Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Financing The Flying Dream


The best sources to fund your flight training


To receive these new flight-training benefits, students must have already earned their private pilot certificate and have a valid medical before beginning any other training. Students who are receiving flight training only (not in conjunction with a degree program) receive $10,000 per year to reimburse the cost of that training. Flight training-only students don't receive a housing or book stipend. The housing stipend currently ranges from 61% to 91% of rent costs, and includes up to a third of a student's utilities expenses.

Another variation of the GI Bill known as the "Montgomery GI Bill" will reimburse up to 60% of approved flight-training expenses. Phoenix East Aviation is one of a few training academies approved under the Montgomery Bill and also offers two "Patriot Grants," which are designed to financially assist veterans who are training to be professional pilots.

If the fact that Uncle Sam will reimburse 100% of in-state tuition if you attend a public college with a flight-training program doesn't impress you, maybe the dependent benefits will. There are several prerequisites and forms to fill out, but Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can be transferred to dependents. Details of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and dependent benefits are available at www.gibill.va.gov.

Pilot Finance
Pilot Finance, Inc., was started in 1999 exclusively as a source for flight-training financing. The company has been growing in recent years and has become one of few private-training funds resources. Pilot Finance is offered through hundreds of Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools across the country, with more being added daily. Their program is based on the frequency of flight lessons a student takes during a week. More frequent lessons will save a student money with Pilot Finance in the long run.

For example, a student who takes four flight lessons per week pays a cash downpayment of $250 and commits to 30 monthly payments. The payments are based on the total cost of training for the certificate. So if the student spent a total of $8,000, they would commit to 30 payments of $323. While a student who took only one lesson per week and spent the same amount overall would commit to 72 payments of $177 per month. With finance costs, the overall savings of four lessons per week versus one amounts to over $3,000. Pilot Finance interest rates range from 9% APR to their maximum 18% APR, based on borrower qualifications. More information is available at www.pilotfinance.com.

Dedicated Credit Cards
Many of the schools we spoke with told us an increasing number of students are getting specific credit cards just to pay for flight training. Credit cards have a few advantages over traditional loans, including lengthy introductory periods with zero interest, deferred payment schedules, cash-back offers and travel points. Also, prospective pilots who may have some blemishes on their credit can apply for secured credit cards—such as those from Capital One or Orchard Bank—and be able to finance their training where no other option existed. The key to using a credit card to pay for training is to make sure you're disciplined in paying the card off quickly, or the interest will eat you alive.

The Dean of Enrollment for the Prescott campus, Tom Rajala, says that there isn't much innovation in funding for flight training today, but that traditional sources can still get students the ratings they need. "We also offer students the option to work part-time on campus," she says. "We have a website dedicated just to on and off-campus jobs." She pointed to traditional scholarships and even private loan programs to give students the funding they need. "Students should also seek out state-based aid programs," Hanns added.

With ever-increasing fuel costs and skyrocketing insurance premiums, it's doubtful that flight training will ever be inexpensive. But creativity is the rule when seeking financing for flight training, and the options listed here are just a beginning. If the dream to fly is alive in you, then there will always be possibilities.



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