COPA Neil J. Armstrong Scholarship

The COPA Neil J. Armstrong Scholarship Fund promotes Canadian pilot development by providing annual scholarships to student pilots in both ab-initio and advanced flight training programs.

Neil J. Armstrong

Created to honour one of Canada’s foremost aviators, the scholarship has helped many Canadian pilots get their start. The main award is the “ab-initio” award which provides up to $10,000 to defray eligible training costs associated with the Private Pilot License (PPL).

The second award, the Advanced Training Award, is intended for applicants who already hold a PPL and are seeking higher licenses or ratings. Both scholarship awards can be applied to with the application form below. Since the Scholarship started in 1996, 57 students have received over $196,000 in scholarship funding.

“I have a part time job to help contribute to my own expenses, but flight training has been out of reach for me. This scholarship makes all the difference in me obtaining my private, and eventually commercial pilot’s licences.” – Erik Yaremkewich, Squamish, BC 2018 Winner.

“Thank you so very much for the honor of second runner up $2000 scholarship for flight training. It is so exciting to find out that my hard work and my lifestyle choices have paid off. I find it to be a huge honor to have been chosen amongst such a strong field of applications. These funds will definitely be put to good use in my flight training. Thank you again for both the scholarship and your assistance. You guys rock!” – Natalie Cloutier, Lac La Biche, AB 2006 Second Runner Winner

To apply for the COPA Neil J. Armstrong Scholarship, complete and submit form with supporting documentation:

For more information, contact or Tel.: 613-236-4901, ext. 100.

Deadline for applications to be received by COPA is March 1.

The winners are typically notified on or about May 1.  Applications can be mailed to:

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association
Attn: COPA Neil J. Armstrong Selection Committee
75 Albert Street Suite 903
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7

Click to download the scholarship guidelines and fund governance as a PDF

Qualified applicants shall be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants not less than 15 years of age and not more than 21 years of age as of the application deadline. They will be assessed on the following basis:

  • A demonstrated interest in aviation as a career or a strong interest in general aviation in Canada;
  • A proven self-starter, willing to earn their way;
  • Reasonable academic skills as demonstrated by scholastic record;
  • Participation and demonstrated contributions to their community, school, and leadership attributes;
  • Financial need

Applicants for the Ab-Initio Award must not, at the time of application, been granted any pilot privileges including: Private Pilots License, Recreational Pilot License, Ultra Light Pilot Permit or Soaring / Glider License.  (Applicants may be the holder of a student pilot permit), and have not completed more than 10 hours of flight training. The committee may consider candidates with more than 10 hours in certain circumstances, particularly where the training has occurred over an extended period.

Ab-initio candidates may receive other flight training awards and scholarships. Candidates who have been awarded the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Power Scholarship or any other program which results in a Private Pilot License are not eligible for COPA’s ab-initio award.

Applicants for the Advanced Training Award must be COPA members in good standing prior to submitting their application.

The winning candidate(s) may select the facility at which the flight training is to be taken, subject to the approval of COPA. The training facility shall be a licensed Flying School or educational institute in Canada with facilities satisfactory to COPA and shall agree to the conditions of the scholarship. COPA will pay the Flight Training Unit directly, and may disburse funds to cover instructional materials and other course costs at the beginning of training. Candidates must be members of COPA in good standing for the entirety of the training period.

Training shall be completed in a reasonable period of time, usually not longer than one year from commencement. In the event the recipient does not make satisfactory progress or does not conduct himself/herself in a manner consistent with the intention of the Fund, COPA shall have the right to revoke the award and to cease paying any further costs of training. Progress reports from the training facility will be provided to COPA as required.

Eligible costs of training include the following:

  • costs of ground school, including books and required materials for the courses;
  • costs of instructor time and training aircraft;
  • In the case of the Advanced Awards, flight training and ground school for such training or endorsements.
  • Direct flight training portion of tuition in programs offered by secondary or post secondary school, including colleges and universities.

Costs which are not covered include the following: non-flight training tuition at secondary or post-secondary schools, including colleges and universities, personal meals or transportation to and from the training facility, clothing, aviation equipment or supplies which are not required for the program. COPA will have final authority to define and approve authorized expenditures.

Winning Candidates agree to participate in future COPA promotional activities.

Any funds remaining at the conclusion of training will be reinvested in the Fund for future awards.

Neil J. Armstrong was born at Alvinston, Ontario, on April 15, 1920. He received his education there and at Petrolia, Ontario, where he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He served in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba before transferring to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943.

He graduated from pilot training as a commissioned officer and was assigned to serve as a flying instructor until he was honorably discharged in 1945.

In 1946, he studied at the University of Toronto and in 1949 he graduated as an Engineer with a major in Geology and Geophysics.

From 1953 to 1969 he was associated with Spartan Air Services in Ottawa and became the first known helicopter pilot geologist. He worked with the Geological Survey of Canada on Operations Baker and Thelon in the Barren Lands to help map a 100,000 square mile area.

In 1961, he flew the Atlantic Ocean nonstop with his friend Max Conrad in a Piper Twin Comanche from Newfoundland to Ireland in 13 hours.

Two years  later  he  shared pilot/navigator duties with Roy Moore, flying a Piper Aztec non-stop across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii in 18 hours total.

In 1964, he was elected president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, a position he held for three years. His continued interest in COPA was a stabilizing factor in the continued success of the organization. Armstrong wrote a regular column about his travels in COPA’s Canadian Flight magazine from 1972 to 1995.

He was named to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame  in  1973  with  the  following citation:

“His combination of piloting ability, technical knowledge, navigational skills and dedication to purpose, despite adversity, have resulted in outstanding benefit to Canadian aviation.”

Neil J. Armstrong was killed November 23, 1994, when the Twin Otter in which he was a passenger crashed into an Antarctic iceberg. His son, Corcoran, also died in the crash.

1st place winner

COPA NJA SCHOLARSHIP 2017 AB-INITIO ($7,000): Deborah Edwards, age 18

The love of challenge and adventure has been an important driving force in Ms. Deborah Edwards life; “that is why I love to fly, rock climb, hike, and travel”.

Deborah enjoys rock climbing because she revels in the physical challenge and sense of adventure it offers. It also provides intriguing puzzles to solve, as the climber must decipher the most effective way to complete a climb in order to succeed. “I sometimes think of rock climbing as a metaphor for life: overcoming obstacles, developing self-confidence, persevering, and working with others to achieve objectives”.

Ms. Edwards serves her community by volunteering with a local counselling agency to help provide free mental health seminars to the community. She is thankful for the opportunity to serve her community in this way, believing that both mental health issues and the stigma associated with them are very prevalent in our society, and access to mental health services is limited.  Deborah has also participated in various other community activities, such as bringing food to an outreach centre for the homeless, playing music at a number of retirement homes, and volunteering to work with children at a local church.

Deborah was thrilled to experience the wonder of flight first hand in an introductory flying lesson this past summer. “I think that I will be a competent pilot because of the work ethic, dedication, and motivation I possess, as demonstrated by my scholastic record, athleticism and volunteer experience”. Many of her teachers and coaches have commented that she is a hard-working and dedicated person, who follows through on her commitments.

Ms. Edwards hope is to learn to fly so that she can provide humanitarian aid to people in isolated locations. “I can think of no better way to use my future piloting skills than to help those without access to what they need”.


2nd place winner

COPA NJA SCHOLARSHIP 2017 ($3,000):  David Austin, age 19

Mr. David Austin was sixteen and attending high school when hired by the local Carstairs Co-op Grocery store in 2014, and immediately started saving money for flight school. He saved his income from the Co-op throughout high school and received a Co-op bursary upon graduation.

At age eighteen, David started ground school and when the weather warmed up in February 2016, began flight training with Sky Wings Aviation. Mr. Austin was able to complete his first solo after only eight flight hours.  Ultimately, he was recommended for his flight test, and successfully passed his private check ride and written exams after the first attempt, with 47 total flight hours.

His immediate plans are to earn his commercial license, multi-engine, seaplane, IFR, and instructor ratings by the end of 2018. “As an instructor, I will help others further their own safe and enthusiastic passion for flying”. Once he has the required hours, he would like to get a job as a bush pilot or medevac. “Along the way, I readily welcome any situation that would present itself to help my fellow man with humanitarian flight opportunities, both here in Canada, and around the world”.


3rd place winner

COPA NJA SCHOLARSHIP 2017 ($2,000): Whitney Schmidt, age 17

Ms. Whitney Schmidt started her aviation training at the Olds-Didsbury airport just outside Calgary. She has completed the ground school training with two hours of flight training to date.  Whitney has her radio operators licence and is working towards her Student Permit.

Ms. Schmidt’s interest in aviation is relatively new and after some research, started with Calgary Flight Training Centre. “However, I have always been in love with the sky. To me the sky represents hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.”

Whitney intends to get her commercial licence after her private pilot’s licence. She would also like to acquire an aircraft maintenance engineer licence and has taken the first steps toward that by applying to SAIT’s aircraft maintenance program. “I chose to apply to the Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Technology program because my goal is to be a mission pilot and as I may be flying into remote locations, it would be beneficial to have the knowledge and skills to fix my aircraft should something go wrong”. Ms. Schmidt’s plan is to work for an organization called Mission Aviation Fellowship.

  • The Neil Armstrong Scholarship Fund was first established in April 1995 through contributions from friends of Neil Armstrong, COPA members and the Canadian aviation community.
  • Contributions are made to the COPA Flight Safety Foundation, Neil Armstrong Fund from which a charitable tax receipt can be issued.
  • The purpose of the fund is twofold – to honour one of Canada’s foremost aviation members and to provide flight training to worthy young people who might not otherwise be able to pursue their love of flight and who exemplify the fine character, optimism and love of adventure which were epitomized by Neil J. Armstrong.
  • The capital assets of the Fund are invested to provide income sufficient for the annual scholarships, therefore contributions are acknowledged and retained on that basis. Fund earnings over and above that required to pay for the annual scholarships may be used to cover presentation plaques or gifts, to sponsor attendance at the awards presentation by winners and a representative of the Armstrong family, to increase the capital of the fund or to increase the number or amount of the awards.
  • The Fund assets and investments shall be administered by COPA and will be used solely for the  purposes described in these administrative guidelines.
  • There will be a Selection Committee of not less than five (5) people, which shall include two (2) representatives of the Armstrong family so long as they shall be available, a Chair of the Selection Committee and the Eastern and Western Vice Chairs of the COPA Board of Directors.
  • In the event a member of the Armstrong family also acts as Chair, a member “at large” will be nominated to ensure an odd (5 member) number of members eligible to vote.
  • The Selection Committee will have full and final authority to select the winning candidate and to instruct COPA to disburse funds in accordance with these guidelines.
  • The principle award each year, provided suitable candidates are presented, shall be the Ab-Initio Award which shall provide $10,000 toward defraying the training costs associated with the Private Pilot License.
  • The Advanced Training Award of $5,000 is available for those pursuing a higher license or rating.
  • The Scholarship amount is the maximum that will be paid by COPA from the fund for the permit, licence or endorsement(s) being sought and may not be used for any purposes other than those approved in Section 11 of these Guidelines.  Unused amounts at the completion of training, if any, will remain in the Fund for future awards.
  • COPA may exercise judgment as to whether training can be deferred for a reasonable period and which courses are eligible for payment under these guidelines.