Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduces bill to bolster financial aid for student pilots

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 1:09 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) is trying to make the costly path to becoming a commercial airline pilot a little more affordable.

This week, she and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced a bill called the ‘Flight Education Access Act’ that would increase maximum limits on federal student loans for those pursuing degrees in flight education and training programs.

“We want to level the playing field, especially when there’s a pipeline issue right now for pilots getting into the field and make it an opportunity available to anyone who’s interested in not just those who, you know, come from wealthier backgrounds,” said Sen. Baldwin.

According to the University Aviation Association, it costs about $80,000 for the FAA flight training to become a pilot. Current federal loan limits do not accommodate that cost.

“We need better career access. Today’s federal student aid system fails pilots. Federal loans are short $80,000 or more. Airlines provide subsidized training and other supports. But lower income families can’t bridge the gap,” Regional Airline Association President and CEO Faye Malarkey Black said at a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing in April.

The bill would also create a new scholarship opportunity to offset the cost of pilot school through a public-private partnership that would incentive private partners to offer scholarships with a four to one federal match.

Senator Baldwin says the bill could be especially helpful to states like Wisconsin that rely heavily on regional airlines.

“We rely a lot on regional airlines to be able to get Wisconsinites to where they need to go, where they need to travel. And it’s the regional airlines that are seeing some of the most significant shortages in in pilots,” she said.

The senator is hoping that to include the act in the FAA reauthorization bill that Congress is working on now.