How to Afford Flight Training


It’s a new year, which means you’re thinking, once again, about that resolution you had to get your private pilot license. Or maybe you want to work on an instrument rating or even a commercial certificate. You finally have the time to fly - but how, exactly, will you pay for it?

Cash
If you’re lucky enough to be able to pay cash outright for flight training, then you’re doing it right. But even if you don’t have 10,000 dollars in the bank waiting to be spent, don’t discount the idea entirely. Many flight students pay for flight training through careful budgeting combined with a set training pace. If you can afford one flight per week, for example, and can budget it into your regular expenses, then your goal might be completely attainable, after all. Most instructors will tell you that flying less than once a week isn’t ideal, but if you can compensate for the slow pace by doing ground school on your own, chair flying from home or supplementing with simulator time, then you’ll be well on your way. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and paying cash for flight training might just mean you have to put forth a bit more effort on your own than otherwise.

Financing
Sometimes, the only way to get ahead is to get behind… temporarily, at least. Many people have successfully financed flight training through private lenders. Taking out a loan is a good option for those who can or will be able to repay it quickly and easily. And it’s a good option for those who want to go through an accelerated program in which the private pilot certificate is earned very quickly through an intense study program. These fast-paced flight training programs often demand a flat-rate payment up front instead of the pay-as-you-go program that local FBOs often use.

If you’re looking for a flight training loan, check out AOPA’s financing program.

Scholarships
Scholarships are more abundant that you’d think, but you do have to search for them and get your timing right. Often, the scholarships that you hear about are ones that you aren’t eligible for, and it’s tempting to give up. But just because they all seem to be meant for other people - like the college kid who has already obtained a private pilot license or the female that wants to become a corporate pilot - doesn’t mean that there aren’t any out there for you. You’ll just have to look harder to find them.

And you don’t always have to be a minority to earn a scholarship. It’s true that many scholarships are offered with minorities in mind, but the same scholarship offerings often don’t exclude anyone, and you may find a scholarship for you on the Women in Aviation scholarship list, even if you aren’t a woman. Don’t pass over opportunities because you assume that they aren’t for you. Read the find print, and keep digging.

Where to look? Professional organizations at the local and national level will often offer scholarships to a variety of potential candidates. Check your local EAA or CAP chapters, AOPA, or your local and national Women in Aviation or 99s groups, the OBAP or the NGPA. And if you’re reading this, you don’t have to look any further than this website - Globalair.com offers a scholarship of $1,000 annually to four students who are dedicated to blogging on a weekly basis about flight training,

Get Serious.
If funds for flight training are tight, it’s time to get serious about your priorities. Here are a few ways to continue to keep your flight training budget in check:

  • Do as much ground study on your own as possible.
  • Complete an online ground school course before you begin flying.
  • Chair fly at home.
  • Observe flights whenever possible.
  • Be a safety pilot for someone.
  • Take advantage of simulator use.
  • Eat, sleep and breath aviation.
  • Choose your flight instructor wisely.
  • Choose your flight school wisely.
  • Ask for a discount or a flat rate.
  • Offer to help someone else study and they can return the favor.
  • Spend some time thoughtfully completing the homework that your instructor gives you instead of just trying to memorize answers.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Work with a CFI who understands your personal aviation goals.

Have you made it through flight training on a tight budget? What are your tips? Share them with us in the comments section.