Do you have questions about Stripes to Bars or becoming a pilot? Please review these common questions to learn more. Feel free to reach out to us if you still have questions.

Are you just getting started in aviation? Are you stuck on your application and need help? If you can’t find an answer to your question below, the fastest way to get help may be to join our forum of mentors, aviation enthusiast, and scholarship winners on Facebook.

Still have questions? Contact us.

Becoming a Pilot

1. How can I become a pilot?

To become a pilot, you need to obtain the required certificates and ratings. The first certificate is the Private Pilot, which requires a minimum of 40 hours of flying, followed by a flight practical test and a knowledge test. Then there is the instrument rating, and the Commercial Pilot Certificate which requires at least 190 total flight hours. The Commercial Pilot Certificate is the first certificate that allows you to work as a pilot and get paid. Some pilots also get their Certified Flight Instructor, which allows them to work as a flight instructor.  The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate requires a minimum of 1500 hours and allows a pilot to work as an airline pilot.

2. Is it expensive to become a pilot?

The short answer is yes. If you decide to become a pilot as a hobby, you can expect to spend anywhere from $6000 to $10,000, or more, to obtain the required experience to become a private pilot. The costs to become a professional pilot are considerably more. On a budget, one can get the required ratings to start working as a pilot for as little as $50,000, or as much as $250,000, if they combine the flight training with a four-year university degree at a private institution, such as Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended to develop a budget that is 30-60% above the minimum requirements, as it is rare for a student pilot to finish in the minimum time.

3. Do I need a 4 year degree to become a commercial pilot?

Most civilian pilot jobs do not require any university education. Some airlines, such as Delta Air Lines and FedEx Express, do require a bachelor degree. Many other airlines, such as United, Southwest, and American have hired pilots without a bachelor degree, but a bachelor degree is a preferred requisite and make up the majority of pilots at those airlines. The regional airlines do not require any university education and hire many pilots without degrees. Additionally, you do not need a degree in aviation, or an aviation related field, to meet the degree requirements.

4. Can I use the GI Bill to become a pilot?

Yes, you can use the GI Bill, but it must be through a school that has been approved through Veteran’s Affairs. A comprehensive list of approved programs can be found here.

Under the “Program Type” drop down menu, select “Flight” for traditional flight schools, or select “Institute of Higher Learning” for aviation degree programs. Contact individual schools for more information.

5. Do I have to know a lot of math to be a pilot?

Pilots regularly use math fundamentals found in algebra and basic trigonometry.

6. Are there other scholarships available for flight training?

Yes. In addition to Stripes to Bars, there are many organizations offering scholarships. We recommend looking into organizations such as: The 99s, Women in Aviation International, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, National Gay Pilot’s Association, Tuskegee Airmen, Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association, and more.  

7. How can I get started?

It’s best to start by visiting several local flight schools. We recommend talking with flight instructors and students at each school to get an idea of which school seems to be the best fit for you.

8. I want to get through the process quickly, should I go to an accelerated program?

In the same way that each student has different experiences and requirements, each school is different. Some schools do not necessarily advertise an accelerated program but they may be able to provide a similar experience.  It is best to conduct research between different schools before making a decision.

9. Can I work overseas with my certificate?

Every country has different aviation rules and regulations. A US pilot certificate issued by the FAA allows you to fly an aircraft registered in the US. Some countries will allow you to fly their aircraft with a validation of your US Certificate to the local country license. Work visas may also be required. Check with the local regulations of each country.

10. Do I need perfect vision to be a pilot?  What about other health issues?

You do not need perfect vision, but you need to see 20/20 with corrective lenses for a class 1 medical or class 2 medical certificates (required for professional pilots), or 20/40 for a class 3 medical certificate (private pilots).  There are also other health standards that must be met, and it is best to discuss these issues with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  Visit the FAA’s website for more information.

Our Application Process

1. What is Stripes to Bars?

Stripes to Bars is a 501(c)(3), not for profit, run by an all volunteer staff that focuses on assisting veterans in transitioning to the civilian world through aviation. Our program works by converting donated funds into scholarships that are awarded through an application process. The application window is each year from Jan 1st until Mar 15th, with scholarships announcements starting on May 1st. Additional details can be found on our website at https://stripestobars.org/apply/. Awarded scholarships can be used towards any FAA certificate and can be used at any flight school.

2. Do I need an FAA medical even if I already have a military flight physical?

It depends. In our application process, you must obtain a medical certificate that reflects your long term goals. If you are pursuing a career track as a pilot, you will need to obtain an FAA medical (First Class or Second Class, as appropriate). If you are on a non-career track, you will need to show evidence of your medical qualification. This can be in the form of a Third Class medical certificate, BasicMed, or up-to-date medical examination from the U.S. Armed Forces, depending on your goals.

3. Can I apply if I have a preexisting medical condition?

Being able to obtain an FAA medical certificate will distinguish your eligibility. It is up to the medical examiner to decide if your preexisting condition will prohibit you from flight training. 

4. I am interested in becoming a non-career pilot, do I need an FAA medical certificate to apply for a S2B scholarship?

If you are on a non-career track, you will need to show evidence of your medical qualification. This can be in the form of a Third Class medical certificate, BasicMed, or up-to-date medical examination from the U.S. Armed Forces, depending on your goals. 

5. Do I have to provide my social security number in order to apply?

No, we do not need that information. We request that our applicants black out all social security numbers on any documentation provided to S2Bs. 

6. Do I need to pursue a career in aviation in order to apply for the scholarship or can I use it towards a private pilot certificate?

We accept both types of applicants. Our mission is to increase the pilot population while assisting veterans in their transition from the military, whether pursuing a private pilot certificate or a professional flying career.

7. Can I apply for a scholarship at any time?

No. See the Applicants page for the open application windows. 

8. Are active duty, separated, and retired military eligible to apply for the Stripes to Bars Scholarship?


9. If I miss the deadline for submission, can I submit a late application?

Unfortunately, no. We understand that life can be tough, and sometimes deadlines are missed. In order to keep all applications on a level playing field we do not accept late submissions, and ask that you respect our deadlines for submission.

Don’t worry! There is always next year, and we will be more then happy to have you apply the following year if you miss a deadline.

10. How many letters of recommendation should I submit?

One. We prefer one really well written letter of recommendation to multiple mediocre ones. Focus your time on finding one source who knows your best attributes and can speak directly to the Stripes to Bars application committee about why you deserve this scholarship.

11. What should I do if I am missing a document?

Unfortunately we do not accept incomplete applications after the deadline has passed. Please make sure you have all supplemental documents before submitting your application. If you made a mistake and submitted your application without a document, we will accept email submissions of your documents until the application deadline at apply@stripestobars.org. If a document is submitted after the application deadline, it will not be included in your application package and your application will likely be invalidated. You will still be able to apply in future years.

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