing us millions of dollars in expenses."
The decision to shut down comes less than a week after four people — 72-year-old Ralph Knight, 22-year-old Jorge Sanchez, 19-year-old Nisha Sejwal and 22-year-old Carlos Scarpati — were killed when two of the school's planes collided in the air over the Florida Everglades.
The crash was just the latest involving Dean International planes. In May, two people were hospitalized after their small plane crashed in the Everglades.
Prior to that May 2018 crash, NBC 6 obtained reports from both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration detailing a series of accidents or incidents involving the company – 29 in total before the latest two crashes.
In all, five people were killed in the incidents prior to last Tuesday's crash.
After two crashes in 2017 – one where a pilot was killed after crashing in the Everglades and another where two people were not injured following a crash landing in Key Biscayne – nearly 80 percent of the company’s 50 planes were taken out of service to deal with issues ranging from routine maintenance to faulty beaks, loose and missing screws and more.
The flight school, which says it has trained thousands of pilots, say foreign students who make up 80 percent of their clientele aren't getting through U.S. embassy screening, which is affecting attendance.
At a memorial for the four victims of last week's crash, students said they were told about the closing Monday morning. Many students are waiting to see if they'll get their tuition money back.
"They said 'we are sorry and that’s it and you will get your money in three to six months,'" student Nawaf Nojahed said.