Pilot training financing

Real world question: has anyone here (mainly those who have graduated college with a non-aviation degree) decided to go down the accelerated “zero to hero” Part 141 training route after realizing their career choice wasn’t for them? How did you finance the training? Did you use loans? I’m at odds with myself with my situation: just graduated with a masters in Sacred music, job outlook is terrible, you’re making a menial salary at best (lucky to make more than $25k unless you have a DM and teach at the university level, neither of which I will ever look forward to), and no room to grow. Working for churches is the first issue, most of them won’t lift a finger to pay a living wage because you’re viewed as a servant more than a team member, You get a job, then you serve there a little while, then you move elsewhere doing the same thing, same salary, dealing with different people.

/End rant. My apologies.

My point is, I’m looking to go the accelerated training route. I’m 26, and have about 15 hours dual from my Part 61 PPL training so far (which I started in September of 2016…). Im tired of it. Not going anywhere, and every time I think I’m about to solo, I lose funding. Republic just opened their LIFT Academy here in Indy where their HQ is, and I am beyond tempted to place all my risks and fears aside and drop down on a $65k loan to cover the necessary training, then pick up the 5-year contract with RPA flying the 170/175. This actually works out awesome because both the fiancée, myself, and both our families all live in Indy, RPA’s main domicile.

My biggest concerns:

  • CFI and FO position is guaranteed in one year and three years respectively, but will this actually hold out? The job market might change, the whole situation is very volatile.

  • I get married in March of 2019. Concerned about how training with LIFT will even work with one person, much less two. The whole kids/family thing topic has already been covered. It is definitely in the future, just not this coming year. The training schedule is considered full time, leaving no possibility for work, and we both want to save her money. Would love to save my money, too, lol. I am covering the rest of the bills.

  • my hope is that once I pick up that FO job, make 40k, and within the three years I’m there, get the CA upgrade they talk about, and pay the huge loan off with my $85k salary they refer to. How much of their statements is actually true? I have zilch to my name, im a paycheck to paycheck guy (because I make next to nothing), and I have a life to pay for. This is additional expense, in addition to $12.5k that I owe for undergrad studies in a degree I wasn’t cut out for. Lovely. I am absolutely depending on their claims to get me out of this alive.

Anyone out there who’s going to ATP, FlightSafety, or one of the airline cadet programs? How are you doing it? Are these guys holdin true to their word or are they just scheisters taking kids’ money? Please discuss. Thanks!

This is going on the ALPA forum too (already have an old account there lol), so hopefully between here and their I’ll have elicited some good replies!


Following, because this hits way too close to home for me. About to finish my degree, but not looking to work in the business field for very long (if at all).


Give @Vari2ty a shout. He used to fly the E175 for Republic. He could probably give you some details.

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There are a lot of programs out there that are starting to pop up.

Check out the following programs

Ameriflight with EPIC aviation
FEDEX with Purple Runway
American Airlines Cadet Academy
Delta has just started a program with a few colleges.
ATP has agreements with a lot of regionals that offer TA reimbursement.

A starting place to check out would also be


There is also the military.
Check out some colleges and see what you’d need. Better financial options using those as well.

Liberty University (FTA) - they have a Flight Training Affiliate program, their Aviation Degree is 100% online and they have agreements with flight schools all over the nation that you go to to fly at. I am currently enrolled in this. Live in Tampa, flying out of St Pete International (KPIE) and will be starting to fly out of Sarasota Internatinal (KSRQ) in the winter 2018/spring 2019. Liberty’s FTA program also qualifies for the R-ATP (1000hrs) instead of 1500hrs.

Auburn University
North Dakota State University
To name a few

With the Universities, Colleges or Community Colleges, you’ll be able to apply for student loans like you’re probably familiar with, AFSA and other scholarships/grants.

Programs like ATP and other flight schools that are zero to hero, primarily operate under Part 61, which requires more minimum time requirements and either self funding or private funding. Which, either way you go, is tons of money.

Private loans through Sallie May, Discovery (AA Cadet Program) and someone else, but I can’t remember. If you’re a Florida resident, there is a Florida Residents only loan that you can apply for, I don’t remember the specifics of it though.

Depending on the regionals you’re interested in, they have cadet programs as well that offer certain privileges as well as TA.


The job market will change, the question is, for the better of hiring or worse. Personally, I would not commit to an airline like that, with so much training still ahead of you. I am not familiar with their domiciles, but I would be wary about thinking you will automatically get what you want.

Training will be training. In this industry and what it is costing you daily, I would expect life to be on hold until youre done and into your first gig, whether thats CFI or some other operation.

Don’t rely on them. Go into this expecting to inherit 100% of the training debt and all costs associated with it. Again, dont put all your chips in their corner. While the domicile you want and proximity of training may look enticing, it would behoove you to look at all the 100’s of options. You can get your CPL for MUCH LESS than 65k…

ATP, Flight Safety only have agreements with these regionals and companies. They CANNOT guarantee you anything. ATP (not sure about FSI), will give you a CFI job, but you may have to move to take it. Their CFI training is in Jacksonville, FL and they provide free housing during that training. The Cadet programs do get you in the door. Of course its up to you to secure the job offer once youre complete with all the ATP and regional requirements.

What do I suggest if you have the means?

Buy an airplane and find yourself a CFI.

Before I started at Liberty, due to how I am paying, my entire plan was to buy a C152 or something comparable in price and affordability over the term of use and hire a CFI. You will save THOUSANDS of dollars on training and the airplane wont loose much value. Buying a 152 between 12-20k and then selling it at a minimal loss is an amazing thought. I’m in the military and my GI Bill benefits are paying for all my school and flying so I dont need an airplane now.

if you have any other questions let me know, I have done TONS of research.

Theres a DLVA member that I believe is starting in the EPIC program, @Vari2ty is in that VA and can prolly track that person down and have them comment. It was either EPIC or ATP, I cant remember.

I remembered who it was, @anon2063420. He can give you some more details since he is enrolled in one of those programs.


Gonna have to check out Purple Runway! Never heard of it. Wells-Fargo is the other guy, both SM and WF have loans catered to accelerated pilot training. The university level stuff is something I’m honestly steering clear of. Talked to Purdue about their program, and the training costs are only IN ADDITION TO base tuition, of which I would have to pay for while obtaining my second bachelors there. Big nope. It’s not even possible, anyway.

I know local community college Ivy Tech has recently started their own cadet program, which I’m somewhat interested in, but the loan problem will no doubt still exist, unless they can swing me a full ride, which I have serious doubts of.

Actually considered USAF this week but asked a friend who’s an IP in it, and they said that it’s a ten year commitment, there’s no telling what you’ll do, where you’ll be deployed, and there isn’t a “can I do something else” option. So that’s the reason I’m shying away from that.

Heard a lot about all the various cadet programs starting up, but yes, they’re all a fortune. And if you don’t have money, you’re on your own with a loan or indentured servantry to flying two hours a month for years when you can, which if that’s the case, you might as well fly for fun.

In my opinion, and this sounds kind of like something my generation would say, but if this industry (particularly in the US) is truly concerned about the need for well-trained pilots, why aren’t they taking more of an initiative to finance their training for them, as foreign carriers are doing, instead of making them pay what you might instead put down on a first home? Is it the sheer cost of putting so many pilots in seats at the 1500 hour mark? DL, UA, SWA, etc, are making thousands at least, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be funding at least 50% of training. If foreign guys can do it, why can’t we?

Look into the Air Force Reserves. There are a lot of units out there hiring. You need a bachelors, which you have and normally your PPL (sometimes theyll waive it). This way you get all your training for free while only having to serve minimally. I know tons of pilots in the reserves that also fly for the big boys as their “civilian” full time employment and then come in on the weekend once a month and fly some cool military stuff.

Also, real good pay while youre in training and all that jazz. Like real good.

Also, at least with Liberty’s program, you can transfer in something like 90 credits. You only have to take the actual flying labs and flying classes. I transferred a butt load of credits and only need the flying stuff and a few others.


Hmm. Definitely sounds worth considering. Thank you!!!

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Maybe tried a lesser known 141 school that’s fairly inexpensive. But can get an ATP in 1000 hours

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At this time and age in aviation I would stay away from any company that makes you sign a contract. 5 years ???

I know how it feels with zero flight hrs and a company says come here, train here and you will sit in our plane in x time. It sounds good. Remember , it’s a pilots market right now. Our voice is heard loud and clear. Now if it’s a gurantee “flow through” with a major it’s worth thinking, but 5 years a long long time. What if you get into regionals and absolutely hate it? Well, now you are stuck. Personally, regional life was not for me. Glad I did it, but I would never do it again. That said, if that’s the route you want to take definitely try it, but do not sign a contract, especially when you are the one paying for it. This is not the 90s. Do your training and reevaluate who you want to fly for.



What type of flying are you doing now?

Corporate 135 ops and 91 once in a while on the side (contract stuff)

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This might be splitting hairs and isn’t going to be as cost-effective as the military/air force reserves, but flying gliders is cheaper than powered aircraft (no engine Mx and almost no fuel) and can count for half of the 1,500 hours you need for your ATP.

It’s a good way to get started and teaches some valuable skills!


Now that is a novel trick…

Don’t you only need 20 hours dual for that? I’m literally 4 hours from that…

From the Soaring Society of America, if Private Pilot-Glider is your initial rating you need:

Private Pilot-Glider
After solo, student pilots may qualify as a Private Pilot-Glider provided they:

  • Are at least 16 years of age; and
  • Have logged at least 10 hours of flight time in a glider and that flight time must include at least 20 total glider flights, and
  • Have 2 hours of solo flight time in a glider, and
  • Have passed the FAA written examination; and
  • Have passed the flight exam with a FAA Examiner.

Read more here: http://www.ssa.org/GliderPilotRatings


Update: I just returned home from my 8 am interview/COMPASS test with Lift. Staff team is super kind and accommodating. The facilities are beautiful. Coffee station at the front desk lounge. Looks like a very nice place to do class at. The test is tough - half is basic hand eye coordination, the other is a written math portion. No calculators are allowed. There was even a bit of electrical physics so I think there’s a fair bit here that everyone will struggle with somewhat here. Overall I think I did alright. Up next is to learn my score and the next steps for enrollment, if I take that path.

My next concern is still the finances… I’m considering even going further down the loan path and taking on an additional 30k to the training loan, just to pay off living expenses. There’s not really another way to do it.

Someone said on the ALPA forum, “I would hate to see someone go in debt, but you really should be getting the ball rolling.”

A friend of mine who is flying already, not in RPA but for a Part 135 cargo charter, just mentioned over the phone that I’ll be making 100k within five years. He said, “you might regret taking on the loan till you’re thirty, but after that, you’ll be happy you did.”

Did some more research on Reserves training, which I’m trying to steer clear of. I think that it would be less emotional stress on the relationship if I take on the loan. USAF buddy of mine went over what I would be faced with. He mentioned that I would absolutely be deployed, I would be in the Middle East, I would be in combat zones, and I wouldn’t be able to come home if, say, a child was born.

It’s just too much for me, and I think the emotional stress on my wife-to-be would be at much more of a cost than a financial stress alone.


If you go Military - Go Guard. As a bias voice for the Guard I recommend it. You play Military one weekend a month, one month a year. Opportunities to go Active Duty with in the Guard is also there. If you want to fly I recommend the Army Guard Warrant Officer candidate. I’m currently in the process of going back in as a Warrant to fly Chinooks. I also had the opportunity to go fly C-12 and Beechcraft Jets, forgive me I don’t recall.

If you don’t want to go Military and go civilian go buy an airplane. Get a 150 for 10K and get an instructor that’ll be the cheapest way to do your stuff.

I just saw a 170B for 15K also by the way in great condition.


This is 100% false. No offense to your buddy. I’ve been in combat zones and have seen people leave for child births. I will comment on the rest in a bit.