A YOUNG pilot claims to have been left high and dry by the demise of Oxford airline Varsity Express after he invested £15,000 to be trained by the collapsed carrier.

Twenty-three-year-old Peter Chilvers borrowed cash from his parents, grandmother and other family members so he could fulfil his childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot.

Mr Chilvers is one of four recently-qualified pilots who handed over a total of £52,500 to be ‘type-trained’ – to learn to fly the company’s 18-seat Jetstream 31 plane.

Varsity Express, which offered daily flights between Oxford and Edinburgh, was grounded after just a week, leaving passengers – and Mr Chilvers – stranded in the Scottish capital last week.

Thames Valley Police has launched an investigation into allegations of “fraudulent activity” at the airline.

However, the entrepreneur behind Varsity Express, Martin Halstead, has denied any wrongdoing and has pledged that all the pilots will be repaid in full.

Mr Chilvers was offered a £24,000-a-year job after being interviewed in London and had been due to start his first pilot’s job with Varsity in May.

However, he needed to hand over the money, including £4,000 from his 89-year-old grandmother Barbara, so he could be type-trained.

Mr Chilvers, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire, underwent training at Oxford Aviation Academy.

He said: “I always wanted to be a pilot. I was incredibly excited to begin work. It would have been real flying and a great route to start off on, with short sectors all in the UK.

“Being based out of Oxford would have been the ideal location.

“Varsity held the interviews in the ‘Gherkin’ in London and that sort of thing doesn’t come cheaply, so I thought these guys were well backed.

“I’m desperate to get that money back.”

Mr Halstead, 23, from Summertown, said he had written off £3,500 of his own money that he put into Varsity.

However, he added: “The pilots will be reimbursed. We are in discussion with them at the moment about a payment schedule to get their refunds returned.

“That money was put into the company and used as part of the working capital, but we are working on getting it back.

“It’s a priority that no-one should be out of pocket on this.”

Mr Chilvers fears that losing the money would harm his chances of future employment in the industry, as it is now commonplace for pilots to pay for their training.

He said: “Currently in the airline industry companies that are taking on the most pilots want some financial contribution.

“Having no money rules me out of quite a lot of jobs in the industry that are open to someone of my experience level.

“My family have stood by me and helped me as much as possible but their finances have been completely ex-hausted.

“My main concern is being reimbursed for this money and being able to pay my debts off to my family. I’m devastated.”

Mr Halstead has already insisted that between 350 and 400 passengers who had booked trips with Varsity would be refunded within 14 days.

He said the pilots would have their money returned within three months.