The dream and why is it important to me
My “bucket list” features the classic, mundane items like “Travel the world!” and “Master a fourth foreign language.” The tricky ones, though, are the dreams that require more than just money and time – the tricky bucket list items are the ones that force me to put myself in danger. Naturally, that means earning my pilot’s license.
The possibility of death isn’t exactly what draws me to earning my pilot’s license, though I will admit that makes it waaaaay cooler. I want to earn a pilot’s license for several reasons: 1) No one I know has earned one so I’ll have a place of distinction among my friends and family, 2) I can help a lot of people with the ability to transport them (maybe with an organization from this list of flying-related charities) and 3) I understand that earning a pilot’s license is difficult and I like accomplishing difficult things.
How others accomplished the same dream
There are various routes to “earning your wings.” Of the six different types of pilot licenses, I’ve narrowed down my dream to earning a Private Pilot License. This requires more hours and training than, say, the Recreational or Sport Pilot but also gives me some perks, like flying in and out of controlled landing strips and flying at night. I don’t personally know any person with a pilot’s license but the Oregon State Flying Club website offers detailed descriptions of the minimum and realistic requirements for accomplishing this dream (with price tags included!):
I did find a number of stories on successful female pilots. While the women I found stories for are not private pilots, they do all have their licenses and loads of useful information on the flying culture, pay scale, education requirements from around the globe, and general job satisfaction.
Seven other female pilots from around the world, including Eva Claire Marseille (below)
And a Forbes interview with Michelle Knoll
Barriers and support systems
Unfortunately, aircraft piloting is a field where women are the overwhelming minority. Whether this is because of an educational system that favors males or because the patriarchy that U.S. culture is built upon has made piloting an unattractive field for women, I cannot answer to. But 6.71% of all U.S. pilots being female gives me reason to believe that my gender may be a barrier in my attempt to earn a pilot’s license.
The question of funding is a topic that many students before me have researched. According to my Google searches, FAFSA can be used for pilot training programs (considered something akin to a trade school). Also, the Federal Aviation Administration offers various scholarships and grants for students enrolled in pilot training programs. I don’t yet know whether or not this particular fact is going to be a barrier or a support system for me so I’m leaving this one in the middle of the two categories.
My biggest support system factor is myself. I have researched every inch of my education plot-line for earning my pilot’s license and am a motivated student. I have no family to speak of, no local friends, and my plants aren’t exactly sentient. So, it’s just me, myself, and I for moral support (shout out to Beyonce for giving me a soundtrack).
Budget for the Dream
According to the Oregon State Flying Club’s (OSFC) website, the FAA’s Minimum Requirement (Scenario 1 below) for a pilot training program would cost me $6,150.00 for my private pilot’s license. This falls within my yearly allocated Pilot’s License Monies (see chart above). However, the OSFC website also maintains that the realistic cost (Scenario 2 below) of this training program will be $8,850.00 – which is a little over $1K more than my yearly budget.
I’m not phased by my yearly budget for this training program being shot – this budget was built with my current educational course load in mind – meaning I’d be limited on time to accomplish this goal as it is. In an ideal world, I’d be focusing solely on earning my pilot’s license (I’d be finished with my bachelor’s degree) and would be able to use FAFSA monies for the cost of the license. I’m also not worried about the license taking longer than one year to accomplish – I want to be a good pilot, not a dangerous one.
I am, easily, far more excited about this bucket list item now (after having written up this post) than I was before. I have the names, locations, and start dates for a number local pilot training programs and there is a thread of hope in my research that I can get FAFSA funding for a pilot’s license at the same time that I’m earning my bachelor’s degree on FAFSA funds. Not sure how I could afford the time for such a feat, but it’s exciting that such an option might exist!
Check back in with me in a couple years and you may have to call me Captain Chelsey.