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Question of the Month: Are there any programs available that would help with financing flight training?Question of the Month

Rob Palumbo posted a question on AOPA’s Flying Club Network Facebook Page that many other aspiring pilots and new flying club members may be wondering as well. He wrote: “I would like to continue my flight training. I started in the late 80's and acquired 21 hrs. of dual instruction before life got in the way. I would like to finish up and get my ppl however it is cost prohibitive now. Are there any programs available that would help with financing?”

The answer is yes. AOPA's Aviation Services department has compiled much information on scholarships and loans, including an extensive listing of available scholarships. The AOPA subject report, Aviation Scholarships, is available free online.

Several people responded to Rob’s post by providing a link to AOPA’s web page about Financing Your Flight Training, which is a great place to start. Another option is to apply for an AOPA Flight Training Scholarship. Before delving into those options, a broader discussion of flight training and financial options is in order.

For flying clubs that offer flight training, whether it’s primary or advanced training, it is useful to know what resources exist to help aspiring pilots obtain their certificate or where to direct your club members who are looking for information about the costs of additional ratings.

A lot of information can be found on AOPA’s website. From the home page, the Training & Safety tab has plenty of information, including a Learn to Fly link. Learning to fly should be viewed as a long-term investment. Once you earn your pilot certificate it opens the door to a lifetime of aviating. However, to fly safely you must stay current.

In Rob’s situation, coming back to flying after taking some time off, finding a Rusty Pilot Seminar would be a great place to start. With hundreds of seminars taking place around the country, there is sure to be one in your area. If not, your club could host a seminar. To do so, click here. It’s a great way to encourage lapsed pilots to get back in the left seat, whether they are completing their training after a break or had earned a certificate and have been away from aviation for awhile. It’s also a great refresher for active pilots and can serve as the ground portion of a flight review.

How Much Does Flight Training Cost?

Before determining how to pay for flight training, it’s important to know how much training is going to cost. One of the reasons many people join a flying club is because they offer members an affordable way to fly.

Costs for flight training will vary from region to region, as well as from flight school to flight school or from club to club. However, if you are looking to earn a Private Pilot Certificate, you can estimate it will cost approximately $7,000 and take about 4 months if you fly two to three times a week. AOPA has a chart outlining the costs to earn various pilot certificates and how long you can expect training to take.  

Now that we know how much to budget for flight training, it’s recommended that a student pilot do some budgeting. While it may seem like an obvious step in the process, when was the last time you sat down to balance your checkbook or do an annual budget? Knowing exactly how much disposable income you have to put toward flight training or how much you can afford a month if you get a loan is important. If you need help, talk to a financial professional.

Often times taking a look at your income and expenses, and where you’re spending your money, can result in finding funds just by making some simple choices.

For example, do you buy lunch every day or do you bring it from home? How often do you go out for dinner or order take out? Are you brewing your morning cup of coffee or buying it on the way to the office? These may not seem expensive at the time, but the costs add up. Making a few simple changes in your spending habits could save you a significant amount of money that could be used for your flight training.

Scholarships

Aviation scholarships can be of the utmost importance to a student, and AOPA has information to help make finding them easy. AOPA also provides tools and tips to create a strong scholarship application, which may give an applicant the “edge” over others who are competing for the same scholarship.

The application advice includes tips such as writing about a unique experience that will capture the reader’s attention, and having the application in well before the deadline. The scholarship web page has a tab offering a concise list of aviation-related scholarships.

AOPA offers its own flight training scholarships and applications are currently being accepted. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, May 31 at 12 noon EST. Winners will be announced in June.

The scholarships range from $2,500 to $5,000 and are funded by donations to the AOPA Foundation. To be eligible for a scholarship, you must be at least 16 years old by May 31; hold a student pilot certificate; and be a current AOPA member. There is more information available online at AOPA Flight Training Scholarships or by emailing [email protected].

Financing

Another option is taking out a loan for flight training. AOPA provides information and answers to many common questions on the Financing Your Flight Training page, and also offers loans through AOPA Finance.

If you choose to take out a loan for flight training, it’s important to know how much you can afford to pay each month. There are charts and tips on the web site that will help determine the right loan amount for you, as well as sample rates and terms that will give you the ability to plan your budget.

There also is guidance on how to go about applying for a loan so you can get started on your dream to fly. No matter how you choose to fund your flight training, there are many options. Flying club members, and particularly officers, are encouraged to know where you can find answers to these questions to make someone’s entry into aviation or back to the cockpit as easy as possible.

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