Flight School Loans
 

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The basics of flight school loans

Flight school loans are usually private student loans and personal loans that are issued by banks and other types of lenders. Flight schools are often classified as trade schools, so you may not be eligible for federal tuition assistance, including federal student loans. (To be sure, ask your school’s financial aid office if it administers federal financial aid; if it does, skip below).

Private flight school loans may be harder to qualify for as they’re unsecured. However, if you need flight school financing and have exhausted all options for scholarships and grants, then a private student loan, personal loan or a combination of the two may be a viable option to pay for school.

11 flight school loans to consider

Generally, federal student loans should be your first choice for borrowing, as they come with the most expensive repayment flexibility. Since most flight schools aren’t eligible to dispense federal financial aid, however, you might prioritize private student loans and their typically lower APRs over potentially higher-rate personal loans. 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 generally have a lower floor and a lower ceiling than those of personal loans. However, if you opt for a longer loan term (such as 15 years), you might pay as much or more interest toward your debt than if you borrow a higher-rate personal loan on a shorter term — say five years. That’s why it’s wise to prequalify for multiple loan types and compare overall costs.

Like with some personal loans, you could also apply for a private student loan with the help of a cosigner in case you’re unable to meet credit requirements independently.

LenderFixed APRsLoan AmountRepayment TermsMinimum Credit Score
1. College Ave3.99% - 11.98%$1,000 to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance5, 8, 10 or 15 yearsUnspecified
2. PNC2.99% - 9.89%$1,000 - $50,0005, 10 or 15 yearsUnspecified
3. SallieMae4.50% - 14.83%$1,000 to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance10 or 15 yearsUnspecified
4. ZuntaFi*4.12% - 7.78%**$1,000 to $100,00010 or 20 years***Unspecified

*Only available in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, KS, MN, NC, OH, TX, UT
**Variable interest rate
***Varies by state

Personal loans for flight school

If you have excellent credit or a plan to apply with a cosigner who has a top-notch credit score, a personal loan could yield a single-digit APR. For most borrowers, particularly those with closer to fair credit, a personal loan will come with a double-digit rate and one that’s potentially much higher than a private student loan.

LenderFixed APRsLoan AmountRepayment TermsMinimum Credit Score
5. Best Egg8.99% - 35.99%$2,000 - $50,00036 to 60 months 640
6. LightStream6.99% - 22.49%$5,000 - $100,00024 to 144 monthsNot specified
7. SoFi7.99% - 23.43%$5,000 - $100,00024 to 84 months 680
8. Upstart6.50% - 35.99%$5,000 - $50,00036 or 60 months 600

Other flight school loans

Besides student loans and personal 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
9. Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association9.99% - 11.99%Up to $100,000Varies by amount borrowed660
10. American Airlines Federal Credit Union5.75% - 10.75%*Up to $40,000Up to 10 yearsUnspecified
11. We Florida FinancialUnspecified**$5,000 - $30,000UnspecifiedUnspecified

*Variable rate line of credit
**Fixed rate line of credit
With a line of credit, you borrow as needed, as opposed to one lump sum.

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. The LendingTree app allows you to see your credit score for free, and helps you keep tabs on your financial health and explore loan options.

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 through lenders as you begin to shop.

It’s common for students to have little to no credit history, and as such struggle to qualify for credit. If this applies to you, know that flight school loans for bad credit do exist. Some credit unions and banks offer loans designed for students in trade school programs, some specifically for flight school (see table above).

Having a cosigner with a strong credit profile, like a parent or trusted friend, can also help you qualify for a better flight school 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 or personal 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.

How do I find lenders?

In addition to reaching out to local banks and credit unions, you can find lenders online (like those listed above). LendingTree is an online loan marketplace that allows you to see personal loan offers from multiple lenders, depending on your eligibility.

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 application process for personal loans, 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 FAFSA, you may qualify for a Pell Grant, which can be worth a maximum of $6,495 for the 2021-2022 award year.

Unlike a federal or private student loan or personal 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, in 2020 the Piedmont Airlines Scholarship for Flight Training awarded $3,000 to one student pursuing a commercial pilot rating.
  • 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 one of their tuition reimbursement programs.
  • 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 $5,000 in tuition reimbursement, $7,500 in flight training assistance and a $10,000 sign-on bonus for a five-year 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. As mentioned before, 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
Undergraduate3.73%
Graduate5.28%
PLUS (parents)6.28%

*For loans borrowed between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022

Before borrowing federal loans, however, your completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid 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?

Estimated annual cost for flight school

Tuition$70,000
Room & board$10,000 – $15,000
Books, supplies and other training materials$500 – $1,000

Sources: Flight School Association of North America and Pilot Institute

If you’re only looking to get a pilot’s license to fly recreationally, that’s a less expensive proposition — this would range from $4,400 to $10,000, 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 $75 and $200 and also fill out the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application.

Flight school loan FAQs

Lenders of private student loans, personal loans and other flight school loans don’t always share credit score requirements publicly. Personal loan criteria are the most transparent, with many lenders calling for at least a fair credit score, ranging from 600 and higher. You might also have the option of applying for flight school loans with the assistance of a cosigner whose credit score could help you qualify for and, potentially, secure a lower APR.

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 $130,440 in 2020, 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 $93,300, much lower than the $160,970 figure for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers.