Dreams of flying but is it practical to pay off the debt

I’m currently 29 years old. I live by myself and am a chef. In my industry, money isn’t always readily available. Ive always thought about flying, but figured it was an unattainable goal. I always assumed that the only way would be to have flown for the military at first. I’ve recently been looking into ATP flight school, and as I assumed it is not cheap. The school is aroun 85 thousand and than I would need to take out more loans just to survive for the 9 months of training. I’m looking at over 105k. Is it worth it? Will I ever be able to pay this back in this industry? Are they’re high paying jobs where I will be able to support myself? Being a CFi, will I be able to make a living, support myself and pay over 500 a month towards my loans. It seems a little daunting to me?


Read through the FAQ section. Most of your questions are answered there.

I am a living testimony that it’s possible and there a many others just like me. I had to give up a lot: social life, cherished possessions, daily comforts, etc. I took out a loan for training, started receiving Tuition Reimbursement at 900 hours. Moved to Washington so I didn’t have to commute. And here I am now. I’m 31, Captain on the E175. Sure, I had to live paycheck to paycheck. So what? I used that as motivation. I knew that eventually I would get to a more comfortable place.

I’m still paying off my student loans. They’ll be paid off no later than 2025. My credits cards are all paid off. The last 5 years have absolutely been worth it.

If you want this bad enough, it will be worth it for you too.


Do you think 29 is too old to make a move like this? And could you give me some insight on what it’s like your first year as a first officer in a regional airline?

No. Not old. I was 25. More info here:


Hey Nick,

I’m 30 and will be starting my training in 2 weeks. I’ll be 31 this September. I puled out $65k for a loan and I will say it is doable. My wife and I cut of 10 years from our mortgage just by paying extra on the principle. I highly recommend doing the same on a loan for ATP as it cuts out a lot of the interest paid on the loan. Things will be tight and you may not be able to enjoy all the luxuries of not being in debt, but getting the chance to get paid to fly (which is something I love) outweighs the debt substantially.

It’s completely doable and it all comes down to how you manage your finances and follow a budget. It will take work and money will be tight, but in my opinion it’s worth the financial pain if flying is something you love and are passionate about.

Edit: Just to add on. Everyone is different when it comes to their personal finances. You need to evaluate your own finances, establish a budget and find out if it is doable for your life situation. If this is something you really want you’ll find a way to make it work.

You are right to being thinking long and hard about going into debt to this degree learning how to fly. Keep in mind, you haven’t flown yet, your expectations of it are based on dreams/desires that have yet to meet the reality of lots of book work and an (flight) environment you have not yet experienced. I don’t know the terms and conditions of a loan to learn to fly that takes you from 0 to professional, but it is in your interest to read the fine print and find out how and what your obligations are if you do not complete the course or are unhappy with the flight school you choose.

Consider this, if you bought a house with the down payment you are proposing to spend on flying, and you didn’t like it, you can put it on the market and sell. Your education, whether you suceed or not, is non returnable. It will have even less (as is no) value if you don’t complete or even work in the industry. If at all possible, try to start your training without the debt and commitment that may be part of your loan terms. Best of luck!


Yes, a house can be put back on the market and maybe sold for an increase, but probably not more than a few percentage points worth over the original purchase price. I spent $48k on my flight training and $40k on my college degree, so $88k. I am already closing in on the $2 million mark on my career earnings and expect to make several more over the rest of my career. Comparing education to investments is not really a fair comparison in any way.


That looks like a really good outlook for those who can stay with an airline as a pilot for their entire career until retirement.


I happen to agree with you. I literally cannot conceive how people with zero flight experience can entertain quitting their jobs and taking on $80k+ in debt based on their experience sitting in the back of an Airbus going to Cancun and thinking “this is cool! I can do this!”. But this is America and people can do as they like. Is that wise? Not my call.

That said if someone has the desire, has gotten some flight time and has a reasonable expectation they can be successful, then yes I do believe it’s practical. This is an amazing time to get into this industry. Salaries have doubled, there’s Tuition Reimbursement and frankly if you’ve got 1500hrs and pulse someone will hire you. Yes debt is usually not a good thing but the advantages gained by entering the profession a year or more ahead of the next pilot far outweighs the amount of debt. Ultimately it’s each individuals decision.