NBAA and other aviation associations are urging key lawmakers to make changes to legislation that would cap payments to veterans’ flight-training programs. At issue is H.R. 4149, legislation aimed at improving the delivery of veterans’ flight-training benefits. NBAA recently signed on to a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, seeking changes to the bill.
“While the current bill contains numerous provisions to improve the program’s efficiency, the proposed capping of program payments undermines the important goal of helping our nation’s veterans enter a field where they are desperately needed,” wrote the associations, which represent thousands of aviation businesses and hundreds of thousands of pilots.
The letter was sent to the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Phil Roe (R-1-TN) and the committee’s ranking member Tim Walz (D-1-MN).
“Working as a civilian commercial pilot is a rewarding career,” the groups wrote. “However, it requires thorough, in-depth and complex training. Without the aid of their promised veteran’s benefits, most veterans can ill afford such training.”
The groups said there were good things in the bill – such as providing needed improvements for structuring veterans’ flight-training benefits, as well as coverage for obtaining a private pilot license when it is incorporated into the requirements of a professional flight training program. The groups also support provisions giving flexibility to public schools in allowing them to contract for flight training.
“However, despite these positive improvements, we cannot support this bill as written,” the groups said. “Unlike how other degree programs at public colleges or universities are treated, the bill caps payments for flight-training programs, which unfairly impacts the ability of veterans to pursue well-paying jobs in the civilian aviation sector.
“Capping funds available for flight-training degree programs virtually guarantees that veterans seeking to use their GI Bill benefits to enter the aviation industry will have insufficient funds to achieve their goals. They will either abandon their pursuit or be burdened with significant personal debt through either expenditure of personal funds or taking on of student loans. This will harm veterans and limit their employment opportunities in the aviation industry.”
The groups said that applying funding caps to veterans seeking aviation employment is “unfair and discriminatory. These caps deprive them of the ability to pursue collegiate flight training, a common path to a career as a commercial pilot.”
“We urge the committee to remove the discriminatory cap on flight training at public institutions and to keep the promises that will allow veterans their choice of career.”
In addition to NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, the letter was signed by: Air Medical Operators Association Executive Director Sally Veith, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Peter Bunce, Helicopter Association International President and CEO Matthew Zuccaro, National Air Transportation Association President Martin Hiller, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President and CEO Mark Baker, Experimental Aircraft Association CEO and Chairman Jack Pelton and National Association of State Aviation Officials President and CEO Mark Kimberling.