How much does it cost to become an airline pilot? This is a very important question because the decision to become a pilot will literally change your life.
Becoming an airline pilot could cost a minimum of $30,000 to $40,000. There are different means of getting there that could impact the cost for you.
You’ll want to consider the different ways that you might seek a career in the airline industry. For example, will you go the route of becoming a private pilot first or go into the military and learn there?
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How Much Does it Cost to Become an Airline Pilot? The Answer May Vary
Becoming a pilot could have different costs depending on the path that you take.
It’s not possible to apply to an airline and get a position as a pilot at the entry-level. Learning to fly is somewhat more involved than driving a commercial vehicle.
Airline pilots are highly paid, and to become one, you’ll need private pilot experience or military flight training experience. Both of these paths have different cost considerations to keep in mind.
Do You Have to Be a Private Pilot First to Fly for an Airliner?
A Private Pilot License (PPL) is your first step on the journey to becoming an airline pilot. One of the perks of a PPL is being able to fly a plane on your own.
Some of the costs associated with getting a PPL include lessons at ground school, as well as flight training. You’ll also need to put in a minimum of 40 hours of flight time with a certified instructor.
There are also practical and written exams that you’ll need to pass. Other expenses include medical exams and certifications.
The costs of everything required for your training will average $7,500-$10,000. Because you’ll be able to fly as a private pilot after retiring from flying for airlines, barring severe medical circumstances, this cost is worth it in the long run.
What Are Additional Costs When You Become a Commercial Pilot?
The costs for becoming a commercial pilot average $30,000-$40,000 after you’ve already received your PPL. It’s very rare for commercial airlines to offer fight training, so you should assume that a PPL is necessary.
Your next step when you decide to venture into the world of commercial flight is getting a Commercial Pilot Certificate (CPC). Two ratings are crucial to obtain before you get your CPC.
The Instrument Rating tests your knowledge of the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). This rating requires you to test your flight skills using the instruments and onboard controls and costs $7,000-$9,000.
A Multi-Engine Rating allows pilots with a PPL, usually accustomed to single-engine planes, to learn to fly an aircraft with two or four engines. The rating usually costs $2,000-$6,000.
After receiving these certifications, you’ll continue with additional ground and in-flight training. Depending on the airline, you might need to do some simulation for the type of plane that you’ll be flying.
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What Costs Are Associated with Going Into the Military First?
One of the things that surprises many about going into the military to begin a career as a pilot is that joining the military is the cheapest option in and of itself. Enlisting is not only free, but if all goes well and you stay in the service, you’ll earn an income during the time you’re in.
When you choose the military option, you’ll need to decide whether to be on Active Duty or a Reservist. Both of these options have different types of time commitments.
Do You Need a PPL to Be a Military Pilot?
Although not a strict requirement, an existing PPL could give you an advantage over other fighter pilot candidates. The competition for fighter pilots is intense, so if you have an advantage, so much the better.
Getting an Instrument Rating can also help you in your quest to become a fighter pilot. This rating, along with the PPL, makes you stand out among the candidates for military flight school.
What Difference Does Active Duty Make?
Joining the military as an Active Duty member is a full-time profession. Some of the benefits include a retirement pension and access to health care.
If you’ve opted for Active Duty, you should expect to commit to eight to ten years of service. You’ll have to attend to other duties related to your service as well, regardless of whether you are accepted into flight school.
What Difference Does Being a Reservist Make?
The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, despite their part-time reputation, allow members to request full-time orders if they prefer. These organizations also allow you to pick which units you choose to apply to.
Reservists have a ten-year commitment, which can be served part-time if you prefer. Usually, your commitment is one week out of every month.
Do You Need to Earn a Degree If You Go to Military Flight School?
Pilots in all branches of the service are commissioned officers, which requires a four-year degree. A grade point average of 3.0 is preferred, but 3.5 is considered better.
If you’re in the Air Force, you’ll need to complete Initial Flight Training (IFT). Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) is the next step, where you will have hands-on training for some of the aircraft you’ve studied in flight school.
Although there is a lot involved with military pilot training, you won’t have to shoulder all of the costs if you receive your training in the military. Being able to earn an income as a service member while training is another plus.
Why Do Some Flight Schools Cite Higher Costs?
Many private flight schools cite considerably higher costs for their programs than the costs previously mentioned. Why is there that great a difference in learning the same skills?
There are two primary reasons that some flight schools may charge more. These reasons explain the costs of $70,000 or more paid at some flight schools.
Flight schools may offer training for people without any previous flight experience. Without a Private Pilot Certificate, a flight school student will have to start from the beginning, moving up through all the levels of certification required to fly commercially.
Another reason for the higher costs is that these schools may private airline-specific training. Training programs for airlines like American or United are often accelerated to allow students to get into their new careers faster.
What Type of Financial Assistance is Available for Flight School Students
The high costs of going to flight school may seem staggering for some prospective pilots. However, there are options that allow students to learn to fly using airline assistance and financing, including loans.
One thing to keep in mind is that no airline funds the entire cost of pilot training. However, there are significant discounts with airline-specific programs of as much as $30,000.
The vital thing to keep in mind is that programs offered by airlines require enrollment at approved flight schools that have partnered with the airlines. Some of these programs include training that allows graduates to become Flight Instructors after graduation.
Another advantage of some of these flight schools is flow-through agreements. These arrangements allow pilots to transfer directly to the airline after meeting all their requirements.
One of the drawbacks that come with being a Flight Instructor is that this might be a requirement for you to meet the flight hours required. If you would like to take on other types of commercial pilot work, this might not be the best path to take.
Financing for Prospective Commercial Pilots
The costs of airline pilot training should never be a deterrent from someone following their dream. One thing that’s helpful to know is that there are opinions that make paying for your training easier.
Federal Student Loans for Flight School
Students seeking federal funding to pay for their lessons need to start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Students with a demonstrated financial need may qualify for Direct Subsidized loans with relatively low-interest rates.
Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans require no credit check, although Federal Direct PLUS Loans require credit checks. Pilot trainees with existing student loan debt can consolidate it into Federal Direct Consolidation Loans.
Private Student Loans for Flight School
There are a couple of private loan options available for flight schools. Worth noting is the fact that most programs must be affiliated with a university program for students to take advantage of private loans.
However, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo do provide student loans that can be used for flight schools. These types of loans have different types of repayment terms from federal programs.
Sallie Mae loans allow you to borrow up to 100% of your costs. However, there are only two repayment options, so you won’t have the repayment flexibility that comes with government-funded loans.
Wells Fargo charges no application or origination fees. However, there are strict borrowing limits and one repayment option.
Financing for Pilot Training
Some financing companies provide funding to help pilots-in-training pay for their flight school costs. Although these companies may not offer the amount of financing that loans do, they can be a valuable resource.
For example, American Airlines’ credit union offers up to $40,000 in funding. Applicants don’t need to be American Airlines employees to qualify for these funds.
Tuition Reimbursements for Pilot Training
Sometimes, the airlines help contribute to flight school students’ education. ExpressJet Airlines and SkyWest Airlines are two of the most well-known programs.
Express Jet Airlines has an $11,000 reimbursement option for flight students. Students who might want to take advantage of this option should confirm the eligibility requirements.
SkyWest Airlines’ tuition reimbursement program also reimburses up to $11,000. This program is in partnership with over 50 different flight schools, making it a flexible option.
Scholarships for Flight Schools
Scholarships for pilot training are available from several organizations. Most scholarships have specific requirements that may include;
- Being part of an underrepresented demographic
- Possessing a specific skill set
- Proof of interest in becoming a pilot
AAERO Aviation offers scholarships ranging from $1,000-$2,500. Applicants must have a Student Pilot Certificate and currently attend a flight school.
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) offers scholarships that start at a minimum of $5,000. EAA allows non-members to apply for scholarships as well.
Are the Costs of Becoming a Pilot Worth the Rewards?
Most pilots would consider the high costs worth it in the long run. A career as an airline pilot is one of the most rewarding for anyone who enjoys traveling.
You’ll spend a lot of money unless you’ve taken the military path. However, the benefits will pay for themselves over time.
Once you’ve become an airline pilot, one of the perks is to make funny announcements to passengers over the intercom!