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Paying the Piper

by Robert Mark, Corporate Pilot and Author of McGraw-Hill's "Professional Pilot Career Guide"

Unless you happen to have a rich uncle or are lucky enough to win the lottery, the daunting task of paying for too much flight training with too little money is a problem most aviators and aspiring aviators will face at some time during their careers.

Here are a few useful financing tips to help win those ratings:

  • Decide how much training you can afford in time and money BEFORE you begin. It will take much longer - and cost more, often as much as 30 percent more - to finish any course by scheduling just two or three lessons per month, than if you try two per week.
  • Divide finance issues into smaller, more manageable parts. It can be much easier to track down $5,000 for a private license than $50,000 for a career course.
  • Take a personal or home equity loan for flight training, if possible. This solution can provide all the funds and a possible tax break, to move through a program quickly and save cash at the same time. Check resources like www.pilotfinance.com that specialize in flexible flight training payment plans. Visit Sallie Mae - www.salliemae.com - a quasi-governmental organization that focuses on student loans and loan advice for students too.
  • Avoid paying for training on a credit card, where interest rates can often reach 20%. If you make only the minimum payment, you can easily surpass your ability to ever pay off the loan and continue on.
  • If your goal is an aviation career, the curriculum is important. But a school's ability to locate financing you can live with might be the factor that makes one school more valuable than another. If you're a veteran, ask how the Veterans Administration may help finance some of your training.
  • Finally, never, never, never pay for an entire course before you begin. Once you hand over your hard-earned cash, you also give up most of your leverage should a problem arise later.

Do your financing homework and never give up.