Scholarships & Financial Aid Opportunities for Young Aviators

Sep 26, 2023

Your heart is set on becoming a pilot. But, for it to become a reality, you need to make sure getting your PPL fits in with your budget.

Luckily, you probably won’t have to shoulder the full cost of flight school all by yourself. There are several ways to access money to help you pay for your training and related costs.

This post is a deep dive into scholarship and financial aid opportunities available to current and prospective pilots-in-training.

Understanding Flight School Expenses

Part of preparing for flight training is gaining a solid grasp on how to pay for flight school. This starts with knowing what costs are involved and when you need to make payments.

  • You’ll encounter costs related to flight school coursework. This covers ground school, flight instructors’ time, and flight hours. Much of this is likely covered by your tuition and program fees.
  • Flight school participation requires you to have insurance coverage and the necessary gear (e.g., headset) and supplies (e.g., logbook).
  • Aside from school costs, you’ll also need to pay for various administrative elements. This includes things like your medical exam, written testing, and licensing application fees.
  • Depending on your circumstances, you may incur other expenses, too. For example, if the flight school you choose is not near your home, you’ll need to account for travel, food, and lodging costs.

The breakdown below should shed some more light on average expenses involved in getting a private pilot’s license.

Costs Related to Becoming an Airplane or Helicopter Pilot

Item Cost – Airplane PL Cost – Helicopter PL Payment Due
Flight School Tuition & Fees $8,000 $18,400 Upfront or As You Go
(Depends on School)
Materials & Supplies $100 $100 Prior to Starting
Associated Training
Gear & Equipment $2,050 $2,050 Prior to Starting
Associated Training
Travel & Accommodations Varies, Based on Student Circumstances Varies, Based on Student Circumstances Depends on Location
Tests & Exams $1,000 $1,000 Before Each Exam/Test
Aircraft Rentals* $1,500 $3,900 As You Go
(Annual Cost)
$600 $4,500 Prior to Start of Coverage
(Renews Annually)

* Some schools include aircraft rental in their tuition. Check with schools of interest to see what’s included in their program fees.

** Insurance may be optional. Check with your schools of interest and anywhere you wish to rent an aircraft from.

Navigating Financial Aid for Flight Training

Flight training costs — and figuring out how to cover them — needn’t be a daunting barrier.

Our recommendation is to tackle it in this order:

  1. Reduce the overall cost of your flight training as much as you can. See if there are ways to minimize or get waivers for program expenses. Explore options for cutting the cost of borrowing money for flight training.
  2. Leverage free money to pay for your flight training. Scholarships, grants, gifts, and so on that don’t require repayment can really help reduce the amount of money you need to draw from your own wallet.
  3. Come up with a sensible plan for covering the remaining expenses. If you’re going the financing route, having a smart strategy in place can make it easier and more manageable.

Scholarships & Financial Aid Opportunities for Young Aviators - young person studying

Federal Financial Aid Options

By way of the Department of Education, the US government offers various kinds of money to help students pay for post-high-school education.

<h3>An Overview of Federal Student Loans & Grants

Federal financial aid encompasses many different kinds of assistance. Here are a few of the more common ones.

  • Federal loans, such as Stafford and Perkins loans, are borrowed funds that must be repaid. However, they usually feature low-interest rates and flexible repayment options, making them a popular education financing choice.
  • Federal grants, like the Pell Grant, are typically need-based and don’t require repayment.
  • Federal work-study provides employment to students with financial need so that they can earn an income while studying.

You can apply for federal financial aid by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

These programs are administered by the USDE and aim to make education more accessible. Eligibility and amounts vary based on factors like income, dependency status, and enrollment status. The aid can be used to help pay tuition, fees, and living expenses.

Can You Use Federal Financial Aid Money?

First, we have to distinguish between flight training programs offered by colleges and universities and those at independent flight schools. This is because federal financial aid typically requires institutions to be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

  • College-based programs often allow students to access federal financial aid, as the institution itself is accredited. However, they may have a more structured curriculum, including non-flight-related coursework. 
  • Standalone flight schools, like Pureflight, typically aren’t eligible for most forms of federal aid. Because they aren’t USDE-accredited institutions, traditional federal financial aid can’t be applied to flight school expenses. However, private flight schools specialize in training people how to fly. They often offer more flexibility, greater ability to tailor instruction to individual learning styles and goals, and a more streamlined path to getting a pilot’s license

If Federal Financial Aid Is a No Go (or Not Enough)…

Don’t get discouraged just because you can’t bank on that FAFSA form. You still have some really good options to help fund your flight training.

These include private scholarships, grants, and loans. If you served in the military or are the survivor or dependent of a service member, you may have access to veterans’ benefits as well.

With the right guidance and some savvy financial planning, you’ll be taking off in no time!

Scholarships & Financial Aid Opportunities for Young Aviators - person on laptop studying

Spotlight on Aviation Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships and grants are essentially the same thing. Both are award money you don’t have to pay back. (For simplicity, we’ll just use the word scholarship going forward here.)

Once you start looking into it, you’ll discover that there are lots of scholarships you can apply for. Many of the scholarships are offered by aviation-related organizations and businesses expressly for student pilots. You may also find some “general purpose” scholarships allow you to use the awards for flight training.

Types of Aviation Scholarships

Scholarships and grants generally rally around some sort of theme or eligibility criteria, which is used to qualify and assess applicants. You’ll find:

  • Merit-based scholarships. These are awarded based on an applicant’s skills or abilities. For example, a violin prodigy might get a music scholarship.
  • Need-based scholarships. These are given to those with demonstrated financial need. A student coming from a low-income family may win this kind of scholarship.
  • Affinity-based scholarships. Sometimes, scholarships are reserved for people that belong to a certain group or meet specific demographic criteria. These scholarship opportunities are commonly tied to faith, race, nationality, alumni status, organization membership, and more. 

Aviation Scholarships

You can certainly do an internet search to gather a long list of scholarships. But here’s a list of aviation-specific ones to get you started quickly. These all have different eligibility and fulfillment conditions so be sure to read the fine print before applying.

7 Tips to Make Your Scholarship Application Stand Out

Scholarships can get quite competitive. So, it’s worth your while to make your application shine! Here are a few recommendations for an even stronger submission.

  • Tailor your application to each scholarship’s criteria. Be sure to address the specifics of what a given scholarship is seeking. A blanket answer used across all applications may make for a very weak submission.
  • Submit a polished, error-free application. Spell check, grammar check, etc. Proofread to make sure there are no typos or extra/omitted words.
  • Highlight academic and extracurricular achievements. Show that you’re studious and engaged, worthy of funding to continue your education.
  • Emphasize community involvement and leadership. Demonstrate that you’re active in the world around you and trying to make it a better place.
  • Obtain strong letters of recommendation. Testimonials can speak volumes about how wonderful, deserving, and promising you are.
  • Showcase your passion for aviation (if relevant).
  • Get creative! Scholarship judges see a lot of applications; it’s likely that many start looking/sounding the same. If you can find ways to break free of the “usual” in an appropriate and meaningful way, you might leave an extra positive impression.

Private Financing Alternatives

When you’ve exhausted your federal aid, scholarships, and other no-repayment-needed options, borrowing funds may be necessary. Each loan and lender is unique, so be sure to dig into the details to find a good match.

Student Loans for Flight School

Many lenders offer loans. You’ll need to do some research to find the most suitable loan and the best terms and conditions. 

We suggest that you explore the financing available through your flight school. You may be able to get a better deal or have an easier time getting approved. For instance, we’ve partnered with a particular lender to offer our students an array of loan products. 

How to Pay for Flight School on Credit

Don’t forget about your credit card as a potential means of paying for flight school. They can be a convenient short-term borrowing solution. As long as you don’t carry a balance, using your credit card can be cheaper than a student or personal loan. (And some credit cards offer cash-back rewards, which can further reduce the effective cost of your flight training.)

Scholarships & Financial Aid Opportunities for Young Aviators

Taking Flight to Finance Your Aviation Dreams

Learning to fly is a big commitment — mentally, physically, and financially. Fortunately, there are plenty of approaches to making the costs more manageable. With a little bit of effort, you can find different opportunities for financial aid that fit your needs.

Pureflight wants to make flight school as accessible to as many people as possible. As such, we offer a variety of payment assistance. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can make getting you into the cockpit affordable.