2022 Piper Archer Aircraft

7 Ways to Pay for Flight School




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    The demand for more commercial pilots seems to increase every year, and forecasts over the next 20 years are unprecedented. Boeing estimates the global demand for pilots over the next twenty years will be upwards of 635,000. In the U.S. alone over 80,000 pilots will retire over the next twenty years.

    However, the path to becoming an airline pilot can be daunting, particularly the cost of training. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce that cost or receive some financing.

    Before we dig into ways to pay for flight training, however, here’s a few tips on reducing the cost.

    Ways to Pay for Flight Training

    If you’re headed to the airlines you’ll need 1,500 hours of flight time and several ratings and certificates. All of these carry a hefty price tag.

    Fortunately, if you don’t have the funds upfront to pay for it there are options available. Here’s a few common ways pilots pay for flight training when they, or a family member, can’t cover the cost.

    Airplane on the runway

    1. Save Up Money

    While this route may mean you need to hold off on training for a while it will mean you finish without any debt. You may be tempted to just pay for your training as you can afford it. However, when people typically do this it means training takes significantly longer because so much time passes in between flights.

    The better option is to save up the money you’ll need to pay for the entire rating and then go through an accelerated program. That way you retain more of what you learn from one flight to the next and you’ll spend much less on repetitive training.

    If you want to be an airline pilot this can be a significant amount of money to save up. So it may be better to save up to pay for one rating/certificate and then use one of the other options below to cover the rest of your training.

    2. Loans and Financing Options

    Taking out a loan for your flight training is something to consider very carefully. If you’re pursuing a career in aviation it may be worthwhile to take out a loan in order to get your training done quickly and get to the airlines.

    By training full time you’ll be able to get all the training completed in a much shorter period of time and, like mentioned above, your training is typically completed faster.

    Your goal should be to get to the airlines in 2 years from the time you start training.

    While there are private loans available for flight training, a more popular option is a Sallie Mae flight training loan (which we offer here at Thrust Flight).

    If you’re pursuing a career in aviation be sure to head over to our Zero Time to Airline page and take a look.

    For information on financing your Zero Time to Airline program, check out our financing page.

    If you’re pursuing flight training as a recreational pilot, it may be better to save up rather than take out a loan to pay for training.

    3. Scholarships

    If you’re attending a university in conjunction with your flight training there are many scholarships available to you. Just talk with your counselor or finance office to get more info.

    If you’re not attending a university while flight training there are still some scholarship opportunities but they aren’t quite so plentiful. Start by checking with the AOPA. You can also check out the FAA’s giant list of aviation scholarships.

    4. Federal Grant

    A federal grant is free money from the government to help pay for education. The federal Pell Grant can be used to help you pay for flight training if you’re doing it at the same time as a degree program. 

    Unfortunately, a Pell Grant can’t be used to pay for flight training on its own.

    5. Military Assistance

    One route some people choose is to enter the military with the hope of doing their flight training.

    This can be a challenging route as you don’t necessarily get to decide if you’ll be a pilot or not. The choice is often made for you.

    However, if you were in the military previously or are currently, you can use the tuition assistance program to pay for your flight training.


    6. GI Bill

    You can also use your GI Bill to help pay for advanced flight training, however, you must have your private pilot license first. The GI Bill can help pay for your training whether you are doing it through a private or public university or vocational training.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the requirements visit the VA website.

    7. Work at a Flight School

    Many flight schools will give their employees a discounted rate on their training. Check-in with local flight schools to see if this is something they offer. Then, keep your eye out for job opportunities at those schools.

    You don’t necessarily need to be working for them as a pilot in order to receive discounted training so you don’t need to wait until you become a CFI.

    You could work the front desk, work as a dispatcher, or any other number of jobs needed around a flight school and still receive the discounted training.

    If you’re looking, be sure to check out our careers page to see if we have any open positions.

    How to Reduce the Cost of Flight Training

    First and foremost, do your homework. Identify all of the flight schools in your area and even consider some of the larger flight schools you could travel to for training. Compare the types of planes they fly, their rates, their instructor rates and what their pass rate looks like.

    Train Often and Study Daily

    Once you start your training, make it frequent and consistent. At least 3 times a week is what I recommend, but the more frequently the better. When you train regularly the material sticks and you’ll progress more quickly. 

    In addition, make sure you study on your own time. The more studying you do on your own the less time you’ll need to spend with an instructor who is charging you by the hour.

    Treat your training as an actual job and you’ll save money over the course of your training.

    Spend Time in the Simulator

    While a simulator is by no means a perfect replica of actual flying, it can go a long way in helping you learn to fly quickly. Time in the simulator will make your time in the airplane far more effective.

    The national average for an hour in a full-motion simulator for flight training is around $95. While that may seem expensive, it will still save you money compared to the cost of an airplane rental.

    Fly with a Friend to Time Build

    When training for your commercial rating you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time flying in order to time build. While you could do this alone, it’s going to be significantly cheaper to split time with someone else. 

    Treat your training as an actual job and you’ll save money over the course of your training.


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