Zina Kumok Image Written By: Zina Kumok | Edited By: Kevin Ladd | Updated: June 19, 2024

Aviation Scholarships

Young female Asian Aviation student in cockpit with headset and microphone

Flying or being around planes can be one of the most exciting professions. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive ones. Entering the aviation industry can come with huge costs, and paying for it can feel daunting, unless you somehow get a full ride or have a trust fund that covers all the costs.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Aviation Scholarships with Approaching Deadlines

That’s where aviation scholarships come in. These awards are given to students who need assistance paying for flight school, air traffic controller training and more. The size of these scholarships can vary greatly, just like with other types of awards.

If you’re interested in aviation scholarships, keep reading to learn more about how they work, where to find them and how to maximize the odds of winning one.

What is an Aviation Scholarship?

Studying for a career in the aviation industry may be exciting, but it can also be costly. For example, if you weren’t already a military pilot, becoming a professional pilot can be an expensive endeavor. The average cost of a private pilot license is about $15,000, whereas the cost for a commercial pilot license is about $60,000. A helicopter’s pilot license is about $25,000.

However, if you can win an aviation scholarship, you’ll be able to fund your dreams without taking out thousands or even tens of thousands in loans.

Types of Aviation Scholarships

General aviation scholarships

While many aviation scholarships are geared toward specific programs or career paths, there are also general aviation scholarships. These usually do not require that you be studying for a specific position or career.

For example, the Navigate Your Future Scholarship is available to any student who wants to work in the aviation industry. Only one award, worth $2,500, is given each year.

To qualify, you must:

General aviation scholarships are meant for anyone interested in working in the aviation industry in any capacity. These may be harder to get because they'll generally have more applicants than specific aviation scholarships. However, if you’re a good candidate and meet eligibility requirements, there’s no reason not to apply.

Flight school scholarships

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has a variety of scholarships, including Flight Training Scholarships. The minimum scholarship amount is $5,000. To apply for all of these awards, you only need to complete one application.

To qualify, you must:

Individual awards may have their own specific requirements. For example, the PenFed Credit Union Scholarship requires that students have at least a 3.0 GPA or higher, whereas the Adapt to Fly Scholarship is given to a student who is interested in aviation and has a disability.

Pilot license scholarship

Named for one of the heroes on Flight 93 on 9/11, the LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Scholarship is given to a student who is getting their pilot’s license without attending an official flight school. Between one and three winners will be chosen each year.

To qualify for this award, you must:

Air traffic controller scholarships

If you're interested in becoming an air traffic controller, there are many scholarships available to you.

The Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) has a list of potential awards and offers their own ATCA Scholarship Fund, which is available to current aviation students or those whose parents are air traffic controllers.

Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering Scholarships

If you're interested in the engineering side of aviation, you may find many available scholarships. First, start by looking at general STEM scholarships, which will often include aerospace or aeronautical engineering. Also, search for engineering scholarships.

If you’re a woman, part of the LGBTQIA+ community or a racial or ethnic minority, you can also look for STEM scholarships focusing on your specific demographic. This can lead to more opportunities than if you only look for basic engineering scholarships.

Aviation Scholarship FAQs

Can I get federal financial aid for aviation training or flight school?

If scholarships and grants don't cover all the funding you need, you may be able to qualify for federal financial aid. To find out if you are eligible, you must first determine if the school is part of the federal financial aid system. If the school is not, then you will not be eligible, no matter what your need is.

But if the school does qualify, then the next step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA grants you access to federal financial aid, including grants, work-study and federal student loans.

When you complete the FAFSA, you will be given a Student Aid Index (SAI) number that shows how much your parents or guardians can roughly afford to pay for your college expenses. The lower your SAI, the more likely it is that you’ll receive need-based aid.

Can I take out federal student loans to study aviation?

Federal student loans can be a great way to pay for college or aviation training. Your school must be part of the Title IV federal student aid program to offer federal student loans. You can go here to see if your program is on the list.

If it is, then all you have to do to take out federal student loans is to complete the FAFSA by the school’s financial aid deadline and show a demonstrated financial need.

Can I take out private student loans to study aviation?

Some private student loan companies will provide loans for students interested in aviation. However, you may still have to attend an accredited school to be eligible. There may also be some credit score and income requirements. If you don’t have an income source, you may have to get a co-signer.

In general, private student loans have higher interest rates than federal loans and no income-driven or loan forgiveness plans. It’s always best to start by looking at federal student loans and only use private loans as a last resort.

Where can I find aviation scholarships?

Aviation scholarships are available through schools directly, as well as being offered by third-party organizations. Whenever you apply to a school, contact the financial aid department and ask how to maximize your scholarship opportunities. You may have to fill out extra forms to qualify.

Schools may even maintain a list of external scholarships. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a list of scholarship opportunities for students. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great place to start. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is another great resource if you’re looking for aviation scholarships.

Does the military pay for flight school or other aviation careers?

If you are part of a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program in college, you may qualify for a military scholarship or grant that covers part of your tuition.

Also, if you have already served in the military, you may be eligible for free or reduced tuition through the GI Bill. In general, you can get free tuition at a public university or have in-state tuition rates applied at a private university.

Having a military background can also make it easier to get a job in the aviation industry, especially if you already have relevant work experience.

I'm an international student. Am I eligible for an aviation scholarship?

International students may find it harder to get financial aid in the aviation industry. Many scholarships on this list and in our database are only available to US citizens or permanent residents. If you do not have legal status in the US, outside of a student visa, you may not qualify for these aviation scholarships.

Try searching for scholarships based in your home country and see if you can find any that you can use while studying abroad.

I’m a DACA student. Can I qualify for an aviation scholarship?

While DACA students may be eligible for state-based grants and scholarships, they may have a harder time receiving third-party aviation scholarships. However, they may still be eligible for other types of scholarships specifically geared toward DACA students.

DACA recipients also do not qualify for federal financial aid. However, they should still fill out the FAFSA to qualify for all possible state grants and external scholarships. Note, you need a Social Security Number to complete the FAFSA.

Do I need to have demonstrated financial need to qualify for an aviation scholarship?

Just like with regular scholarships, some aviation scholarships are only given to students who have demonstrated financial need. This may include having a family household income that is below a certain threshold or having a Student Aid Index number below a certain level.

Some need-based scholarships may require that students complete the FAFSA to be eligible, whereas others will just rely on financial documents, like tax returns, to verify need.

Also, some scholarships may not require that students have any financial need, but will give preferential treatment to those that do. In that case, any student is welcome to apply, if they meet other eligibility criteria.

Some need-based scholarships have a certain household income limit, whereas others will be more flexible. Unless you explicitly don’t meet stated income requirements, it doesn’t hurt to apply.

Do you already have to be in aviation school to apply?

Some scholarships are available to students who have not yet started their aviation training, whereas others require that students are already enrolled in an aviation school. If you do not already have to be in school to apply, you may have to provide a letter of acceptance along with your scholarship application.

If you’re currently enrolled in aviation school, make sure to keep applying for scholarships, even if you’re not a freshman. There are many scholarships available for upperclassmen or students who are already deep in their training.

What are some common reasons my aviation scholarship application was denied?

Just like with any scholarship, make sure to read through all of the requirements before you apply. Many students lose scholarships simply because they didn't include all of the necessary materials and documents.

Some students also fail to submit the application by the deadline, another easy problem to avoid. If you struggle with deadlines, write down an earlier date to give yourself a false sense of urgency. That way if you’re a day late, you’ll still be early.

Even if you don’t get an aviation scholarship, it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Most scholarships receive dozens, hundreds or even thousands of qualified applications. Sometimes there’s no obvious answer as to why you didn’t receive an aviation scholarship. Just read the requirements, try your best and don’t take it personally if you don’t win.

What is the typical application process for aviation scholarships?

The application process looks fairly similar to all scholarship applications. First, you’ll have to complete a form, which is usually online, that will ask you for basic contact and demographic information.

You’ll usually have to submit a transcript and one or more letters of recommendation. Some scholarships may also ask for an essay that answers a question related to your passion for aviation.

Some scholarships will also ask for proof that you have been accepted into an aviation-related program or proof that you are currently enrolled.

Are there scholarships available for minorities interested in aviation?

If you’re part of a minority group and are studying aviation, you may be eligible for special scholarships.

For example, the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance has a scholarship program that partners with other organizations to provide multiple scholarship opportunities. If you’re also part of a racial or ethnic minority, you may receive extra consideration for some of these awards.