Future Pilots – Don’t Give Up!

If you’ve dreamed of making flying your career, don’t ever give up, it will pay off if you remain diligent and keep moving forward.  There is no better way to earn a living than doing what you love.  You are fortunate that all indications point to a pilot shortage in the future.  You should however still count on having to position yourself for that shortage, and that requires training.   For some it’s the basic certificates, for others its ratings and keeping current.   Let’s talk a little about how to finance that training.  The best option is having someone else pay for it.  If that is not an option, having someone else pay for part of it will really help.   Other options include paying as you go, or borrowing the money.  Many pilots have used a combination of these options, so let’s look at these in more detail.

If you have positioned yourself in a job where the company is willing to pay for your training, you’re in the best possible situation!  When you are hired as a pilot, with many companies, they are willing to pay for your training if it will help improve their bottom line.  Obtaining this ideal job may require being in the right place at the right time, or just working hard enough to make a name for yourself and/or be the next in line.  However if this is not the case, you need to find a way to build the credentials the hiring companies want.  If your company won’t do it, (or you don’t yet have a job) and you didn’t just win the lottery, the next best thing is to have a part of it paid for by someone else.  This can be done through scholarships.

Scholarships are a good way to offset these high costs and there are many companies that offer them.  When using scholarships, remember that they only reduce the cost, seldom do they cover the full cost.  But anything you don’t have to pay for helps!  Be sure when applying for a scholarship that the terms are appropriate for your current ability and need.  For example, don’t fill out a scholarship form to get your instructors certificate paid for if you’re not a commercial pilot yet.  Also, when filling out applications, be neat.  Being a professional pilot requires attention to detail, and being neat shows that you have that attention to detail.  By applying for any of them, you’re not guaranteed the scholarship.  You may need to apply to several of them to get any funding at all.  Your chances for funding will improve with your diligence in filling out as many as you can.

Here is just a short list of scholarships:

Airline Pilots Association: www.clearedtodream.org

AOPA: www.flighttraining.aopa.org

Aviation scholarships: www.avscholars.com

Federal Aviation Administration: www.faa.gov

General Scholarships: www.fastweb.com

Money2Fly: www.flightscholarship.info

National Air Transportation Foundation: www.nata.aero

National Business Aviation Association: http://www.nbaa.org/prodev/scholarships/

Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals: www.obap.org

The Ninety-Nines, Inc.: www.ninety-nines.org

University Aviation Association: www.uaa.aero

Women in Aviation, International: www.wai.org


When the dream is big enough and the risks controllably low, using your personal savings is another way to finance your education.  This method is straight forward and easy to understand.  A pilot mentor of mine told me when I was looking for funding, “Sell your SUV, buy a cheap car and go to training”.  The dream has to be pretty big for that to happen, but it’s an option.  When the savings are low, and the desire is to stay out of debt, then working and paying as you go has worked for many before.  Look around, you’ll find some companies out there that give discounts to their employees for training.

The last option, but for many it’s the only way for the dream to become a reality, is to use borrowed money.  Again, this is only after investigating every other possibility.  If possible, find a financial angel, family member or friend that is willing to loan you the money needed with low interest. These loans can be lower interest rates than from an institution and may not require good credit.  When all these other options don’t work, most flight training students use a credit card for at least some or all of their flight training financing. Many credit cards have several advantages over traditional loans including zero interest rate introductory periods ranging from six months to over a year, and cash back offers on certain types of purchases. If you decide a credit card is right for you, be smart about it and pay it off as quickly as possible. This option requires discipline.  Of course, failing to pay a financial obligation on time is a serious matter with serious consequences.

Pilot Finance Inc.: www.pilotfinance.com is also an option.  They specialize in financing only flight training so they know all the tricks to get the financing you need.  Their interest rates vary depending on your credit rating.

Another borrowing option is to get a private loan from a bank, or credit union.  You’ll need a strong credit rating or a credit-worthy co-signer to get a loan from a bank or credit union.  Private education funding from banks is tough to get these days, but qualified borrowers can usually make it happen.

For every pilot, the options will be different and your thinking cap should be securely on and working to come up with the best possible solution. Your solution could include some of all the above options.  Your dream to fly is a worthy one and our future looks bright.  Create your own luck by working hard,  thinking smart, and making intelligent use of the options outlined in this article, and the way will be opened to you.

Eric Q. Howlett

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