Aviation scholarships can be of the utmost importance to a student, and here at the AOPA we strive to make finding them easy. This subject report will give an applicant the tools and information necessary to create a strong scholarship application, which may give the applicant an “edge” over others who are competing for the same scholarship. The application advice includes tips such as writing about a unique experience that will capture the reader’s attention, and having the application in well before the deadline. The subject report also offers a concise list of aviation-related scholarships.
Please call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center with questions – 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672) Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 6:00 ET.
Now that you have decided that you want to learn how to fly, you are faced with some difficult tasks. Learning how to do turns around a point and S-turns across a road will become easier after some practice. One of the tasks that may take more time and effort on your part is where to find the finances for your flight training. Some people have this question answered before they start. Either they have been working for a number of years and have saved up for this day, or they may be one of the lucky ones with parents who have done this for them. There are options available, though, so don't be discouraged if you do not fit into these categories.
Just knowing that you need another source of funding for flight training is going to be half of the battle. But how do you find the best source of funding for you? By reading this subject report, you have started to win the war. But your best asset at this time will be the network of individuals and companies that make up the aviation industry. By starting to network early in your career, you will actually accomplish much more than just being able to afford your training. Most pilots and aviation professionals you meet will turn into a support group that can answer your questions as you move through your training. After your training is finished, they will turn into a great network to help you proceed with a career in aviation or provide support in your ownership of an aircraft.
Great places to start networking with other pilots and aviation professionals can vary from a pilots' lounge in the local FBO, to the airport cafe get-together Friday evenings, to Internet chat rooms and message boards. The local flight school is great place to start, because the instructors usually see just about everybody on the airport once every two years for the recurrent training mandated by the FAA. Just by letting people know that you are interested in a career or hobby that they are already participating in will bring lots of advice. Fly-ins are also a great way to get started. They can range from a pancake fly-in that attracts a few dozen pilots all the way to the AOPA, Sun 'n Fun, and Oshkosh fly-ins that attract thousands of people each year.
One location with many options for funding is the college or university that has a flight program. There may not be many options for the flight program itself, but there are many options for the college student that can be used to help offset your costs of flight training. You do not even have to go to an aviation school to find the funding that will help offset your other costs. If you visit the school's financial aid office and let them know some of your background and expectations, they have the knowledge to provide the direct assistance you need. Don't be afraid to do some research on your own at the local public library, either. There are huge volumes of books that list scholarships and grants for education. The University Aviation Association has information online that focuses specifically on aviation, but don't ignore the other possibilities. Also, contact aviation associations on your own; many offer local scholarships.
If you are going to be training at a flight school that does not have a partnership with an area college or university, then your options for funding are going to be a bit smaller. But still take advantage of the financial aid office at the college. And don't forget the local community colleges. You may not wish to attend any of their courses, but they can at least point you in some different directions for funding. And who knows, you may be able to help set up a program between the college and a flight school.
There are other ways to secure funding for flight training. These can range from borrowing the money from a family member to maxing out your credit cards and then paying them back slowly. Another option is to talk to a small local bank, especially if you or your family have lived in that area for some time. A loan officer at a local bank may be more willing to proceed with a loan when you are a known individual rather than a loan officer at a national bank that you call for information.
Maxing out your credit cards with flight time and then taking a break from flying to pay them off is an option, but it may not be the best option for your flying skills. The longer the break that you take between flights means more information has to be re-taught at the start of the next lesson. That can add substantial time and costs to earning your certificate or rating. A more gradual way to work the financing around a flight schedule is to get a job at the flight school or airport and work your way through. Someone who can work at the front desk and provide useful knowledge to visitors about the school can be fairly difficult for most schools to find and keep. Working at an airport or flight school will keep you immersed in aviation and provide a great place to answer your questions. There are other part-time employment opportunities around most airports, ranging from lawn-care assistance to working in the airport manager's office. If you let it be known that you are interested in learning to fly, someone will help you get the flight time that you need.
Acquiring the funds that are needed to start and finish your flight training may be one of the more difficult tasks new pilots face. The best advice that we can offer is to ask pilots, instructors, flight school owners, and others how they were able to afford their training and if they know of a source that may help you.
The first, and sometimes most difficult, step to being awarded any scholarship is simply completing the application process by the posted deadline. By meeting the initial deadline, an applicant demonstrates responsibility and respect for the sponsor. Try to place yourself in the shoes of the scholarship sponsor. Would you award funding to a person that didn't follow the application submission process? Applications that are late or incomplete will, most likely, never be considered. With scholarships that barely have any applicant submissions, providing the correct material by the deadline could be the only barrier to becoming the recipient.
On the other hand, well-known scholarships have so many qualified applicants that selecting a recipient becomes a cumbersome process for the sponsor. After submitting an application, being selected to receive the scholarship is merely a factor of standing out in a crowd. Be sure to give personal touches to your writing anytime an essay is required. An initial catch phrase or a unique story helps the sponsor remember your words when it comes time to choose the recipient from a stack of status quo applications.
To help you with finding and applying for aviation scholarships, AOPA has compiled a list of aviation scholarships and the contact information associated with each. The listing below is intended to help you to begin your search for financial assistance in the form of scholarship opportunities. You can find more institution-specific scholarship listings from your school's financial aid office.
Dream Wings Scholarship
Contact: Kris Chana
13249 Fieldstone Road
Fort Worth, TX 76244
Application deadline: March
Amount awarded: (1) $1,000 scholarship annually
Girls with Wings
1275 Andrews Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107-2403
216/221-0577; fax 216/221-3770
Contact: Linda Meeks
Amount awarded: Two $1,000 scholarships
The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Scholarships
Contact: Cheryl Homer Wilson, Executive Director
Approximate application deadline: February 28
Amount(s) awarded: (3) $3,500-$6,000
Harold S. Wood Scholarship
Contact: Mary Lynn J. Rynkiewicz, General Aviation Manufacturers Association
1400 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 637-1375 (office)
Approximate application deadline: April
Amount(s) awarded: (1) $2,000 scholarship awarded annually. Must be a member of a NIFA team.
SMS-Pro Aviation Safety Scholarship
2627 C Street,
Anchorage, AK 99503
Contact: Tyler Britton
Amount Awarded: (1) $1,000 awarded semi-annually
Whirly Girls Helicopter Add-on Flight Training Scholarship
Contact: Patricia Calder, VP Scholarship
Application deadline: October 1
Minnesota Aviation Trades Association Flight Scholarship
Attention: Scholarship Committee
Saint Paul, MN 55111
Award(s) and amount(s): $2,000
Plymouth Aero Club Scholarships (Plymouth, MA)
Contact: Bob Marchese
Phone: (781) 545-6068
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Application Deadline: April 30
Amounts Awarded: $2000
Application (PDF): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mstikb3tzy7gkee/AADxSF5DXUhpMpMJPi_fYCVTa?dl=0
Would you like to add your scholarship to this resource list? Please email FTscholarship@aopa.org.