If you ever watched the movie “The Right Stuff,” there was a very quick yet telling line that applies to all wannabe pilots. Gordo Cooper asked a reporter if they knew what made their craft go up. The reporter asked, “what?” Gordo smiled and said, “no bucks, no Buck Rogers.”
Flight training, just like any other professional education, costs money. The good news is that American Flyers has an array of options for you to choose from depending on your needs and circumstances. Whether you are a veteran, prospective career pilot, or doing this for your own personal reasons, we can help through our lending partners.
Let’s begin with need. We are not talking about whether you need money or not. We are talking about the type of loan that you need. This will depend on your desired course and the amount. It is essential to remind you that one size does not fit all regarding lending options. If your desired course is less than $30,000, you may want to consider WeFly, AA Credit Union or Aspire Credit Union, or the AOPA Flex loan. These loans are available to individuals who are not necessarily seeking a career in aviation.
What if you do want a career in aviation? Sallie Mae, AOPA, and SURV credit may be the lenders that you want to consider. Their lending options include enough resources to address the cost of most career training programs.
If you are a veteran, the VA offers several options depending on when you served. Most students use their VA benefits in conjunction with one of the loan programs above. They do this because the VA will not pay for the Private Pilot course. American Flyers has VA resource specialists on staff to help you determine exactly what you qualify for and what you may need.
We have many students who don’t want to take out a loan. For these students, there are still several options. These include applying to the “Bank of Mom and Dad” or borrowing against your 401k retirement plan. Both, under the right circumstances, have produced excellent results for many of our students.
There are still other students who are willing to work in exchange for their training. For those individuals, we offer American Flyers Administrative and Maintenance Intern Programs. If you are interested in management and operations, you may want to consider applying for the Administrative Intern Program. It takes a little longer to achieve your training, but it is worth the investment for many people. Likewise, if you are an A&P mechanic and graduated in the top 5% of your class, you may qualify for the Maintenance Intern Program.
For those female students who qualify, American Flyers offers the Judith Resnik Scholarship program, which will provide the winner with tuition for the Flight Instructor Academy. In addition to this, the FAA and other aviation organizations offer many different scholarship programs. You have to have the patience and tenacity to research all of these.
The American Flyers National Support Team is fully versed in all these options and can help you select the right program to match your needs. You can contact the National Support Team at 1-800-362-0808.
Please see below for more information on each of these options.
Sallie Mae: Sallie Mae provides a career training smart option student loan. This loan option allows you to finance 100% of your flight training. This includes housing, check ride fees, written exams, and supplies. They do not have an origination fee and there are zero penalties for early repayment. They offer competitive interest rates and, if you don’t have great credit, you can apply with a co-signer. You also have the ability to defer payments until you begin working as a professional pilot. Here is a link to the loan application page: https://americanflyers.com/resources/financing/sallie-mae-career-flight-training-loan/
WeFly, based out of Florida, provides our students with personal loan options that range from $5,000 to $30,000. This is a great option for those individuals that are not looking for a career loan. Many of our finish-up students utilize WeFly to finance the completion of their training. https://www.wefloridafinancial.com/loans/aviation/flight-training-loans
AA Credit Union:
No, you don’t need to be an employee of American Airlines to apply for this loan. Membership is open to employees of the Air Transportation Industry and their family members. This financial aid option allows you to borrow up to $40,000 and pay back the balance over 120 months. https://www.aacreditunion.org/borrowing/student-lending
Aspire Federal Credit Union:
Aspire offers you the opportunity to borrow up to $25,000 for your flight training. Like WeFly, this is a great option for those students that are not looking for a career in aviation. However, for those career students looking to enroll in our CFI academy, this could be an ideal way to finance your training. https://www.aspirefcu.org/american-flyers/
AOPA Flex Aviation Loan:
AOPA offers loans to career and non-career students. You can borrow up to $100,000 but you will need solid credit to secure financing. AOPA offers the ability to apply with a cosigner, but again, they too will need good credit. https://finance.aopa.org/flight-training-finance
SURV provides personal loans for aspiring aviators from $5,000 all the way up to $100,000. SURV also provides applicants with an answer, from various lenders, in 2 minutes. You can utilize a co-signer and they offer a 60-month maximum term. https://www.lendvious.com/personal-loans
The Bank of Mom and Dad:
Although this is not a real bank backed by the FDIC, parents can be a wonderful resource for financial aid. Oftentimes parents provide their children with a college fund. Knowing that airlines are no longer requiring a college degree for employment, many students have utilized their college fund to pay for their flight training. We have also seen many parents take out a home equity loan to assist in their children’s flight training.
Borrowing from your 401k retirement plan:
For those of you who have been working long enough to possess a retirement plan, did you know you can borrow from it for educational purposes? In most cases, employees may borrow up to $50,000 or half of the vested balance in their 401k, whichever is less. Again, in most cases, the loan must be paid back in 5 years. It’s a great way to borrow that does not impact your credit score.
American Flyers Administrative and Maintenance Intern Programs:
Our administrative intern program is designed for those individuals that possess a 4-year degree and a private pilot license. The program is 12 months in length, and you will complete your instrument and commercial in that time frame. Once you complete the 12-month commitment, you will have the option to extend to earn your Flight Instructor Certificates. Many of our former interns have gone on to successful careers with major airlines around the world.
Our maintenance intern program was created for A&P mechanics looking to earn their private, instrument, and commercial certificates. The internship is 18 months in length and also provides the opportunity to extend so that you can earn your flight instructor certificate through a 4 to 5-month extension.
To be considered for the internship you must have superior customer service skills, be a clear communicator, be willing to work hard and be able to keep up with your studies while working full time in the office or maintenance hangar.
There are typically two forms of VA benefits, the GI Bill and Chapter 33/post 9/11. Please note, your decision to apply for Chapter 33 or Post 9/11 could impact your eligibility for other benefits. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:
If you’re eligible for more than one education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, you must choose which benefit to receive, a decision that’s final and cannot be changed.
If you’re eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and two or more additional education benefits, you must give up one of the additional education benefits. However, you may remain eligible for the benefit or benefits you did not give up.
VA benefits can help you pay for your flight education, but they can be complicated. If you have benefits available to you, I would advise you to take a look at the VA webpage: https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/comparison_chart.asp
At American Flyers, we have a dedicated VA representative, Colin Gonzales. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact him directly at Colin.Gonzales@AmericanFlyers.com.
The Judith Resnik Scholarship is named after Judith Resnik, an engineer and crew member of the space shuttle Challenger, who died when her shuttle was destroyed during launch in 1986. To honor her life and legacy, American Flyers created a scholarship for women that covers the cost of our 30-day CFI Academy. The scholarship is offered on a bi-annual basis, for more information please visit our website at: https://americanflyers.com/resources/financing/judith-resnik-memorial-scholarship/
The FAA offers many different grants and scholarships for students in need of financial aid. You can browse a list of resources and learn how many organizations can help finance your education in aviation by visiting the following website: https://www.faa.gov/education