Is it possible to use the GI Bill for flight school? The answer is yes, but there are caveats you should know–for example, did you know the VA official site has a list of what types of aircraft flight training is permitted. Another caveat is that the GI Bill cannot be used to obtain a private pilot’s license–you must already have a pilot’s license to qualify for GI Bill payment of your flight school experience.
In essence, that means that you are using your GI Bill to pay for education to further round out your existing credentials earned with your private pilot’s license.
That is an important factor to keep in mind if you do not currently hold a private license–planning and budgeting for your education will naturally have to include the expense of obtaining the private license where applicable.
How To Qualify To Use Your GI Bill Benefits For Flight School
The first step is to determine your eligibility for specific GI Bill benefits if you haven’t already. You’ll need to follow all the usual steps which may include:
- Reviewing your GI Bill program to determine whether you are using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, or Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) where applicable
- Obtaining a statement of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs showing your current GI Bill eligibility or have one sent to the flight school of your choice
- Determine if the flight school you wish to attend accepts or is eligible to accept GI Bill program funds
This may require you to provide paperwork including your DD Form 214 Report of Discharge or the Guard/Reserve equivalent. You may also be required to submit proof of service or VA disability ratings where applicable to claim certain state or federal program benefits.
Once you establish your general GI Bill eligibility, you will need to obtain or show proof of your private pilot’s license and according to the VA official site, “Have a second-class medical certificate valid for second-class privileges—or a first-class medical certificate if you want to pursue the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.
The VA official site adds that flight training benefits are NOT available through Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA).
GI Bill Benefits That May Be Used For Flight Training
If you are applying for benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill or REAP, the Department of Veterans Affairs will reimburse approved flight school students for up to 60% of the approved fees you owe the school for your training.
Those who are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill should know about the following eligibility requirements to use these benefits for flight school.
According to the VA your level of GI Bill eligibility will be an important factor as well as how much entitlement you have left for the training as well as the nature of the program and school you want to enroll in:
- Flight training degree programs at a public school or university are eligible for the full in-state cost of tuition and fees “depending on your level of eligibility and remaining entitlement” plus a housing allowance and other benefits such as book stipends.
- Flight training at a private college or university has the GI Bill covering the “net cost of tuition and fees up to a yearly limit” plus a housing allowance and funds for books and supplies. The Yellow Ribbon Program may be available to help offset the costs of training not covered by the GI Bill.
- Stand-alone Part 141 pilot schools have GI Bill options that include covering the net cost of training up to a yearly limit but with no housing allowance or money for books/supplies.
What You Need To Know About Using GI Bill Funds To Pay For Flight School
At the time of this writing, the following aircraft types are eligible for GI Bill funds for flight school:
- Rotary wing
- Dual engine
- Flight engineer
GI Bill funds, as mentioned above, cannot be used to obtain the initial pilot’s license, but may be used to obtain training in the following areas depending on the school, the program the accreditation of the program, and other variables:
- Vocational flight training
- Bachelor’s degree program at a college with an aviation program.
- FAA Part 141 certified schools.
- Flight training and ratings “beyond a recreational or private pilot certificate”.
- Instrument ratings
- Commercial pilot certificate
- Flight instructor and type ratings.
- Approved aircraft dispatcher ratings
An initial pilot’s license may cost as much as $10,000, and you may find that not all costs of your flight school training are covered by the GI Bill, which is why some flight school official sites encourage applicants to explore options including Pell Grants and other federal funding choices.
Being approved for GI Bill benefits means getting accepted at the flight school you want to attend. It is best to have a conversation with an admissions counselor or school representative about the application process, your GI Bill benefits and other factors before you fully commit to the school. Once you are approved you may be directed to use the VA official site to begin the application process for your benefits.
If you have never used your GI Bill before, know that it can take up to a full month for the VA to review your application and other paperwork–it does NOT pay to explore your GI Bill options last minute. Start as early as possible for best results and expect delays.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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