DENTON, Texas (CBDSFW.COM) – A Denton flight training school met with the Chinese Consulate in Houston Tuesday, two weeks after the death of a student.
The meeting came as Chinese-language posts and videos online started raising questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of Yang Yan.
The 21-year-old was found dead in his Denton apartment April 16. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide, from hanging.
Yan was one of nearly 350 Chinese students training at U.S. Aviation Academy. The school, operating at the Denton Municipal Airport, contracts with foreign airlines to train their future commercial pilots.
According to reports from Denton police, Yan’s roommates mentioned his performance at the school may have been a contributing factor in his death.
In the week after he died, pictures and accounts of the death online drew attention to the school’s rigorous program. They highlighted an English-only policy where violations could be punished with fines. Some pictures showed students holding signs noting that they had broken the rules.
A picture of a daily schedule was shared, one that showed a 14-hour day that included holding doors open for staff, cleaning scuff marks off of floors and cleaning toilets at night.
In a letter sent to Chinese cadets and colleagues after Yan’s death, CEO Michael Sykes wrote that Yan was not meeting safety and quality standards, but a request to cease his training was denied.
“This will always be a high technical skillset, a very difficult and challenging career,” said executive vice president Mark Taylor during an interview about the situation Tuesday.
Taylor noted the English-only policy was part of an immersion learning program, with the language skill essential in air traffic communications.
The cleaning schedule was something he said was drawn up several years ago, as part of a remedial duty in lieu of being expelled, for a group of students who had violated the school’s alcohol rules. However, he said, the duties and hours were not enforced.
“We will not tolerate mistreatment, for a lot of reasons, from the moral thing to do, to the business model,” Taylor said. “We are primarily an international flight training organization. 72% of our students are international. We won’t tolerate that.”
After the death, which Taylor said is the first such incident in the company’s history, the company is reviewing its training policies and procedures with its commercial airline customers.
The meeting with the Chinese consulate was focused on any role the school might be able to play in assisting Yan’s family with the situation.
Taylor said he expected the family to travel to the area from China, possibly within the week.