On Feb. 10, Friends of Albert Whitted Airport awarded $166,000 in flight training scholarships to 30 individuals in St. Petersburg, aged 16-24, aiming to support students who face barriers in accessing aviation training. The scholarships are designed to open a local pathway to aviation careers, particularly for those from historically underrepresented groups such as women and minorities.

This year, Friends awarded six starter scholarships of $1,000 each; 16 intermediate scholarships of $5,000 each; and eight advanced scholarships of $10,000 each. Six of the advanced scholarship recipients were previous recipients of FOAWA’s scholarships. Walt Driggers, of Friends of Albert Whitted Airport, Inc., said that so many of last year’s scholarship recipients earned their pilots license, there was a need to create an advanced-level scholarship so they could continue on to their instrument rating and commercial licenses and move closer to becoming professional pilots.

Dominic Polk, pictured below, earned his pilot’s license after receiving a scholarship in 2023. Polk said it is so important and crucial for him because his goal is to become an airline pilot. He was awarded an advanced scholarship this year.

This is the second year that Friends of Albert Whitted Airport has awarded flight scholarships to young people in the St. Petersburg community. In 2023, Friends awarded 19 scholarships. 

Hundreds of community members and parents gathered in a hangar to celebrate the recipients. Attendees heard an inspirational speech from Barbara Hedge, a St. Pete Air Certified Flight Instructor and newly minted airline transport pilot with Breeze Airways, as well as a keynote presentation from internationally acclaimed aviator, mentor, and STEM+ educator, Captain Barrington Irving, who was the first black person to pilot a plane around the world solo. Recipients heard from St. Petersburg City Council members Deborah Figgs-Sanders and Ed Montanari, a former United States Air Force pilot and commercial airline captain. 

The council members presented Capt. Barrington Irving with a formal recognition passed by city council and Mayor Ken Welch recognizing his contributions to aviation. 

Friends of Albert Whitted Airport’s president, Walt Driggers, said, “The members of Friends of Albert Whited Airport who donated to our scholarship fund are seriously changing the trajectory of so many lives, it is unbelievably awesome. Some recipients are students; some work two jobs to scrape together money for lessons to fly – to create a better life, a better future. I can’t wait until this pathway to careers these young people lead to results in landing professional flying jobs for these pilots. It may only be a moment in time to us, but it can provide a lifetime of opportunity for them.” 

Friends of Albert Whitted Airport plans to continue offering 25-30 scholarships each year to help aspiring pilots in the community to become professional pilots and/or enter other careers in aviation. Contact us if you would like to be part of this important work.

A list of our 2024 recipients may be found here: https://foawa.org/scholarships/