Real Answers from Real Pilots

The great financing issue

I am looking to pursue a commercial pilot career. I have no time in the cockpit but have found a school to take me from 0 hours to commercial license. The issue is finding money. My wife and I have decent credit so it shouldn’t be too hard to get approved. The issue I have is I have really only found Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo as options. With Sallie Mae I’m pretty sure I would be paying close to double my original loan amount in the end which in turn would up my monthly payments pretty high. I’m sure that Wells Fargo will be in about the same ballpark. I plan on training while working my current full-time job to keep up with bills. I also plan on instructing while working as well until I hit that magic 1500 mark. Are those two my best options as far as lenders or am I missing somebody to check out? The program I am looking at is around $50,000 and I can set my own pace around my work schedule. I’m just stressing out regarding who to do my lending with. There are just so many variables. I would appreciate any input from people who have borrowed from those two or any other lenders.


I have no experience with either lender but I do want to throw out a few thoughts. First you state you have ZERO time. Honestly it’s inconceivable to me how someone can entertain taking out a $50k loan and pursue a career with no experience. Flying a small plane is not the same as being a passenger on a commercial flight and frankly some people just don’t like it. Before you do anything I STRONGLY recommend you take a Intro flight or 2. ATP won’t even accept your money or let you enroll without one.

The other issue I have is the flight school quoting a price of $50k AND allowing you to train at your own pace. While an extreme example, if you were to train only once a week there’s no way they could guarantee anything since most students require more time, commitment and consistency. I’m fairly certain there’s some small print saying the $50k covers the min flight time requirements and you may require more training.

While I know it can be very difficult to take 9mos off (give or take), if you’re really serious about flying as a career you really should entertain the idea of buckling down and trying. In the end it’ll cost you less, save you ALOT of time and frustration and get you on an airline seniority list much faster.


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Oh by no means do I plan on taking out any loan and going to school without at least an intro flight. I plan on taking one in the next couple weeks. I would just hate to take that flight without having some type of plan to continue on with. I have a general idea of how I plan to do it, just not the financing problem. I also don’t plan on flying two hours a week to do my training. I plan on flying as much as possible during the weekends and the occasional weekday. It’s more of not skipping out on scheduled days at work as they like to schedule me on the weekends sometime. I really wish I could enroll in ATP and get it done with but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’m just trying to figure out my right way to do it now.


Again I understand and I in no way am implying ATP is the only route. I’m also not saying it can’t be done on your own. What I am saying is there’s only so much training you can do on weekends, especially if we’re talking training. Humans can only absorb so much in a single session. Even the airlines and military who train daily restrict their sessions to only a few hours at a time.


Hi Adam,

I noticed that Sean’s original question went unanswered - i.e. financing options. I’m in the same boat as Sean. I’ve been approved for a Sallie Mae loan but at a high interest rate. What other options are out there, since you say you didn’t go through either Wells Fargo or Sallie Mae?

Please take aat least 2 intro flights before committing. 50k will cover your cost at Delta flight school in Texas but, you will. E there for a year on campus. You could also get you private pilots at a local airport flight school and finance the remainder through a program.

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Well actually I have been taken up in a 2 seater plane years ago when I was around 10 or 12 years old. I just don’t consider that at all. I enjoyed it and still plan on taking an actual intro flight. And two if I feel I need it. And I’m happy with what I have found so far about my local program. I am just not happy with my financing options. Unfortunately it looks like I might have to go with one of the big two.

Keep in mind that these loans have high interest rates because they are unsecured loans. Unlike a car or house loan where the bank has recourse if you don’t pay it, there is nothing they can come and take from you here, so the risk to the bank is much higher, thus the higher interest rate.

As to Delta Qualiflight in Texas. I went on their website and I noticed a lot of really flashy graphics that took forever to load, but what I didn’t see was prices not he website, let alone set pricing. I would do some serious research into a school that wasn’t transparent with their pricing before committing to them.


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AOPA does offer financing for flight training. They seem to have “decent” to “good” interest rates and allow you to have a loan repayment of up to 7 years I believe. I would look into them, Sean. I may be using them at some point. Good luck!

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I have definitely seen the loans through AOPA but was initially put off by only having 7 years to pay. I am currently looking at different options as far as paying for my training as a whole. AOPA is starting to look like a good option for me at the moment.

It’s still an unsecured loan so the best interest rate you’re going to see is around 9 percent. that’s putting a 15k loan with a 7 year repayment at 266 a month still. I would imagine most people need a lot more. I’m trying to pay for my PPL out of pocket with what I’ve saved up and I’m fortunate enough to have the post 9/11 GI Bill take care of most of the rest.

Dang that’s awfully high fo such a small loan. But I have a plan no matter who I loan from. I just need to put those steps in place.