Flight training is expensive, we all know that. However, there are many organizations that award scholarships for flying, particularly for women and youth. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about available scholarship opportunities. I send this information by email often, so thought I should post it for the benefit of others. This list isn’t exhaustive, but does cover some of the major sources of awards.
The Ninety-Nines, Inc. is a women’s pilot organization, founded by Amelia Earhart and 98 other women pilots in 1929. It is only for women who are pilots. The international organization gives out a series of awards to both student pilots and licensed pilots through the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships and Awards. The funding provides for new ratings, jet ratings, tuition for aerospace studies, technical training (such as maintenance), or emergency maneuver training.
The 99s new pilot scholarships are due in December of each year and are to help student pilots complete their certificate. You need to be a member of the 99s and have already soloed when you apply. See the 99s New Pilot Award here: http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/scholarships.htm
If you are already a licensed pilot, you can apply for scholarships to cover additional ratings. These are also due in December. The funding is for the entire cost of the rating, so some people will ask for and receive more money than others (a helicopter rating will cost more than fixed-wing training). It helps to be an active member of the 99s, not just someone who pays dues and is a member on-paper. Look for volunteer opportunities within the organization or in your local chapter.
The application process has very specific instructions, so it helps to talk to someone who has done it before. I am thankful for the guidance I’ve received from my local chapter, as well as from the section reviewers. In general, you must meet all the legal requirements of the rating you want prior to submitting the application in December, although there is a grace period until the following February. For example, if you are going for an instrument rating, you need to have your 50 hours of cross-country pilot in command time already completed when you apply (or at least by February). It also helps if you have passed any required written test. In addition, consider completing your training in the recommended order, particularly if you are looking toward a career, such as adding a multiengine rating to a commercial certificate instead of getting your multiengine on a private certificate.
Note that you apply in December, but if you win, you do not start training until the following summer. So, ask for the subsequent rating. For example, if you are almost done with your CFI and will finish it by February, apply for a CFI-instrument or CFI-multiengine.
In addition to the Earhart awards, look for scholarships from 99s chapters and other organizations. These are often open to only residents of certain areas or members of certain chapters. Apply for scholarships of any amount; even a couple of hundred dollars will get you several hours of flight training if you win. http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/other_scholarships.htm
Women in Aviation, International is another major sponsor of scholarships for women. WAI is open to anyone (including men) who is involved somehow in aviation — for example, a pilot, mechanic, engineer, or even an accountant at an aerospace company. The funds are awarded through the WAI, but are actually donated by individuals or corporations, such as airlines or companies that make training materials. You can apply for two scholarships per year, and the applications are due in November. These are awarded at the annual conference, typically held in March. I’ve met some pilots who’ve won 737 and A320 type ratings through WAI, and it certainly changed their career opportunities. The WAI awards range from several hundred dollars to $30,000 and up for jet training. http://wai.org/education/scholarships.cfm
ISA+21, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, provides scholarships toward commercial multiengine, ATP, or jet type ratings. In 2012, these were offered through WAI.
Depending on your age, you might check the Experimental Aircraft Association. The EAA is very strong in funding young people, particularly those under 20. There are scholarships available for flight training, as well as attending the EAA’s kids camps. Applications are due at various times throughout the year. http://www.youngeagles.org/programs/scholarships/scholarships.asp
AOPA also awards several scholarships for student pilots, sometimes up to $5000 to complete a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. These are usually due in summer. http://flighttraining.aopa.org/ftscholarship
These are just some of the wonderful organizations that donate money (and review time) to support women pilots. If you don’t win an award the first time, be persistent and try again the next year. Good luck to you in your training pursuits!