Bill Would Fund Pilot Training For Veterans


Although there’s a healthy cohort of ex-military pilots in the pointy ends of numerous U.S. airliners, a Wisconsin senator says there are plenty of veterans of other trades who could earn those epaulets. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, along with Sen. John Hoewven, R-N.D., has reintroduced the American Aviator Act that would offer funding for veterans to train to become airline pilots. Veterans would apparently receive significant funding to put them on their way to the right seat. “Veterans participating in the program will receive flight training necessary to become a commercial pilot and receive other certifications, including to work as a certified flight instructor,” Baldwin said in a news release.

The program would target flight schools that have programs designed to groom ab initio students for airline jobs and they’d get grants to provide the training, including remedial training as required. “This legislation increases opportunities for veterans looking to pursue flight training and careers as commercial airline pilots. We have a real need for qualified pilots and if we make the training more available to veterans we can provide them with a good paying job.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Good idea. Subsidize training from New-Starts through commercial. A positive and progressively beneficial program. I gained by the GI Bill as-well as the aviation industry.

    • Me, too, back in 1971/72 while I was IN the USAF. No better target population to be the subject of this training. I hope they include IN-service training possibilities as military people could start early before they separate from service.

      This’ll surprise folks … after obtaining my private certificate on my nickel, I immediately launched into a Part 141 flight school commercial pilot training course, then multi-engine and finished with an instrument rating (in those days, one didn’t need an instrument rating for the commercial). Total cost to me for all of that .. about $2K. Did it all in 18 months using the GI Bill which paid 90% of the cost of training AFTER the private certificate.

  2. ONLY if they were active duty in a war zone, then yea.
    Otherwise, for the vast majority of ex-military who never saw action, heck no.

  3. It’s a nice idea that is ten years too late and $500M too short. It missed the mark on so many plains it’s laughable. And even when a pilot gets to the CA, Inst, ME and CFI stage, the way to build the required flight time to reach the FAR required minimum flight time. CFI flying is almost useless due to lack of cross country, night, instrument flight time and lack of building the necessary skills in talking to Air Traffic Control. I have a solution to that issue, but congress has closed its ears and mind.

  4. Since virtually none of the Senators and Congressmen are pilots, they have little idea about what is involved in becoming an airline pilot. So, they nibble around the edges doing simplistic things that look impressive and make good press for their voters. Mostly, they don’t want to spend too much money either. So the end result is a program that accomplishes little but sounds nice. Typical government.

  5. Taxpayer subsidies for the airline industry? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
    Better to improve/streamline regulation and reduce costs on the industry in general, so that all can benefit and reduce pointless waste. This would also help more pilots afford to spend more time in the air. More flight time = more currency and experience = safer pilots and better pilots. And probably more pilots, thus also achieving the claimed goals.

  6. “they’d get grants to provide the training, including REMEDIAL training as required….. [so] we can provide them with a good paying job.”

    I say let’s get to work on those autonomous airliners.

  7. If the government is helping out pilot candidates who served their country in the military putting their own life on the line then great, they deserve that help through the GI bill. If the government is doing this to help the airlines dealing with the “alleged pilot shortage” then that is a complete waste of money.

  8. Candidates flock to anything near-free, or at least highly subsidized. Is there a problem with this? You bet there is! Many candidates will have grandiose pie-in-the-sky daydreams of something they were never meant to be, but they don’t know it, or they simply dream too far beyond their capabilities. Just having served in some capacity in some branch of the military doing just about any one of 10,000 different descriptive functions does not make one a legitimate candidate for being a pilot – of any kind, much less an advanced position such has ATP. Some would certainly be made of “the right stuff” but many will fall short in mental ability.
    There’s a big “want to” involved in the steps to becoming a pilot, particularly one who will earn his living plying the trade. While I respect those who have served in a military branch for having done so, the Venn diagram intersection of all service members and service members with the capacity to become pilots is most likely a small sliver. You cannot “be anything you want to be” and having served in the military does not exempt one from this reality. The wasted government funding would build to a frightening level as this plays out with those who were never pilot material. Such a program is only worthy of consideration if it is discriminatory – something just not allowed in today’s world unfortunately. That discrimination? Set realistic entrance requirements (testing for consideration by the program), success requirements (early training), and harsh but necessary wash-outs. Today’s slant toward “wide diversity to include all” is no place for making pilots who will fly for a living because most have just as much likelihood of being an ATP as they do of being a brain surgeon.