One of the commonest questions that members ask in our Facebook group is “How to pay for flight school?” In an attempt to answer that question fully, I’ve put together this list of ways to raise the funds you need to afford flight school and additional flight training after you gain your certificate.

My own training was sporadic, and consequently it took longer and cost more to complete the training. Having all the money up front is the preferred way so that there are no breaks in training and so that you can take advantage of the continuity.

Fortunately, there are various ways to finance your flight training. In this article, we’ll explore several options, from part-time jobs and military service to loans and investment funds.

Balancing Flight Training Costs and Your Dream Job

Embarking on a journey to gain a private pilot license and going on to become an airline pilot can be a thrilling yet costly endeavour. The flight training costs associated with obtaining your private pilot’s license, commercial pilot certificate, and accumulating the required flight hours can quickly add up. In this section, we’ll explore additional strategies to make flight training more affordable and help you achieve your dream job.

Flight School Loans and Scholarships

Flight school loans are available from various sources, such as federal loans, private loans, and even loans from specific flight schools like ATP Flight School. These loans can cover not only tuition fees for your pilot training program but also living expenses and additional costs such as airplane rentals, test fees, and repetitive training for graduate students.

However, borrowing money should be approached with caution. It’s essential to understand the interest rate, repayment options, and other terms before committing to any loan. If possible, consider low interest credit card options or bank loans with a fixed interest rate as alternatives to private loan providers. Credit card companies may offer promotional rates, which can result in more manageable monthly payments while you pursue your pilot license.

Flight training scholarships are another excellent resource for student pilots looking to offset flight school costs. Many scholarships are available for aspiring commercial pilots and flight instructors, with some even covering the entire cost of obtaining a private pilot certificate. Research scholarships with eligibility requirements that match your circumstances and apply to as many as possible to maximise your chances of receiving financial assistance.

Split Time and Discounted Tuition

One cost-saving strategy many pilots use is splitting flight time with other student pilots. By sharing flight hours and actual flying time with a partner, you can effectively reduce your expenses while still gaining valuable experience. Some flight programs offer discounted tuition to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aviation or a related field.

Family Support and Employer Reimbursement

Family members can be a valuable resource when it comes to affording flight school. If you have supportive relatives willing to help you financially, consider discussing your ambitions with them and exploring the possibility of borrowing money or receiving monetary gifts to put towards your flight training.

For those already working in the aviation industry, some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs. From time to time, during recruitment drives, some airlines pay offer sponsorship or part sponsorship to suitable candidates. This can be an attractive option for those who meet the program’s eligibility requirements and are committed to working for the sponsoring airline.

Save on Living Expenses

Finally, be proactive about saving money by cutting living expenses while attending flight school. Choose budget-friendly housing, cook your meals at home, and spend time researching the best deal on airplane rentals, textbooks, and other necessary resources.

Remember to research all available options, including federal and private lenders, flight training scholarships, and accredited programs offering professional training. By staying informed and proactive, you can overcome the financial barriers and achieve your goal of taking to the skies.

1. Prioritise Your Spending: Cut Back on Luxuries

Sometimes, the best way to finance your flying lessons is to re-evaluate your current spending habits. Here are some suggestions for cutting back:

a. Forego Holidays

Instead of spending money on holidays, use that budget for your flying lessons. You can always plan a holiday later, perhaps even one where you fly yourself to your destination!

b. Delay Purchasing a New Car

New cars can be a significant expense. If your current vehicle still runs reliably, consider postponing the purchase of a new one and using the money you save for your flight training.

c. Cut Back on Clothing and Other Non-Essentials

Evaluate your spending on clothes, dining out, and other non-essential items. By cutting back on these expenses, you can save money to put toward your flying lessons.

2. Military Service: A Path to a Flying Career

a. Join the Air Force or Army

Both the Air Force and Army offer flight training as part of their service. While serving, you can gain valuable flying experience and even become a pilot for military aircraft. After completing your service, you may be eligible for additional education benefits, such as the GI Bill, which can help you continue your aviation education.

How to pay for flight school - helicopter instruction
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

b. Coast Guard Opportunities

The Coast Guard also offers flight training opportunities. Serving in the Coast Guard can provide you with valuable flying experience and access to resources that can help you continue your aviation career.

3. Part-Time Jobs: Uber Driver and More

a. Become an Uber Driver

Driving for a ride-sharing or taxi service like Uber is a flexible way to earn extra income while working around your flight training schedule. The income you earn can be put directly toward your flying lessons, making this an appealing option for many. Here are the general requirements for becoming an Uber driver:

  1. Age requirement: You must be at least 21 years old to drive for Uber. However, some cities and states may have different age requirements.
  2. Driving experience: You should have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the USA, or three years if you’re under the age of 23.
  3. Valid driver’s license: You must possess a valid US driver’s license.
  4. Social Security number: You’ll need a Social Security number for a background check, which is mandatory for all Uber drivers.
  5. Background check: Uber will conduct a comprehensive background check, including criminal history and driving records. Your driving record should also be free of major violations, such as excessive speeding or reckless driving.
  6. Vehicle requirements: Your vehicle must meet Uber’s standards, which vary depending on the type of service you plan to offer (UberX, UberXL, UberSELECT, etc.). Generally, your vehicle should be a 4-door car in good condition, typically no older than 15 years (some cities may have stricter requirements). It must have a valid registration, and you must maintain proper insurance coverage.
  7. Vehicle inspection: Before you can start driving for Uber, your vehicle must pass a safety inspection. This inspection checks various aspects of your car, including brakes, tires, lights, and more. In some locations, the inspection may be conducted by a third party, while in others, Uber may provide a specific inspection process.
  8. Smartphone: You’ll need a smartphone with the Uber Driver app installed to receive ride requests and navigate to your passengers.

Keep in mind that specific requirements may vary by city or state. It’s essential to review Uber’s guidelines for your location and comply with any local regulations governing rideshare drivers. Once you’ve met all the requirements, you can sign up as an Uber driver through their website or mobile app and start earning money to finance your flight training or other personal goals.

b. Other Part-Time Jobs

If driving isn’t your thing, consider other part-time job opportunities that fit around your main job and flight training commitments. Some popular options include:

  • Retail work
  • Food delivery
  • Remote freelance work (e.g., graphic design, writing, or programming)
  • Tutoring or teaching
How to Pay for Flight School - Uber driving
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

4. Loans: Borrowing to Fund Your Flight Training

a. Personal Loans

If you’re unable to save enough money for your flight training, personal loans may be an option. These loans typically have fixed interest rates and repayment terms, allowing you to spread the cost of your training over several years. Be sure to carefully consider the loan terms and interest rates, as well as your ability to repay the loan before committing.

b. Student Loans

Some flight schools are accredited and eligible for federal student loans. If you’re enrolled in a qualifying program, you may be eligible for loans through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Federal Student Aid (FSA) program. These loans often have lower interest rates and more favourable repayment terms than personal loans.

5. Investment Funds: Growing Your Money for Flight Training

Investing your savings in investment funds or other financial instruments can help grow your money to fund your flying lessons. Some options include:

a. Mutual Funds

Mutual funds pool money from multiple investors to purchase a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other assets. These funds offer the potential for growth over time

and can be a good option for those looking to finance their flight training in the long term.

b. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

ETFs are similar to mutual funds, but they trade on stock exchanges like individual stocks. They typically have lower fees than mutual funds and offer a convenient way to invest in a diversified portfolio. As with mutual funds, ETFs have the potential for growth over time, making them a suitable option for financing your flying lessons.

c. Individual Stocks and Bonds

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, investing in individual stocks and bonds can be another option. This method requires more research and expertise, but it allows you to tailor your investments to your specific financial goals. Be aware that investing in individual securities can carry higher risks compared to mutual funds or ETFs.

d. Robo-Advisors

If you’re new to investing or prefer a hands-off approach, robo-advisors can be a helpful option. These online platforms use algorithms to create and manage an investment portfolio tailored to your financial goals and risk tolerance. Robo-advisors typically charge lower fees than traditional financial advisors and can be a cost-effective way to grow your savings for flight training.

How to pay for flight training - investment funds
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

6. Scholarships and Grants: Free Money for Flight Training

Don’t forget to explore scholarships and grants specifically designed for aspiring pilots. Many aviation organisations, flight schools, and even airlines offer financial assistance to help cover the costs of flight training. Some resources to consider include:

a. Local Aviation Organisations

Check with local aviation organisations, such as pilot associations or flying clubs, for scholarship opportunities. These groups often provide financial assistance to members or local residents pursuing flight training.

b. Flight Schools

Some flight schools offer their own scholarships or grants to students enrolled in their programs. Be sure to ask about any available financial assistance when researching flight schools.

c. National Aviation Organisations

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) lists all kinds of national organizations that offer scholarships and grants to aspiring pilots. Research these organisations and their financial assistance programs to see if you qualify.

7. Online Side Hustles: Leveraging AI to Boost Your Income

In today’s digital age, AI-driven platforms and tools offer numerous opportunities for generating additional income. From freelancing to content creation, AI can help you develop new skills and monetise your talents. Here are some online side hustles that utilise AI to help you fund your flying lessons:

a. Freelance Writing with AI Assistance

AI writing tools like OpenAI’s GPT-powered platforms can help you generate high-quality content more efficiently. As a freelance writer, you can use these tools to create articles, blog posts, or marketing copy for clients, while reducing the time spent on research and writing.

b. AI-Powered Graphic Design

If you have a knack for design, AI-powered design tools like Canva can help you create professional-looking graphics with minimal effort. Use these tools to offer graphic design services to clients, creating logos, social media graphics, and other marketing materials.

c. AI-Enhanced Social Media Management

Managing social media accounts for businesses or individuals can be a lucrative side hustle. AI tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help you automate posting and streamline content curation, making it easier to manage multiple clients simultaneously.

d. AI-Assisted Online Tutoring

Online tutoring platforms often use AI algorithms to match students with tutors based on their needs and preferences. By signing up as a tutor on one of these platforms, you can leverage AI to find students who need help in subjects you excel in.

e. AI-Driven Stock Trading

If you’re interested in trading stocks, AI-powered trading platforms like Trade Ideas can help you identify promising investment opportunities. These platforms use AI algorithms to analyse market trends and recommend trades, potentially increasing your chances of success.

f. Selling AI-Created Artwork

AI-generated artwork is gaining popularity, and platforms like OpenAI’s DALL-E enable users to create unique, AI-generated images. You can sell these images as digital art or printed products, tapping into the growing market for AI-generated art.

By exploring AI-driven side hustles, you can not only gain valuable experience in the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence but also generate additional income to fund your flying lessons. Choose an area that aligns with your skills and interests, and start building your online business today.

How to fund flight training - online side hustles
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Airline Bursary & Scholarship Schemes

Scholarships and bursary schemes play a vital role in helping aspiring pilots finance or part-finance their commercial flight training. These financial aid programs can significantly reduce the loan balance and overall cost of aviation training, making it more accessible to those who may not have the means to borrow money or cover the entire cost of obtaining a commercial certificate.

Many accredited programs and flight schools offer scholarships based on various factors, such as financial need, academic performance, or commitment to a specific airline. According to labour statistics, there is a high demand for pilots, which has led to an increase in available scholarships and bursaries. As a result, airlines, governments, and universities are investing more resources into these financial aid programs to attract and train the best talent.

One advantage of scholarships and bursaries is that they often come with a lower interest rate or no interest at all, making them a more attractive financing option compared to traditional loans. For instance, the Pell Grant is a government-funded program that can be used to pay for your flight training at eligible institutions. Choosing the right financial assistance can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. The continuity of training that comes with having all the funds available when they’re needed cannot be overestimated.

To increase your chances of securing a scholarship or bursary, it’s crucial to invest time and hard work into your application. Research the eligibility criteria and deadlines for various programs and be prepared to submit a compelling application that highlights your dedication to pursuing a career as a flight instructor or commercial pilot.

Ask a Pilot!

Don’t be afraid to talk to current pilots, flight instructors, and other professionals in the aviation industry. They can provide valuable insights into the best ways to finance your training and may even know about lesser-known scholarships or bursaries. Building a network within the industry can also open doors to future employment opportunities once you’ve completed your certification.

However, you need to realistic and to think ahead. While borrowing money may seem like a quick solution, the debt incurred can take years to pay off. On the other hand, scholarships and bursaries may require more effort upfront but can ultimately lead to a more manageable payment plan and a more financially secure future.

Scholarships and bursary schemes can be invaluable resources for those looking to finance or part-finance their commercial flight training. By thoroughly researching available options, investing time and effort into your applications, and leveraging your network within the aviation industry, you can secure the financial assistance you need to complete your training and embark on a rewarding career as a commercial pilot.

In conclusion, financing your flying lessons doesn’t have to be daunting. With a combination of part-time jobs, prioritised spending, military service, loans, investments, and scholarships, you can find the right solution to fund your aviation dreams.

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