House Proposes Enabling 529 Funds For Aviation Career Education Options


Last week, the House of Representatives introduced the bipartisan Aviation Workforce Development Act, designed to stimulate training for more new pilots and aircraft technicians. The lynchpin of the proposed legislation is enabling potential aviation career seekers to use tax-advantaged 529 investment plans to fund their educations.

When initially approved, 529 plans only enabled tax-free savings to go toward college tuition and expenses. Over time, the list of educational options has grown to include vocational schools and apprentice programs, but to date, aviation career education has not been eligible for the 529 savings.

Four members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means committees, led by Mike Collins, R-Ga., and including Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., worked together to craft the Aviation Workforce Development Act with another four original cosponsors. Some 20 commercial and business aviation organizations also back the proposed legislation.

Collins said, “The Aviation Workforce Development Act is a common-sense proposal to give Americans who want to pursue a career in aviation, on the ground or in the air, the same tools as those seeking four-year degrees with zero increased cost to taxpayers.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I’m a strong proponent of apprenticeship programs. It’s time we recognize that all careers don’t require a four year degree. Unfortunately our education system is a self perpetuating profit center in which the refrain often is “Without a college degree, how will you succeed?”

    I’m the product of an airline apprenticeship in aviation maintenance on heavy jets. Four years later with some additional college courses pertinent to my apprenticeship, I became a journeyman mechanic with an A+P license. Being around Boeing aircraft and P+W engines ignited my desire to fly them and the earnings as a mechanic allowed me enough money for flight lessons. The purchase of a C-140 let me gain more flight experience which consequently was of great value while in flight training with the Army. A tour in Vietnam with over 1000 hrs logged flight time allowed me to skip the flight instructor routine despite being instructor qualified in fixed and rotor wing aircraft. Again, no college during this progression which was then followed by a Flight Engineer and ATP rating. Several more years of utility, freight dog, corporate and National Guard flying led me closer to the goal.

    Eventually I was rehired as a pilot following my absence by the same company that I started as an apprentice with. My dream finally realized after dogged pursuit of this goal and years later retired from the left seat at this major airline. Learning is a process that should never stop and a college degree does not guarantee that.