the secret to financing your flight training

I constantly hear from people asking for the secret to paying for their flight training. Since it’s expensive, they seek some magic bullet to cover the bills. Well here’s an honest answer.

Among my favorite movies is The Seventh Seal, by famed Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman. In the film, an aging knight recently returned from the Crusades plays a game of chess for his life against Death personified. Just as the knight is about to win the game and achieve immortality, he intentionally makes a bad move and loses.

“Why did you throw the game?” asks Death, surprised. “You’d have beaten me.”

“Because I wanted to learn your secrets,” says the knight.

“There are no secrets,” replies Death, grimly. “I shall return to take you away.”

What does that have to do with financing your flight training? Since it’s expensive, aspiring pilots often invest a good deal of time and energy seeking some sugar daddy in the form of a person or company to pay for their training.

It’s simple, “There are no secrets.” If the excitement of piloting is what you crave, odds are that you’ll have to come up with a way to pay for it. That’s really no different than other careers or avocations. Like everything worthwhile in life, one must decide whether to dedicate the energy and tackle the risks required to play the game, or not. Per the old saying, “If you think getting an education is expensive — try not getting one.”

If you can earn scholarships to pay the cost of your training, or if you or your family can afford to cover the costs of your pilot education, more power to you.

But for many of us, it may not be that easy. You may have to go without a new car for the next several years, wait tables in a restaurant, or share a bedroom with a roommate. You may need to invest hours and days and months pursuing scholarships and loan opportunities to help finance your dream. There will likely be interruptions in your training while you work an extra job to save money, or you may need to borrow and pay it back later.

This is not intended to be flip, or harsh, or mean. It’s just a statement of reality to ease a few people’s nail-biting and speed them on their way. The vast majority of pilots will agree that flying whether for fun or profit is worth every ounce of dedication and effort it takes to get there. Some would even argue that the harder your route along the way, the more you’ll appreciate the ultimate accomplishment. But if you really want to do it, lay out a plan, roll up your sleeves, and make it happen.

But to everyone’s question about the secret to paying for flight training, there truly is only one honest answer, “There are no secrets.”

©2012 Gregory N. Brown

One thought on “the secret to financing your flight training

  1. Indeed, no secrets. Just like any vocation, hobby, or even regular job expenses, you just need a budget and you need to stick to it. You want a car? You either pay with cash or you finance it. Same thing with flying…costs about the same. I ended up getting a Sallie Mae Career Training loan, but that was back in 2007, so it might be a bit different now.

    The biggest benefit to this approach (or any other that allows you to fund a big chunk of training all at once) is that you are able to fly when the mood, your work schedule, and the weather are in line. Sure, sometimes the world is out of control, but if you have the funding set, it’s at least one less thing to worry about.

    The downside is that here I am, five years later, still paying off that training and not doing a whole lot of flying because of it. But without it, I couldn’t have achieved the certificate when I did, and I couldn’t have gone on a couple of very cool adventures in the meantime. There are surely tradeoffs, but up-front funding is a good way to build in the commitment and support the effort. As an aside, now that it’s bought and almost-paid-for, my wife encourages me to go flying. “You paid for the license, you may as well use it!” Can’t argue with logic like that!

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