Becoming a pilot is very expensive. The cost of attending flight school and earning a commercial pilot license and instrument rating, the minimum required to fly professionally, ranged well over $20,000 as of December 2010. In addition to the cost of attending flight school, pilots must pay for flight examinations, Federal Aviation Administration written tests, pilot supplies and aircraft fuel. Students attending flight school at a college or university must also pay tuition and university fees in addition to aviation-related expenses. Fortunately, scholarships and grants exist for flight school and related expenses.
Government student grants and private scholarships are the two primary types of flight-school grants. Typically, government grants go to prospective students from low- or moderate-income households, while private, non-profit organizations issue scholarships based on academic and aviation-related merit. Additionally, students can use government grants, such as Pell Grants, for other college-related expenses such as tuition and books. In contrast, students can typically use private flight-school scholarships only for flight training, testing and aviation-related expenses.
Prospective flight students must meet certain requirements to get flight-school grants. To become eligible for government grants, you must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Additionally, you or your parents, if you are under 24, must send copies of your past two tax returns to prove financial need. Finally, only students undergoing flight training at accredited colleges or universities are eligible for government financial aid. Each private organization has specific requirements for their flight school scholarships, and you should check the eligibility rules for each specific grant.
While all you must do to apply for government flight-school grants is fill out a FAFSA and submit tax information, you will need to provide more information to apply for private aviation scholarships. Typically, when applying for a private flight school scholarship, you must submit a completed application form, detailed essay on why you deserve the scholarship and academic or professional references. Additionally, some organizations require you to submit high school or college transcripts, along with copies of your pilot certificates (if any).
Other Financing Options
In most cases, flight students will not receive enough grant and/or scholarship money to pay all their flight training expenses. However, you can find other sources to supplement grants and scholarships. Loans are the most common source of flight-training funding, and are available through the federal government for college-based flight training and also from private lenders. Additionally, some independent, non-collegiate flight schools allow their students to work part-time in exchange for flight time. Doing a work-for-flight-time arrangement will give you valuable aviation experience in addition to flight training funding.