Scholarships Target Aviation Gender Gap

The I Hart Flying Foundation awarded $35,000 toward the flight training costs of five aspiring female pilots.

Hannah Rust is one of five aspiring female pilots who received the Industry Connect scholarship. [Courtesy: I Hart Flying Foundation]

Five women got a little closer to reaching their aviation goals this week, thanks to the Industry Connect scholarship made possible by the I Hart Flying Foundation. The foundation announced the scholarship opportunity during EAA AirVenture held July 25 through 31 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A four-week application process followed, and, at the end of it, five women were selected as the Class of 2022 Hart Scholars.

The purpose of the scholarship organization is to help close the gender gap in aviation—less than 10 percent of the pilots in the world are female. Finances are often the largest barrier a fledgling pilot faces. The scholarships, which range from $2,500 to $5,000 in the form of flight training funds, help the women student pilots overcome the obstacles.

One of the things that makes this scholarship program unique, says Lyndse F. Costabile, who oversees I Hart Flying Foundation, corporate and donor relations—is that the scholarship recipients do not have to be of traditional school age.

An 11-member scholarship committee had the difficult task of sifting through the applications and selecting the best of the best from the field of 160 applicants.

“This year, the ladies really brought their A-game, had merit, character, and showed the grit we look for in selecting the best candidates for our Hart scholarship awards,” said Rachelle Spector, founder and CEO of I Hart Flying Foundation. “I’m excited to announce our five newest Hart Scholars, to include Isvet Martinez in Aledo, Texas, Kelsey Harbison in Billings, Montana; Hannah Rust in Northern Virginia; Kristin Brooks in Denver, Colorado; and Valerie Meyer in Southern Illinois.”

Scholars also receive various in-kind donations from partners that add more than $3,000 in value. In addition, the scholarship winners are invited to find mentors within the I Hart Flying family that can help them as they move through their aviation careers.

"We help them build a network and navigate the industry," Costabile explains.

The I Hart Flying Foundation awarded five aspiring women pilots $35,000 in flight training scholarships. [Courtesy: I Hart Flying Foundation]

Life Changing Event

“I am so unbelievably honored and excited to have been chosen as a winner of the Industry Connect scholarship opportunity with I Hart Flying Foundation,” said Kelsey Harbison, a commercial multiengine flight student who plans to use the award to pursue her CFI certificate. Harison's long-term goal is to fly Part 135 cargo, medevac, and aerial firefighting.

For Hannah Rust, the second time was the charm as she applied for a scholarship in 2021 but was not selected. So she applied again in 2022.

“My aviation journey has taught me determination and perseverance, so despite not receiving a scholarship last year, I am so glad that I didn’t give up," she said. She is currently pursuing her instrument rating and plans to become an instructor and eventually a corporate pilot. 

"I decided to focus on how I could best serve, and I have found the true joy of flying is sharing the gift of aviation with others. Being awarded this scholarship, I feel energized to continue the work of increasing awareness and exposure to the amazing opportunities within STEAM careers. I love I Hart Flying’s mission to empower and equip our community with the tools needed to succeed," she said. "Their genuine care and enthusiasm to see women flourish in aviation is inspiring!”

I Hart Flying was founded in 2017. Since then, the organization has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarship funding, training packages, pilot supplies, and flight training equipment to 26 scholars.

About I Hart Flying Foundation:

I Hart Flying is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by pilot and entrepreneur Rachelle Spector whose love of aviation began in 2010 when she received a scholarship to obtain her private pilot certificate.

I Hart Flying invites others to get involved. The more charitable funds raised, the more opportunities and scholarships the organization can offer to help women take flight. Additional funds raised will also support travel needs for Hart scholars to attend NBAA-BACE in Orlando, October 18-20, where they will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with industry partners, network, and share their experiences, and help inspire others. 

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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