Learning to fly can be very expensive. Depending on your goals and the type of license or certification you need, you can expect to pay as little as a few thousand dollars or as much as $100,000.
These costs includes all the flight training you’ll need as well as other expenses you might need to cover like ground school, airplane rentals, test fees, and more.
Here is a quick overview of how much people often spend earning the various pilot licenses:
- Sport Pilot License: $3,000 to $7,000
- Recreational Pilot License: $5,000 to $8,000
- Private Pilot License: $15,000 to $20,000
- Flight Instructor: $5,000 (in addition to previous training)
- Commercial Pilot License: $30,000
- Airline Transport Pilot: Up to $100,000
These prices sometimes scare people away from even beginning their journey to become a pilot.
That shouldn’t be the case however, since the best investment you can ever make is in yourself. Acquiring a valuable skill like flying is not only rewarding on a personal level, it can also lead to a very lucrative career.
What we’ve done is put together the ultimate list of ways to help cover these expenses. This list includes options to pay as you go, finance with loans, or in some cases even get free money to pay for your flight schooling.
Flight School/Aviation Loans
There is a variety of lenders that offer loans specific to aviation training and flight school. The specifics of the loan terms (how much they borrow you, rates, payment, etc) depends on each institution and what program they have set up.
If you are looking to obtain some kind of financing for your flight training, this is a great place to start. Since many of these programs are specifically tailored to those looking to learn to fly they offer favorable terms and know exactly how to handle your request.
Here is a list we’ve put together of some of the more popular lenders that have programs for flight training:
- AOPA Flight Training Financing (through Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association)
- ATP Flight School Financing
- Lending Tree: Flight Schools Loans
- Pilot Finance.com
- We Florida Financial (We Fly)
- Aspire Loans
Some of these lenders specialize in helping you get financial for your personal aviation needs, while others specialize in helping those who want to make flying their career. Make sure you look at all your available options and choose the best one for your situation.
If you plan on becoming a professional pilot and attending an accredited school, you might qualify to get a federal student loan. These are federal student loans meant to cover the cost of an education. They feature low rates and a standardized process to get approved.
These features make these loans a great option for those looking to become an airline pilot in the future or are planning to attend a university to study aviation.
For more information you should visit them on their website below:
Follow the above link to learn about how the process works and even apply online.
Many banks offer loans that can be used for a variety of reasons without the bank even asking what the funds will be used for. They offer the benefit of having a fixed rate and a fixed monthly payment until the loan is paid off.
An option like this is great because instead of looking at a large expense as being a $10,000 hit, you can pay $250/month until it’s paid off (I used those numbers as an example, the amount you need to borrow, the interest rate, and monthly payment will depend on the loan the bank offers)
If you can afford to work a few hundred dollars per month into your budget, this might be a great option for you to pay for your flight training and not have to stress about coming up with the money in one large payment.
Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit
If you own your home and have built up equity since you bought it you might be able to take out a home equity loan to pay for flight school.
How this works is the bank or financial institution will use your home as collateral when they borrow you the money. This allows you to have a much lower interest rate since the loan is lower risk to the bank.
The amount of money you can borrow this way depends on things like your credit as well as how much equity (current value minus existing loans) on your home at this point. Many lenders will go as high as 90% of the value of your home, which can give you a great resource to borrow at very low rates.
If this is something that interests you, one place to start is wherever you do your regular banking. Many banks offer these types of loans and lines of credit so you can ask about them by calling or stopping into a local bank branch.
Otherwise, here are a few of the larger lenders that offer home equity loans at great rates:
If this is the route you go, make sure you do your homework and compare the rates between the different lenders. Flight training can be expensive so every dollar counts!
A federal grant is another way to pay for a portion of your flight training.
If you aren’t familiar with grants, they are a literally free money from the government to help pay for your educational needs. The specific grant in this case is called a Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need and can cover as much as $5,500 worth of education and does NOT need to be paid back.
You can find more information on the U.S. Government Site for the Pell Grant below
There are many organizations out there that offer scholarships to help people achieve their dream of learning to fly. The details of what they cover and who qualifies can vary based on the organization.
Below is a list we’ve put together of scholarships. Take a look and see if any of these might apply to your situation.
- AOPA Scholarships (through the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association)
- Future & Active Pilot Advisors
- Women in Aviation Scholarship
- Ninety Nine
This is just a small taste of how many are out there. For a more complete list, check out the amazing resource at Scholarships.com.
Believe it or not, using credit cards may be an option for learning to fly. If you are going to be working towards one of the lower cost licenses so you can fly for fun (Sport, Recreational, Private) many flight schools offer the option to pay as you go.
If you have access to a low interest credit card you might be able to take advantage of one of these offers to pay for your flight training. You’ll obviously still have to pay the money back, but if you are doing this as part of your plan to cover expenses up front, it could work great.
Not only are there a lot of credit card companies offering cards with near 0% rates when you first sign up, you also can earn points and cash back bonuses.
Work as a Flight Instructor
One of the main reasons that earning any pilot license is so expensive is due to the number of hours you have to have of practice. Renting an airplane and hiring an instructor can be very expensive.
One way to significantly lower the cost of earning your ATP (airline transport pilot) designation is to first get as far as earning your CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) designation. The hours you spend teaching others to fly will count towards the large number of hours you need for your license. So, instead of spending a ton of money gaining experience, you can make extra money and essentially fly for free.
If this is something you might be interested in, make sure to ask about it when you talk to your flight school. They will likely be able to give you great advice and insight into how to do this for yourself.
Join the Military
Joining the military is a big life decision and not to be taken lightly. If your goal is to become a pilot within the military you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to going through training, higher education, officers training, and learning to fly with them. This is not something you do just to save money on pilot training.
Although it sounds like a lot of work (and it should) this will give you the opportunity to not only learn to fly, but to pilot some of the most advanced aircraft in the world.
If you’d like to learn more about how to serve your country while also learning to pilot the most incredible aircraft in the sky, check out the following links.
If you served in the military, you might be eligible to use the GI Bill to pay for flight school.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you can use your benefits to pay for:
- a degree program that consists of flight training at a public university
- a degree program that consists of flight training at a private university
- a vocational program at a stand alone Part 141 flight school
There are certain criteria you have to meet in order to take advantage. For a more detailed breakdown of the program and it’s requirements, check out the VA’s page on the topic here:
If you plan to learn to fly, it’s a good idea to start putting some money aside in your savings as soon as possible. Having some money saved up for flight training when you first start will make life much easier than if you need to finance the entire amount.
The other benefit to having money saved up when you start is that you won’t risk running out of money and then need to feel like you’re starting all over in a few months when you have money again.
Saving money isn’t always the easiest thing to do, so I recommend you open a savings account specifically for your future flight training and start putting away a little bit if money at a time. It adds up quickly and you’ll be glad you did.
They say the best time to start saving was in the past, but the 2nd best time is right now. Open that savings account right away.
Commercial Pilot & a Flight Job
Another way to not only save on how much you have to spend on flight training but actually get paid to fly is to take a job as a commercial pilot.
In order to do this, you’ll first have to earn your private pilot license and then go on to earn your commercial pilot license. Once you’ve done this you can take on jobs that pay you to fly. If want to someday earn your air transport pilot license and become a pilot for a major airline, you’ll need a lot of hours in the air.
This option not only makes a ton of sense financially, but gives you a great opportunity to get a ton of experience.
There are also a variety of jobs you can get as a pilot before you’re ready to be an actual airline pilot. Some examples include being a cargo pilot, banner tow pilot, skydive jump pilot, survey pilot, and more.
Airline Sponsored Training
Many of the major airlines have programs to help potential pilots cover the costs of flight school and pilot training.
In these programs you would be hired by a specific airline and put through training so that you can eventually work for them as a pilot. You’ll have to meet all of their requirements and pass all of the training, but considering they can help cover a large portion of your expenses, it might very well be worth it.
Here is a list of programs at some of the airlines here in the United States:
- ATP Flight School
- American Airlines Cadet Program
- JetBlue Pilot Gateway Program
- Envoy Air Cadet Program
- PSA Airlines
- Air Wisconsin Airlines
If you have interest in becoming an airline pilot I would recommend you do your research on these opportunities and try to take advantage of any free training or reimbursement available to you.
As you can see, there are lots of creative ways to help cover the cost of earning your pilot license. Like any other big life decision, make sure to take the time to do your research before making any decisions.
A good plan of action is to start by thinking about which pilot license will get you where you want to be. After that you can work with a few schools to get a clear idea of the total costs. Then, you can go through the resources on this page and see which one is the best fit.
If you want more information on which of the different pilot licenses is for you, don’t hesitate to check out our guide to the different pilot licenses.
Also, if you think you’re ready to take to the sky and aren’t sure where to go next, make sure you look at our guide to choosing a flight school.
Here are some of the common questions we often hear when it comes to paying for flight train.
Does FAFSA cover Flight School?
You might qualify for federal student loans. It will depend on the institution you will be studying at and the program/course of study. FAFSA typically covers coursework at an accredited college. So, in this case some aviation programs through colleges and universities might be covered while something like your flight training at a local flight school to earn your private pilot license will not. For more info on federal student loans, make sure to visit their website.
Will my credit affect how much flight school costs?
Although the flight school itself won’t charge you a different rate depending on your credit, if you plan to finance your flight training your credit score will have a dramatic influence on the rate and amount of interest you pay. If you have issues on your credit report, it’s worth trying to get them corrected as soon as you can.