The Ultimate Guide to Loan for Pilot Training

Updated on April 9, 2024

At a Glance

  • Training cost for pilots varies based on factors like aircraft type, school, and training hours.
  • Components include airplane rental fees, instructional fees, and supplies/testing fees.
  • Minimum required training hours for a pilot’s license is 40, with a cost of $6,200 plus $1,000 in fees.
  • Flight school costs can reach up to $80,000, and financing options include federal student loans, private loans, financing programs, and grants/scholarships.

Flight school is a costly and time-consuming endeavor, but one that can lead to excellent career opportunities in the future. The challenge many people face is finding the funding for pilot training, and this is especially true of immigrants and noncitizens.

Most pilot students use loans to cover the cost of their schooling, but immigrants can have a more difficult time obtaining credit. This article explores the cost of flight school, and how immigrants can cover this cost with both federal and private student loans.

How Much Does Pilot’s School Cost

The cost of pilot training will vary by the equipment you use, the school you attend, and the amount of training time you complete. These expenses can be broken down into a few sections:

  • Airplane rental fees: the cost of renting an airplane ranges from $110 to $170, depending on the type of aircraft that you rent
  • Hourly instructional fees: expect a cost in the range of $45-$55 an hour
  • Supplies and testing fees: these will typically add up to $1,000 or more over the course of your training, and include items like a headset

Finally, the minimum required instructional hours for obtaining a pilot’s license is typically 40 hours, while the average pilot gets closer to 60 hours of instructional flight time. At the lower end of airplane rental costs, $110, and an hourly instructional fee of $45 an hour, this adds up to a minimum of $6,200, plus $1000 in supplies and testing fees.

How to Get Student Loans for Flight School in the U.S.

Becoming a commercial pilot is much more costly than obtaining a private pilot’s license, and one year of flight school can easily cost as much as $80,000, compared to an average of $33,480 for one year at a four-year college. This expense is too much for most students to cover out-of-pocket, but there are multiple student loan options available. See the following sections for an idea of the loan options available to you.

Federal Student Loan Options for Flight School

Flight students don’t have the same access to federal student loans that regular students do. This is because federal financial aid is only accessible to students studying at accredited colleges, but most flight schools are not accredited. However, some are accredited, such as the National Aviation Academy. Before applying to a flight school, you should explore whether they accept federal financial aid. If they do, then you will have the following options:

Direct Subsidized Loans

Subsidized federal loans are for students who can prove financial hardship. If you qualify, you can borrow a certain amount and the Department of Education will pay the interest during your studies, deferment, and for 6 months after you graduate.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

For unsubsidized loans, you do not have to prove financial need. However, interest will accrue while you are in school, and you will be responsible for making all interest payments.

Direct PLUS Loans

PLUS loans are available to parents of students enrolled in an accredited flight school. Parents must submit to a credit check and, if they qualify, can borrow enough to cover the entirety of their child’s tuition.

You should fill out the FAFSA and determine what federal student loans you qualify for, if any.

Private Student Loan for Flight School: Things to Know

Even if you are attending an accredited flight school, federal student loans will likely not cover the entirety of your tuition. Private student loans can fill these gaps in funding, and the following section breaks down the most important points you need to know on private student loans for flight school.

Private Loans Work Differently than Federal Loans

Private loans are offered by banks and financial institutions, rather than the federal government. As such, they will differ in the interest rates, term lengths, and eligibility requirements from federal loans.

Not Every Private Lender Offers Flight School Loans

Flight schools are considered a trade school, and trade schools are often treated differently by lenders than four-year colleges. Some lenders offer loans specifically for flight school, however, to investigate different lenders and see if they offer loans for flight school.

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Pros and Cons of Private Loans

Whether or not a private loan is suitable for you depends on your financial circumstances and the type of loan that you have access to. There are positive and negative aspects to private loans, explored in the following section.


Private loans typically have lower interest rates than federal loans, and they offer higher loan amounts as well. Students can, therefore, cover more of their tuition with private loans than federal loans, and the overall cost over the length of the loan term will be lower.


Qualifying for private loans is more difficult than federal loans, however, since you typically need to meet minimum credit score requirements. This is particularly problematic for immigrants, who often do not have a credit history in the country at all. If you do not have good credit, you will have a higher interest rate. Private student loan recipients also may have to start paying off their loans while they are in school before they have an income.

How to Get a Private Loan for Pilot Training with Stilt

Immigrants having difficulty finding loans for pilot training can go with a lender like Stilt, who aims their financial services specifically at the noncitizen community, in the U.S. Stilt uses inclusive eligibility criteria geared towards helping immigrants qualify for loans. The process is simple:

  • Complete a loan application: This involves detailing the amount that you need for flight school, along with relevant financial and personal information. You will also be asked to authorize a soft credit-pull. If your loan meets the minimum requirements of eligibility, then you will qualify for a range of term lengths and an interest rate.
  • Get a decision: Stilt will respond to your application within 24 hours. If your application is accepted, then you only need to sign a promissory note agreeing to the details of the loan and the funds will be transferred into your account.
  • Start making payments: With the fund secured, you can start making monthly payments on your loan.

Other Financing and Payment Options for Flight School

If you still have gaps in funding your pilot training after federal and private loans, you can explore the following options to cover the cost.

Look for Financing for Your Pilot Training

There are financing programs available to provide prospective pilots with the funds for flight school. These programs are typically offered by organizations like the American Airlines Federal Credit Union and AOPA Aviation Finance. Explore the financing programs offered by institutions like this, or local financial institutions in your state.

Speak with a Rep at Your School

Aviation schools also typically offer their own financing programs, which you should explore for funding. For instance, one of the top aviation schools in the country, Airline Transport Professionals, provide loans themselves to prospective students. Other schools are accredited and provide access to federal loans, or have arrangements with private financial institutions to provide financing for students.

Find Grants and Scholarships

Aviation students can also explore the numerous grants and scholarships offered for specifically for flight school. Sites like provide a directory of the grants and scholarships available.

Look into Training Programs

There are also programs which provide end-to-end training, including job placement. These programs tend to be pricey, but they can boost your chances of getting employment and a higher salary upon graduation. One such program, offered by JetBlue, costs $125,000, and involves four years of training, at the end of which graduates can work as flight instructors themselves.

Getting Airborne has Never Been Easier

While the cost of flight school is substantial, the stable employment and exciting work make it worthwhile for many. Students may have access to federal loans, and, if not, can turn to private lenders for the funding that they need. Immigrants, in particular, can get funding through specialized lenders like Stilt that tender loans specifically to the noncitizen community. With these numerous options available, anyone can graduate flight school and realize their dream of flying.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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