Four student pilots got a boost Sept. 24 with $5,000 flight training scholarships to help them reach their goal of becoming of a pilot.
During the AOPA Aviation Summit keynote session, the association announced that Lisa Turecek of Durham, Conn.; Zachary Alcantar of Vista, Calif.; Sarah Stanley of Springvale, Maine, and; Jeff Stephenson of Florissant, Mo., received the scholarships.
Recognizing that the cost of learning to fly can pose a significant barrier for some student pilots, AOPA earlier this year established two $5,000 flight training scholarships—the AOPA Flight Training Scholarship and the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship. In addition, Aviation Supplies & Academics (ASA) and Jeppesen—two of the world’s leading providers of flight training materials—approached AOPA to provide scholarship funds as well.
To qualify, applicants had to hold a student pilot certificate but not yet a pilot certificate, complete an online application, and receive two recommendations.
Turecek’s dream of flight began on a sightseeing flight she arranged for herself and her husband on their fifth anniversary. She quickly realized that earning her certificate could be a great way for them to “get away.” She was in it for the fun. Sadly, cancer claimed her husband’s life before she could complete her training. Now her learning to fly has a more serious purpose. Turecek wants to fulfill one of her husband’s final wishes and scatter his ashes over the ocean from a plane that she is piloting. After that, she intends to work with a volunteer medical airlift organization. The Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship will help her achieve her goals.
Alcantar, winner of the Aviation Supplies & Academics Flight Training Scholarship, has been fascinated with flight since kindergarten. He began flight training at 18, but finances—his and his flight school’s—soon forced him to set training aside. About a year ago, Alcantar landed a job as a line service technician at a local fixed-base operator, which rekindled the passion. Since then, he’s been saving and taking lessons as able. His enthusiasm for flying is infectious. One of Alcantar’s recommendations said that the writer, a pilot who had let his currency slip, said his own passion has been rekindled as a result of interacting with Alcantar.
Stanley—and other young student pilots like her—represent the next generation of general aviation pilots. A high school senior and avid environmentalist, Stanley would like to finish her flight training and ultimately combine her flying skills with an environmental career. As a high school student with limited resources, Stanley said the scholarship would be crucial to helping get her to the finish line and earn her certificate. She received the Jeppesen Flight Training Scholarship.
Stephenson, winner of the AOPA Flight Training Scholarship, is a middle school teacher from Missouri who began fulfilling the lifelong dream of flight after discovering that there were options to help him keep the cost of learning to fly down—a significant concern for a student pilot learning to fly on a teacher’s salary. With a passion for teaching kids that equals his passion for flight, Stephenson plans to use his experience as a pilot to inspire kids to become pilots or aircraft mechanics, or even to find other careers in aviation.
“The scholarships, like our Flight Training Student Retention Initiative, are part of AOPA’s continued commitment to grow the pilot population,” said Jennifer Storm, AOPA director of flight training initiatives. “Although four scholarships, on their own, won’t reverse the declining numbers overnight, we are thrilled to help four very deserving people achieve their dreams of flight. And that’s four more aviation ambassadors who can encourage others to follow their dreams.”