Real Answers from Real Pilots

Loan repay

Hello I’m just about to go through the loan process with Sallie Mae and seeing the big loan and the per month of $1300 has got me worried about the payments when I get done and start flying job wise. I guess I’d say is that I’m a little scared of saying yes to the loan and then not being able to pay the monthly with other expenses to live. Will I make enough to pay the monthly and have enough to pay other bills?

$1300/m would be about 1/4-1/2 of your income for the next 1-4yrs.

I made $35k-75k/yr since completing ATP in 2018. I paid a lot cash so my loan is a lot less.

I would say do a basic income to debt analysis. You need atleast $200-300/m for food plus whatever you pay for rent. Do you have a car payment? Insurance? Fuel costs? And so on.

See if there is a mathematical way to make it work. I know people who pay $1100/m and make it work, & I know some who had to find other jobs for awhile until they found a flying job that paid enough to.

Chris F

Not going to sugar coat it, it’s tough but doable. You get a 6 month grace period from the time you graduate to the time you have to start paying on it. The sooner you secure a job as a CFI, the quicker you can begin to stash some cash for when your payments start. If you stay with atp, you may have the opportunity to join cadet programs when they start back up. Those programs are game changers when it comes to helping you pay back your loan. In addition, be smart about where you instruct. Living somewhere with high expenses will only make it more difficult to make it. However if you can find other instructors to share housing with to keep rent down, cheap gas, cheap food that will all add up.


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You can refinance it down to 3-5% with a few hundred a month in payments.

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I’m with Hannah, it’s not going to be easy. It will require sacrifice and tightening your belt. That said the reward of realizing a dream and having a career that can yield up to $400k makes this that loan a pretty good investment.

That aside you may also have the opportunity to defer your payments or make interest only payments. While not necessarily the best plan fiscally (as you’ll acrue additional interest) it can make your situation more palatable.


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Hi William,

Welcome to the Forum!

As Hannah mentioned, you can defer payments while in school and will also have a 6 month post-graduation grace period. Once the 6 month grace period has ended, Sallie Mae offers Graduated Repayment which allows for 12 months of interest-only payments before the loan enters full repayment.

This is an alternate option to consider if you’re concerned about making full payments on the loan as a CFI.


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Hi @Addison ! After a few tough questions from my boyfriend last night, I was searching for some information on repayment and came across a few of your responses. From what I’ve gathered, pilots who complete the program, and avail themselves of the grace period and Graduated Repayment, will not be expected to make the full payments until 1 year and 6 months after graduating (ideally when they’re onboard at a regional). Is this correct?

This is important to my ‘sales pitch’ because my boyfriend and I were struggling to conceive how I could make $1000+ student loan payments on a CFI salary.

Thank you for your insight!

Hi Jade,

That is correct. You will have a six month post-graduation grace period and can then apply for Graduated Repayment. Graduated Repayment allows for 12 months of interest-only payments so that you don’t enter full repayment until you’re earning an airline pilot salary.

More information on that option can be found here: Pilot Training Loan Repayment / ATP Flight School

I would also recommend reaching out to Kirk in our finance department (his direct line is 904-595-7946.) He would be more than happy to discuss all repayment options + the co-signer release option with Sallie Mae.



Thank you very much, @Addison - this is very helpful.


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