A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill, the Aviation Workforce Development Act (H.R.1818), to make training at certain commercial pilot and aircraft maintenance technician schools qualified expenses for 529 plans.
Designed as tax-advantaged investment accounts to boost savings for higher education, 529 plans originally were limited to use toward degrees at four-year universities. Backers of the Aviation Workforce Development Act noted that Congress has expanded the list of qualified expenses to certain trade apprenticeship programs. However, aviation has not been included in that list.
To address that, four members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means committees—Reps. Mike Collins (R-Georgia), Jimmy Panetta (D-California), Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania), and Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee)—introduced the bill with another four original co-sponsors. In addition, the Aviation Workforce Development Act has received backing from nearly 20 commercial and business aviation organizations.
"The Aviation Workforce Development Act is a commonsense proposal to give Americans who want to pursue a career in aviation, on the ground or in the air, the same tools as those seeking four-year degrees with zero increased cost to taxpayers," said Collins, who spearheaded the bill.
The bill would permit 529 plans to cover tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for participation in a qualified aviation maintenance course or a qualified commercial pilot course. This includes Part 147 maintenance schools and Part 61 and 141 flight schools. Since H.R.1818 involves a tax-related measure, the bill would first need to be considered by Ways and Means. Backers hope to include the bill in a larger tax measure that would be added to a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill later this year.
“By making these professions more attainable, we can grow and foster the next generation of commercial pilots and mechanics needed to support our nation's travel and tourism economy,” said Panetta.
Kelly, who chairs the tax subcommittee, agreed that Congress needs to incentivize students to become airline pilots.
"It is abundantly clear that we need to increase the aviation workforce to meet increasing air-travel demand,” added Cohen, who serves as the ranking member of the aviation subcommittee.