Flight School Loans

Cover aviation school expenses with specialized loans

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Flight school loans

Flight school loans are usually private student loans or specialized loans that are issued by banks and other lenders. You could also be eligible for federal student loans, as long as your school is accredited. To be sure, ask your school’s financial aid office for more information.

If you qualify, federal student loans are a better option for financing your education. They offer flexible repayment plans and borrower protections like deferment and possible loan forgiveness.

Private flight school loans may be harder to qualify for and they typically carry higher interest rates. However, if you need flight school financing and have exhausted all options for scholarships and grants, then you may want to look into them as a last resort.

Flight school loans to consider

Generally, federal student loans should be your first choice for borrowing, as they come with the most repayment flexibility. Many flight schools aren’t eligible to dispense federal financial aid, however, private student loans could be an option. With that said, it’s smart to shop around to compare different loan types to see which is the most cost-effective for your situation.

Private student loans for flight school

The range of APRs advertised for reputable private student loans is generally lower than flight school loans. However, if you opt for a longer loan term, you could end up paying as much or more in interest overall than if you borrow a higher-rate personal flight school loan with a shorter term. That’s why it’s wise to prequalify for multiple loans and compare overall costs and potential monthly payments.

LenderFixed APRsLoan AmountRepayment TermsMinimum Credit Score
College Ave4.11% - 15.44% (with autopay discount)$1,000 to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance5, 8, 10 or 15 yearsUnspecified
Sallie Mae4.50% - 15.69% (with autopay discount)$1,000 to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance10 - 15 yearsUnspecified

Personal loans for flight school

Personal loans are flexible, but most lenders prohibit borrowers from using their funds to pay for post-secondary education (in other words, flight school). However, Upstart is an exception.

Unless you live in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington or Washington, D.C., you could get an Upstart personal loan for flight school. This lending platform offers loans between $1,000 and $50,000, with APRs between 7.80% and 35.99%. Perhaps best of all, its minimum credit score requirement is just 300.

Other flight school loans

Besides student loans, you could look into organizations and financial institutions that offer flight school loans by name. Below are three examples: As you’ll see, flight school lenders aren’t as transparent as they could be about rates, terms and eligibility.

LenderFixed APRsLoan AmountRepayment termsMinimum Credit score
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association13.49% - 15.49% (variable)Up to $20,000Not specified660
American Airlines Federal Credit Union5.99% - 10.24% (fixed)Up to $120,000Up to 25 yearsNot specified
We Florida FinancialUnspecified (fixed rate line of credit)$5,000 - $30,000Not specifiedNot specified

How to apply for flight school loans

  1. Check your credit score
  2. Get prequalified
  3. Compare lenders
  4. Gather necessary documents
  5. Apply and get funding

1. Check your credit score

You should know your credit score before applying for a flight school loan. Your credit score will affect both your eligibility for certain loans as well as the interest rates you’ll be charged. The better your score, the better the interest rates you’re liable to be offered. Knowing your credit score will also help you filter lenders as you shop.

It’s common for students to have little credit history and struggle to qualify for credit. For this reason, most private student loan lenders will allow you to add a cosigner to your loan.

2. Get prequalified

When you apply for prequalification, you’ll typically submit to a soft credit check with a lender. You’ll need to provide basic information about your financial situation, such as your income, monthly housing cost and any savings.

Using this information, lenders will determine whether you meet private student loan requirements and the types of terms they may offer you. Getting a preview of loan terms can help you choose between several different lenders.

3. Compare lenders

Once you prequalify with a few lenders, you should compare flight school loan terms such as:

  • APR: The annual percentage rate takes interest charges and certain fees into account. A lower APR means a lower overall cost of borrowing.
  • Repayment terms: A shorter repayment period means higher monthly payments but lower interest charges. A longer term can make payments more affordable, but it can also cost you far more in the long term.
  • Loan amounts: Remember to only borrow what you need and can reasonably repay.
  • Fees: Origination fees are common among personal loans and can reduce the amount you receive. Prepayment penalties, meanwhile, punish you for early repayment.
  • Borrower protections: While not all lenders offer them, features like unemployment protection and forbearance for enrolled students can help keep your account in good standing when you’re in a financial pinch.

Once you’ve honed in on a lender you’d like to borrow from, it’s time to move forward in the application process.

4. Gather necessary documents

When you’re ready to formally apply with a lender, make sure you have all necessary documents handy. This will expedite the flight school loan process.

Required documents may include:

  • Proof of identity, such as your passport or driver’s license
  • Recent bank statements
  • Tax forms like W-2s, 1099s and/or pay stubs
  • Debt information, which may include credit cards and student loans

5. Apply and get funding

Once you’ve compared loan terms and have your paperwork ready, it’s time to formally apply. Many lenders offer online applications, allowing you to apply and upload documentation within minutes. During the loan application process, you’ll have to submit to a hard credit check, which will affect your credit score.

A loan application can be approved anywhere from a few hours to a week or more. The speed with which you get your decision and loan funds will depend on the lender.

Once approved, you may be able to get your funds within a few hours or business days. Electronic deposit will be the fastest way to get funds.

Flight school financial aid to consider before borrowing

  1. Flight school grants
  2. Flight school scholarships
  3. Airline pilot training sponsorships
  4. Federal financial aid

Flight school grants and scholarships

Flight school grants are an option to help with tuition costs. When you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA), you may qualify for a Pell Grant, which can be worth a maximum of $7,395 for the 2023-2024 award year.

Unlike a loan, the Pell Grant generally does not need to be repaid but eligibility is restricted to undergraduate students who meet the financial need criteria.

You can search for flight school scholarships and grants via these reputable organizations:

Flight training scholarships are typically offered to students who meet a certain set of criteria, such as a qualifying GPA, demonstrated leadership skills and parent or guardian approval for applicants under 18.

A few notable scholarship opportunities include:

  • The National Air Transportation Association’s Navigate Your Future Scholarship is for $2,500. It can be used for one year of full-time undergraduate study of an aviation-related program at an accredited college or university.
  • The University Aviation Association offers several private pilot license scholarships. For example, the DeVore Freedom of Flight Scholarship awards a $1,000 scholarship to at least one student each year.
  • The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation awards pilot training scholarships every year to one individual between the ages of 16 to 23 who is studying to obtain a private pilot license on their own.

Airline pilot training sponsorships

There are also programs that can reduce flight school costs through tuition reimbursement and airline pilot training sponsorship opportunities.

  • Students of the AeroGuard Flight Training Center who take a position with SkyWest Airlines upon graduating are eligible for up to $17,500 in tuition reimbursement.
  • American Airlines’ Envoy Cadet School will place qualified candidates in a paid instructor position with a tuition assistance bonus paid when training is completed.
  • PSA Airlines’ Cadet Program offers up to $30,000 in total tuition reimbursement and bonuses for a path to employment at American Airlines.

Other airlines that offer tuition reimbursement include:

  • Compass Airlines: $11,000
  • Horizon Air: Up to $12,500
  • SkyWest Airlines: Up to $17,500

Federal financial aid

You might be eligible for federal loans if you enroll at an accredited flight school. Federal student loans have notable advantages over private flight school loans:

  • They are typically less expensive than private loans
  • Most federal loans also don’t require a credit check
  • You might be able to adjust your payment plan or even be allowed to temporarily postpone or lower your monthly payments
  • You might qualify for a subsidized loan based on your financial need (where the government pays the interest while you’re in school)

Rates for federal student loansFixed interest rate
Undergraduate5.50%
Graduate7.05%
PLUS (parents)8.05%

*For loans borrowed between July 1, 2023 and July 1, 2024

Before borrowing federal loans, however, your completed FAFSA will also open the door for government grants and work-study programs that could cut your flight school’s cost of attendance.

How much does flight school cost?

Private Pilot Certificate$21,000
Commercial Pilot Certificate$83,995 or $104,995 depending on prior experience
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate$5,995

Sources: ATP Flight School

If you’re only looking to get a pilot’s license to fly recreationally, that’s a less expensive proposition — this would range from $6,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the level of certification.

Meanwhile, a student pilot license can be obtained without any flight school requirement at all. You’ll have to get a medical exam from an Aviation Medical Examiner, however, which can cost between $100 and $180 and also fill out the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application.

Frequently asked questions

Lenders of private student loans and other flight school loans don’t always share credit score requirements publicly. If you have less-than-perfect credit, you may want to consider adding a creditworthy cosigner to your application. This could improve your odds of being approved for a flight school loan. You might qualify for a lower APR, too.

Yes, flight school loans generally have few strings attached. You could use them to cover your education and training, along with living costs, especially if your flight school isn’t located where you already live.

Airline and commercial pilots earned a median annual wage of $148,900 in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There’s a big disparity in pay, however, depending on your exact role and experience level. For instance, the median yearly salary for commercial pilots was $103,910, much lower than the $211,790 figure for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers.