Washington state-based Bremerton Pilots Association (BPA) is doing its part to grow the general aviation pilot population by funding and managing its Youth Aviation Scholarship program.
The program started when the membership realized that it needed to nurture and support the next generation of pilots as many were aging and wouldn’t be flying forever, said Bremerton Pilots Association President Jim Posner. “We host a Christmas party each year and sold the centerpieces from the tables in an informal auction, with the proceeds going into the scholarship fund,” he said. “At that time, the scholarships were maybe $100 or so, but it was a start.”
In later years, the association ramped up the auction feature of the party with aviation knick-knacks brought in for sale; mostly used items rummaged from their hangars and garages, said Posner. “We were only able to raise enough to fund a scholarship or two and our drop-out rate was unacceptable.”
In 2012, the association made a conscious effort to make the scholarship program more effective and fundraising more formal with a goal of much more money and a more tightly managed approach, said Posner.
“Our scholarships are now $3,500 each, which represents about half of the cost of training, ground school, and checkride. Last December’s party proceeds netted the fund over $10,000,” said Posner. “That money, plus what we had left in the fund, allowed us to award six scholarships in 2013. Three have already passed their checkride and the other three are close.”
This year, the association decided to make the auction a stand-alone event for several reasons, said Posner. “In December around here, the days are pretty short, so flying into the event was not an option for many people,” he said. “Plus, that time of year is not the best for weather and frequently we had very inclement conditions which discouraged many from attending. Further, we were competing with everyone’s Christmas present budget.”
So this year’s event, which features a silent auction and barbecue, will be held on Oct. 12 at Bremerton National Airport, starting at noon. “Our goal this year is to raise $21,000 to fund another six new pilots in 2014,” said Posner. We already have three “on deck” who are ready to start their training so shouldn’t have any trouble finding the rest.” Two awardees received their certificates in 2012, he added.
This year, bidders will have more than $21,000 in aviation-related items to bid on in live and silent auctions. Items donated include two unrestricted coach tickets on Alaska Airlines; a Lightspeed Aviation Zulu 2 ANR headset; BendixKing AV8OR GPS unit; a T-6 Texan ride and Olympic Flight Museum membership; and an aerobatic ride in a HiperBipe biplane. AOPA was among the sponsors making a cash donation to the event, said Posner, and this year, the Bremerton Pilots Association took the steps needed to organize a charitable foundation (IRS 501(c)(3)) so that donations are tax deductible.
The scholarship program is critical because everyone involved with general aviation needs to be involved with bringing youngsters into GA, said Posner. “They are going to be the next generation of GA pilots, and the only way they can do it is by helping them pay the expensive fees it costs to become a private pilot,” he said.
It costs about $7,000 to learn to fly, and that’s if the student is efficient, said Posner. “A lot of people can’t afford that, so we have this program. If they have half the funds, we match the other half.”