VA Approved Flight Training: An Overview
Looking at VA Approved Flight Training
You probably already know that your VA education benefits can help pay for flight training. However, you may not have any details about how it all works. For example, you may be wondering,
Can the GI Bill be used to pay for flight training?
Are there VA approved flight schools?
What benefits are included for flight training through VA schools?
If you’ve asked any of these questions and are interested in getting your commercial pilot license, then read on to discover some programs available and how to apply your VA education benefits to pay for training.
VA Approved Flight Training
You can use your GI Bill to pay for flight training, provided you meet certain requirements.
All of these must be true to qualify:
- You must qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill, and
- You must have a private pilot’s license, and
- Have a second-class medical certificate valid for second-class privileges – or a first-class medical certificate if you want to get the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate
Please note, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program can not be used to pay for flight training. However, the Fry Scholarship can pay for flight training.
Available Benefits Based on Program
There are some differences between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill when it comes to available benefits.
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
You will be reimbursed for 60% of the approved fees that may be charged by your flight school.
Additionally, your MGIB entitlement will be charged at the rate of one (1) month for each $2,150 paid. So, hypothetically, if you are in flight training and you have 36 months of MGIB entitlement remaining, then the max amount you can receive for that training is $77,400.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
If you’re using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for flight training, the payment you receive depends on a few factors:
- You level of eligibility, which is a percentage based on how long you served, and
- How much entitlement you have left for training, and
- The type of school and program in which you’re enrolled.
Here are some details regarding how the program you attend determines the benefits available. If you are enrolled in:
- A degree program that contains flight training at a public college or university. The VA will pay for up to the full in-state tuition and fees. You may also get a monthly housing allowance and money to cover books and supplies.
- A degree program that contains flight training at a private college or university. The VA will pay for the “net cost of tuition and fees” up to a yearly limit. The limit depends on your level of eligibility and the amount of benefit remaining. A housing allowance and money for books are available, as is the ability to use the Yellow Ribbon Program at participating schools.
- A vocational program at a stand-alone Part 141 pilot school. The VA pays for the net cost of training up to a yearly limit. In this option, there is no housing allowance available, nor is there extra money for books and supplies.
Keep in mind, these requirements largely apply to stand-alone schools that are not colleges and universities.
Regardless of which school you plan to attend, your VA education benefits can help pay for the following flight qualifications:
- Rotary wing
- Dual Engine
- Flight Engineer
Applying for VA Education Benefits
To get started on the path to your commercial pilot license, you will need to apply for VA education benefits. There are multiple ways to do this:
- Apply Online! Follow the link to the GI BIll application page, fill out a short questionnaire, and get the process started.
- Apply by Mail. Call 888.442.4551, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, and request an application be sent to you through the mail. Once you fill it out, mail it to the VA regional claims processing office that is located in the same region as your school. Here’s a list of regional claims processing offices to explore.
- Apply In Person. If you are able, go to a VA regional office to have a VA employee help you fill out an application for benefits. Here’s a list of VA regional offices near you. You can also work with your school’s certifying official for help with the application.
As of right now, it takes the VA an average of 30 days to make a decision regarding your education benefits. So, keep that in mind when enrolling in a flight program.
Colleges & Universities with VA Approved Flight Training
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle is a world-class, private university that offers degree programs for veteran and military students.
Additionally, Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ campuses offer Bachelor’s degrees in Airline/Commercial/Professional Pilot and Flight Crew subject areas. So, students have the opportunity to get a degree and obtain a commercial pilot’s license at Embry-Riddle University.
Embry-Riddle offers two ground schools: Commercial Pilot Fixed Wing and Private Pilot Fixed Wing. The ERAU campuses for which these programs apply are located in Daytona Beach, Florida and Prescott, Arizona.
Embry-Riddle also participates in the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, and the university offers college credit for military experience.
Colorado Northwestern Community College
Colorado Northwestern Community College is a public, 2-year school located in Rangely, Colorado. Colorado Northwestern does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, but they are approved for Tuition Assistance, and they have GI Bill approved programs.
Additionally, CNCC offers an associate degree program that covers the Airline/Commercial/Professional Pilot and Flight Crew subject areas.
University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College
The University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College is a public two-year college that offers technical programs, university transfer programs, and other specialized programs serving central Arkansas.
This school also offers an associate’s degree program covering the Airline/Commercial/Professional Pilot and Flight Crew subject areas.
The Pulaski Technical College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, however they are approved for Tuition Assistance, and they offer credit for military service.
Texas State Technical College – Waco
The Texas State Technical College is a military- and veteran-focused technical college that offers a vast array of two-year degree programs.
One of them happens to cover the commercial and professional pilot subject areas. While TSTC does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the school does offer GI Bill approved programs. It also offers college credit for military experience, which is helpful for service members in transition.
Central Texas College – Main Campus
The main campus of Central Texas College is a two-year public college located in Killeen, Texas.
The CTC main campus offers a professional and commercial pilots program that can lead students to the acquisition of their professional pilot’s license.
Central Texas College participates in the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, as well as the Tuition Assistance Program.
Additionally, eligible military-affiliated students can use the Texas Hazlewood Act, which is a benefit from the state of Texas that provides qualified veterans, spouses, and dependent children with up to 150 credit hours of tuition exemption.
More Colleges & Universities with Flight Training
The following schools also offer some form of flight training. This list has been populated from CollegeRecon’s School Finder searching by the “Aviation” subject area.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Middle Georgia State University
Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell
Community College of Beaver County
Letourneau University – Longview
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Indian Hills Community College
Guilford Technical Community College
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Mercer County Community College
Wallace State Community College
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Metropolitan State University of Denver
St. Petersburg College – Clearwater
Iowa Central Community College
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
Lewis and Clark Community College
Louisiana Tech University Ruston
University of Central Missouri
Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute
Central Oregon Community College
Treasure Valley Community College
Lehigh Carbon Community College
Luzerne County Community College
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
Vermont Technical College – Randolph Center
The colleges and universities listed above have some form of flight training curriculum. Be advised, they may not all be the full curriculum, where some schools may only offer rotary wing training, while others only offer fixed wing. Check with the school first to verify that the training you’re looking for is available.
Our transportation infrastructure depends upon those who have pilots licenses. Air travel is currently the fastest form of transportation used by businesses to move people and products around the world.
According to the Department of Labor, the median income for airline and commercial pilots was over $130,000 in 2020. Furthermore, the job outlook is expected to grow at 13% until 2030, which is faster than the national average.
If you’ve ever considered becoming a pilot, now is a great time to get that training. Find a school that suits your needs, and apply the GI Bill benefits to secure your future!
(Image courtesy of SFIO CRACHO via Shutterstock)
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About the author
Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.