Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flying The Friendly Skies: No Better Time!

This may be the perfect time to achieve your aviation dream

A Gift From Uncle Sam!
The new GI Bill offers unprecedented training and education—especially for aviators
On August 1, 2009, comprehensive and sweeping changes to the U.S. government’s GI Bill took effect. The new “Post-9/11 GI Bill” introduces the most extensive educational-assistance opportunity since the original bill was passed in 1944. In essence, the new bill allows every eligible veteran, service member and reservist an opportunity to receive an undergraduate education at a public institution, at no cost. For those interested in an aviation career, the new GI Bill is a dream come true.

The basics of the new GI Bill establish financial support for graduate/undergraduate degrees and vocational/technical training for individuals with at least 90 days of military service on or after September 11, 2001. It also covers individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. Veterans must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

There are three components to the new bill: tuition, housing and a book stipend. Tuition benefits vary based on the number of months served on active duty after September 11, 2001. While 36 months of active service qualifies a veteran for 100% benefits, six months or less of active duty yield 40% of the available benefits.

The big news for prospective pilots is the fact that flight training, conducted within a degree program at an “institute of higher learning,” can be paid 100% through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. College and university aviation programs across the nation are eligible. The key to this is what’s called the “Yellow Ribbon Program” provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Faith DesLauriers, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s director of veterans affairs, explains that the new GI Bill establishes a state-based cap on tuition benefits: “The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays up to the highest public undergraduate tuition in a particular state. A student attending a private university or enrolled in a graduate program could easily exceed that amount.” DesLauriers explains that Yellow Ribbon allows institutions to “make up” the difference in tuition.

“The Yellow Ribbon Program allows degree-granting institutions like Embry-Riddle to voluntarily pay tuition expenses that exceed the state cap,” says DesLauriers. “The institution can contribute up to 50% of those expenses, and Veterans Affairs will match the same amount as the institution. That means a student could attend Embry-Riddle and go through all its flight programs essentially at no cost to the student.”

The post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are applicable to any university, with or without a flight training curriculum, so those interested in nonflying careers also qualify for Yellow Ribbon funding. It’s important for veterans to note that only those entitled to the maximum benefit rate (having served at least 36 months after September 11, 2001) are eligible for Yellow Ribbon Program funding.

The housing component of the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays veterans a monthly allowance based on the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 (rank) with dependents. There’s also a book stipend of $1,000 yearly, based on enrollment. All three components of the Post-9/11 GI Bill are transferable to dependents based on several criteria that can get quite complicated.

Students interested in flight training at nondegree flight schools and academies can apply other GI Bill benefits. The “Montgomery” GI Bill for active duty service provides 36 months of education benefits and contains flight training provisions. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides three benefit components based on several factors, the Montgomery GI Bill provides a fixed, monthly benefit of about $1,368 for the maximum service time (36 months, not based on September 11).

Veterans Affairs benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill don’t reimburse costs for training toward a private pilot license or a CFI rating. Flight students training at a dedicated flight academy would receive about $22,000 in total GI benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill. That amount is variable and based on several factors that should be carefully researched via the GI Bill website or Department of Veterans Affairs. Also, veterans must choose between the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill.

Those in the reserves also have GI Bill options. The Montgomery GI Bill for Reserves, the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) provide varying levels of educational benefits for reserve members and pre-9/11 veterans.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill ushers in a new era of benefits for veterans that hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. It’s no secret that most of the airline crews from the middle part of the 20th century had the GI Bill to thank for their flight training. This new bill provides the same level of benefits and makes it possible for a student to attend the best aeronautical institutions and receive the best training for almost nothing. It’s a fitting thanks to our veterans and a fantastic way to give professional aviation a needed boost in this time of economic difficulty. Learn more at

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