Veterans and State College - the Perfect Combo for Pilot Training

By Nate Budd

     It may not be common knowledge, but the Veteran's Administration covers the cost of tuition as well as the cost of flight training for veterans. In fact, veterans who are eligible for in-state tuition rates and who attend state college can get fully paid tuition. Some students will be eligible for more educational funds through the VA if they served active duty after September 10, 2001.

     The US government knows that veterans love to fly and want to turn that passion into a career. Thanks to the 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act, it is easier and more affordable, as pilot training will be covered by VA benefits.

     It can be daunting to think of beginning a new career, but if you're a military veteran you already have a lot of the traits that a great pilot requires. If you've imagined what it would be like to fly or already have that skill, you can have a wonderful career following your U.S. time in the service. You are just what the airlines are seeking and many of the commercial pilots have served in the military. Since the GI Bill will take care of most of the training fees, it's a sensible choice to use the VA benefits at a state college to study aviation and become a professional pilot.

     A logical first step would be that you, as a veteran, receive a VA Certificate of Eligibility, which will show you how much you can receive to help with the cost of flight training. You should also realize that there are some expenses that the VA is likely not to cover. Most veterans end up paying for the FAA Knowledge Tests and Practical Tests. Over the full program, these expenses add up to nearly $2500 and can exceed that if you take all of the ratings available to you. Also, if you go over the number of hours or cost in a course, the VA should reimburse you for those additional hours (with certain limitations) but you must first pay for those expenses out of pocket. Reimbursement could take 90 days or longer. Of course, these extra expenses are spaced over the period of the entire two year course. The benefits you are able to access through your Post 9/11 GI Bill could reach $60,000 or even more in just the flight training fees!

     Veterans having completed any pilot training program can now utilize the opportunity to be a part of this growing aviation field. Up to 2031 there is going to be requirements of more than 69,000 new pilots in North America as per the recent studies by the FAA and manufacturers of aircrafts. During this period the entire global aviation industry will be requiring nearly 460,000 new pilots and North American market is just a small part as compared to the global requirement. Most of the aspirants will need a college degree, along with a commercial pilot license in this competitive field. The airlines hiring pilots will have to look for ones with increased minimum number of flight hours as per the policies pending with FAA. For getting a job pilots trained in the military will have a definite advantage. There will be an increase in hiring of flight instructors in future and accordingly spending time as a flight instructor will give one the advantage of gaining necessary flight hours as well as the experience required to get into airlines or corporate aviation. Typical payment of $15 to $25 per hour for flight and ground instruction is made to the flight instructors. Regional airlines normally pay initial salaries of around $20,000 per year and thus future airline pilots have to make their plans accordingly. But major airlines give much better wages and it keeps increasing with passage of time.

     If you want to learn more earning a post-secondary education with your benefits, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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