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Financing flight lessons? Show me the #'s

Posted By:
Trent Taylor
#1 Posted: 5/3/2010 07:56:53

I can't stand it any more.  I have just GOT TO learn to fly!  My montra has always been to pay cash and not go in debt, but I'm wondering if a long term loan might be appealing if I could see the numbers.  So, here are my questions:

What kind of loan can I get to pay for flight instruction?

What kind of interest rate would this loan have (typically)?

What kind of payment and over what period of time would the loan be paid back in?

How much more would it cost to finance than to pay cash?

I would rather crowed source this info at this point than go to a bank and ask them as I'm not sure yet I want to do it.  I've wanted to learn to fly since I was little but I simply can't find the resources.  Maybe I should bite the bullet and just take out a loan???

For what it's worth, a local flight school claims a cost of only $3800 to get a license.  (Seems low, even factoring in the $30/month membership fee).  I'm not making this up, here is their web page: http://www.flyingactivity.com/mod.php?mod=userpage&menu=24&page_id=22 



Dave Sirota
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#2 Posted: 5/3/2010 09:06:31

Trent,  There are too many variables to answer your question.  What is your credit history?  Do your earnings support the debt in this tight credit market?  You need to go to your bank, or wherever you intend to borrow the money from, to see what terms they can offer to you.  Telling you what a lender across the country will lend a well qualified borrower doesn't tell you anything.

 Most of the recent estimates I've seen for the instruction it takes to obtain a Private Pilot, SEL license is considerably greater then the figure you've been told.  An estimate based on the minimum hours the FAA requires is meaningless.  Most students need 60 - 70 hours.  A Sport Pilot License might be in the price range you've been quoted.


I don't mean to deflate your passion; just know all the information you can before you leap.

Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#3 Posted: 5/3/2010 10:10:58

I can only echo Davis's advice - you need to sit down with a loan officer at your local bank (or banks, for that matter.   One may have better rates than another).  The type of loan thay can offer, and the interest charged, is based on your personal situation, and I feel sure you don't want to disclose that info on an open forum.  When asking about your loan, use David's figures of 60-70 hours of instruction.  This is the more typical time required, and if you can finish up earlier, you can use whatever money is left over from your loan to pay off the remainder of the loan.  This is a much easier task to swing than going back to the bank and asking for another  $1000-2,000  because you low-balled the original request.  Also you might just as well include the approximately $150 for the Knowledge Exam and the approx $400 for the practical check ride while you are at it.  That couple of hundred extra added to the loan will not have that great an affect on the loan repayment, and will ensure that you have that money available when the time comes.  Good luck and let us know how you are progressing...

PS.  If you decide to go the less expensive Light Sport route, put away the RV6 plans - it doesn't qualify as an LSA.



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Trent Taylor
#4 Posted: 5/3/2010 10:45:41

Thanks for the replies.  No, not looking for specifics.  Was hoping that someone who had been through financing flight instruction would pipe up and share what they learned.

Gerald Voigt
AirVenture Volunteer
#5 Posted: 5/4/2010 13:37:38

If you're credit score is decent, you shouldn't have any problems getting a signature loan to cover the costs. When I got my Private, the cost all inclusive was about $1500.00, but that was a long time ago. Back when a C172 rented for $9.00/hr WET!!!

As with any hobby interest...if you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to afford it. Why not save for it, then you'll owe no one!

Gerald Voigt Neenah, WI
Brad Rawls
#6 Posted: 5/6/2010 19:52:14

I'm in financed flight trainging right now.  I went through a place called "Pilot Finance" in Banncokburn IL.  They offer a fair program where you can pick how many hours of week training you want and a payback schedule. They are charging about 12% interest, but  if you make all your payments on time, they will refund all interest over 9% when the loan is paid.  It has worked out great for me so far.  You need decent credit, or you get a higher interest rate.  You can pick the repayment terms that you want.

John Craparo
#7 Posted: 5/7/2010 00:53:45 Modified: 5/7/2010 01:16:04

Jason Flight.jpg


You have many options with regard to financing, but let's concentrate on the notion that you like to pay cash.  I do not know how old you are and what your financial means are so I will work from an example.

Three years ago my nephew Jason, a college freshman at the time, decided he wanted to learn how to fly. He did not want to go into any debt doing it nor did he want to enter an aeronautical university with a flight program.

We put together a set of assumptions about the costs involved in flying. 

1. He wanted to finance the cost of the Private Pilot Certificate himself.

2. He wanted his certificate in hand by senior year.

3. He would fly at least 2 days a week with an instructor.

4. He found an instructor who would work with him at a rate of $35 an hour.

5. He could rent an airplane with fuel (known as wet) for $65 an hour.

6. He might be able to finish in 65 hours (actually took 72).

7. He would need 50 hours of instruction excluding required solo flights and solo practice (actually took 55).

8. Books and supplies would be $200.

9. Headset would be $100.

10. Knowledge exam fee $100.

11. Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) fee $350.

Jason decided he could work 5 days a week part time to save for his lessons. This came to about 260 days of work a year.  He also realized that he would be paying tax on his earnings, this extended the work days to 325, the equivalent of 25% tax rate to net what he needed.  This is the equivalent to 5 calendar quarters.

Federal minimum wage was $7.25 an hour.

He would need to work 3 hours a day to earn enough money to pay for his lessons (transportation to and from lessons, food, water not included here).  Jason began saving and after 3 months he contracted to start instruction. Jason completed his rating (while taking a full class load) in just over 18 months near the end of his sophmore year. 

The 3 month head start kept him on track to finance everything on his own.  Originally he planned to save everything in advance and realized it was not necessary.

Keep in mind this model will change if you can earn more per hour, get different rates for instruction and airplane rental, decide to complete the Sport Pilot versus Private Pilot  (take about 25% off the above Total of $7335)...

There are many instructors/flight schools that will offer the ability to buy training time in advance. I caution you against this.  While they will offer discounts for advance block payments, you cannot be guaranteed the company will be around when it comes time to use the balance on your account.  Pay as you go is probably the best way. 

Do not throw away your investment by being inconsistent with your flying schedule. If you go twice a week for three weeks, then miss a month, you may end up having to repeat lessons because the skills you learned eroded during your time off.  If you stay with your program, and have an instructor that is committed to helping you do that by being available, you will save money in the long run. Good weather where you fly will also help you get in regular flying year round.  Another option is to save most of what is needed, then go to a school that helps you obtain your certificate on a fast track. These can sometimes be completed in three weeks. You are not guaranteed to be certified in that time, but you can get a great deal done over a short period.

Again, not knowing your age, credit worthiness, etc., I cannot advise you on structured finance options, but continue to ask around if a cash plan like this does not work for you.

Have fun and get out and fly,







John Craparo Georgetown, TX
Sherry Rickmeier
#8 Posted: 5/10/2010 19:58:22

Wow, thanks for that detailed information, John!  

Our son is only 12 and until reading your post, we've been clueless (and too chicken to call and ask) about what it will cost for him to earn his pilot's license down the road.  

John Craparo
#9 Posted: 5/10/2010 21:57:00

Thanks Sherry,

Keep in mind there are lots of great opportunities for young people to build flight time at low cost.  For instance, the Cadet program of the Civil Air Patrol might be just the ticket.  There is no military obligation involved in the CAP, but a Composite Squadron (consisting of Cadets, 12 to 21 years of age), and Senior members ( > 21) with either an airplane (usually a Cessna 172 or 182) or a glider assigned to it would be ideal.  Heck, even you and your husband can join the same squadron and work along side him.  Sadly, Seniors cannot take flight lessons in CAP aircraft, just the young people.

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions. I am glad my response was of value.





John Craparo Georgetown, TX
Andy Gamache
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#10 Posted: 5/10/2010 22:14:41

Just a quick clarification. CAP Seniors can take flight instruction leading to advanced ratings, but not the initial rating. The last time I looked at this, Sport Pilot did not exist, so I don't know if a Sport Pilot could receive flight training for Private Pilot. However, Commercial, Instrument and so on can be done. Another caveat is that the CAP does not allow CFIs to charge for their time in CAP aircraft. That applies for giving instruction to Cadets as well.

Rob Carreiro
#11 Posted: 5/11/2010 09:30:36


You have started a great topic and question:  The funding of ones pilot certificate is tough.  I used a program from Sallie Mae for career training.  However the programs was deleted and public funds not available for flight training.  I looked hard, and financing is hard at best to obtain.  I took it one step farther and developed a website call fundapilot.com.  My goal was to raise money through donations 1$ at a time.  I thought if I could atleast get to the instructor level, i could pay the system back.  How would I do that? Well I am employed so charging for instruction is not important to me.  However the flying time and building hours is important.  If the student only had to pay for the plane it would reduce cost, maybe be more reachable.  General Aviation needs a big voice to refute things like user fees and TSA provisions.  The bigger we become the better voice we have.  My biggest fear is that we will not grow at all as a community and at the rate of funding to help we will decrease in size.  The ultimate end result of my website was to help myself and others. I thought that I could make a place for others to gain help financially to learn to fly.  Sadly to date I have not received much.  But I will not quit..somehow I will get my instructor cert, and pay it forward to others who need help to.  I hope and pray the GA community will come to the rescue and help build a way for new pilots to enter the ranks of pilots in suport of the GA ultimate goal of flying safe and having fun. Remember fundapilot will in the end help others and it is a good cause.