Free Flight Training in High School (how to)


New Member
Apr 21, 2022
In high school, I have run across so many people who talk about their desire to fly but cannot do so because of money. And trust me, I understand the struggle; my family is very poor. There is no way my parents could ever afford flight hours. But here I am, a lower-income high schooler with a PPL. How? Because I was blessed with an amazing scholarship from Air Force JROTC. It might sound daunting, but it is a great ticket to earning your PPL and I feel like it is not advertised nearly enough. I've even met cadets in AFJROTC who have never heard of this opportunity, and it boggles my mind as it is open to every AFJROTC cadet old enough to qualify for a PPL. That's why I want to put this out here so that cadets that can't afford a PPL can understand that it is still possible.

The program's official name is the Air Force Chief of Staff Private Pilot Scholarship. It is fairly competitive to get a slot, but every year, many JROTC cadets are sent to partnering universities for 8 weeks, all paid for by Air Force, in the hopes of earning a PPL. I got picked up on this program and successfully completed this program. It was amazing. It is constantly changing so my knowledge might be a little out of date, but I want to show a step by step process into getting this program.

1. Be a member of a JROTC unit or CAP. Preferably, try to be a member of AFJROTC as they have the biggest amount of slots and the entire scholarship mostly comprises of them. If you cannot, it is no worries. CAP cadets that are eligible, and there are even a small number of slots for AJROTC, NJROTC, and MCJROTC cadets that their respective branches just tacked onto the existing program, which are also still fully paid for. Bottom line, YOU MUST BE A CADET TO DO THIS. Some people join AFJROTC just to do this program, and they get slots. If you want to be a pilot and your school has a JROTC or there is a CAP, I highly suggest doing the program even if it is just for this opportunity. In fact, there is no military commitment tied to the scholarship, you can earn your PPL and have no obligation to the military.
*Side note*: My year, a small number of college AF ROTC cadets were sent to these programs to earn their PPL and to act as mentors. If you are a college AF ROTC cadet reading this, they might have slots for you. This was a couple years ago so they might not be a thing anymore but I would look into it if you're an interested college AF ROTC cadet. There were also some USAFA cadets but I'd assume they know of this program.

2. Achieve the highest GPA possible in HS. For the scholarship, you only require a 3.0 unweighted but obviously the higher the better. Don't be discouraged if you just slip in, I've met plenty of cadets who just met the minimum and had like a 3.09 and were given a slot.

3. Get physically fit. There is a PT test required for the scholarship. I do not think you have to pass it but a higher PT score will prove better. The test consists of a standard AFJROTC pt test: 1 mile run, 1 minute push up, 1 minute sit up.

3. Set up a WINGS id when the time comes to apply for the scholarship. You'll need an id to apply. This will be easy for AFJROTC cadets to do as their ASI and SASI are very familiar with the process. If you are not in an Air Force program, you could contact one close by to you and see if they can help you out.

4. Study for the AQT (Airman Qualification Test). This test is on a scale of 1 - 100 and plays a heavy weighting in getting picked. You will take this test in the cycle that you are applying for. I will admit, it is kind of hard to study for as topics are very foreign to your average person. If applying for the scholarship, topics on the test are made public and I would highly recommend studying for this test. A score of ~50 is considered decent and puts you in a great place for a slot.

5. Perform well in the wing so that your SASI will give you a good ranking. Part of the process that weighs for your selection is how well your SASI ranks you as a cadet. I am not saying I condone this, but many cadets' SASIs will just throw the rankings all the way to the max regardless on how good or bad the cadet is. Because of this, it might be a good idea for your SASI to do the same so that you are not "left behind." Hopefully your SASI maxing you out is just because of how amazing of a cadet you are:angel:

To put everything into an easy checklist, these are the requirements (If I am not mistaken) for the scholarship:

- Be a US Citizen. If not, you'll have to apply for something with the TSA.
- Be a JROTC or CAP cadet, preferably AFJROTC
- Have a 3.0 unweighted GPA
- Take the AFJROTC PT Test (1 mile run, 1 minute push ups, 1 minute sit ups)
- Take the AQT
- Be at least 17 y/o by July 15 (I think?) Basically, you have to be 17 to be a pilot. Age waivers are possible but rare.
- Complete application (On both your side and your SASI/ASI's side)

- Do not submit your SAT scores if they are not good. Personally, I'd say only submit scores if they are maybe like 1200+. Basically, they understand some cadets applying for the scholarship have not been able to take the SAT yet (most apply during Fall semester junior year) so if you score like a 900 you'd only be shooting yourself in the foot by putting it down. It is optional to report your score
- Study for AQT and prepare for the PT test
- Do not be afraid to answer the questions on the application as no matter how you answer, you will not be binding yourself to service. Obviously the Air Force is doing this to try and get young ones interested in flying and possibly flying for the Air Force, but in the end, they do not expect anything back from you so don't think your stepping on egg shells.

- Get Flight Physical done ASAP in case waivers are needed
-Get packet together quickly
-When choosing schools, I strongly suggest avoiding places with volatile weather, such as Florida (even ERAU I wouldn't go for, with only 8 weeks, it is very easy to get "weathered out") You pick 5 schools, and some of the best schools I saw, and that I would list in my 5 dreams, were: Iowa Lakes, Del State, Spartan Aeronautical, OSU, Purdue in Indiana (Be careful with Purdue as there are two locations for Purdue for this program and you cannot choose which one you want. The satellite is in Jacksonville, Florida and like I said, avoid Florida if possible)
- The plane you will most likely fly is the Cessna 172s. Once matched with a school, you'll be able to figure out which plane they fly. As soon as you figure this out, I would study everything about that plane and about aviation so that you are given a leg up during the program.
- Do not be cutthroat, work and study together
- Do not form romantic relationships
- Take it seriously, some cadets saw it as a "vacation" and quickly washed out

I hope this helps any aspiring pilots in high school. And if you try this and are not picked up, you can always try again next year. I've seen a few sophomores (although extremely rare), many juniors (the biggest portion) and many seniors (definitely a good chunk of the program.)

**And for those who are also interested, the Air Force has the Aim High Flight Academy where they take cadets for 2 weeks in Florida and only take them up to solo flight. This is a great opportunity if the other doesn't work out.**
To clarify on the finanical part, "all paid for by the air force" means:
-All flight training is paid for
-All flight gear is paid for
-Tuition is paid for (You actually earn 7 college credits but do not stress they are stupid easy)
-Room and board is paid for
-Travel expenses (assuming you take the USAF up on their airline offer) are paid for
It is a genuine full-ride with the only real expense being personal expenses (i.e. personal products, sick merch, fast food, etc.)

Scholarship value exceeds approx. $23,000