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Five Creative Ways To Help Pay For Pilot Training
By Kyle Garrett
Flight training is a potentially costly endeavor. You have to pay for a plane, an instructor, and materials. There are lots of little and not so little costs. There are a lot of great ways to save money on flight training, but what about paying for it? Fortunately, paying for flight training isn't limited to writing checks or paying cash. Here are several ways to pay for flight training that you may not have considered.
1. Trade something for training
Do you have a skill? Is it something that might benefit your flight school or FBO? Maybe you're a web designer or accountant and your school needs a web page or their taxes done? If so, you might be able to work out a trade. Rather than paying with money, you're paying with web design or something else. Take a quick inventory of your skills and talk to someone at your flight school or FBO. You might be surprised what they could use help with.
2. Find scholarships
While they can be hard to locate, there are scholarships available for flight training. Some are a by-product of being a member of an organization, like EAA or AOPA, and others are freely available or available with minor requirements. While they may not be much, every little bit helps. To start, ask your flight instructor if your school offers any kind of scholarships or aid. For a more general reference, you can find a list of scholarships on AvScholars.
3. Use your flight training to make money
It may sound strange, but consider this: since you are paying a flight instructor to act as pilot in command, your CFI must be a commercial pilot. So what, you may ask? Well, that means you could use your training to make some side income. Now, not every instructor will buy into this, but some jobs you might be able to take as a commercial pilot are perfectly "doable" as a student pilot with an instructor. For example, maybe you are a real estate photographer and you would like to take on a few aerial photography jobs. Since you're already renting a plane and paying a commercial pilot, why not see if your instructor can help you complete the jobs while you're up for your lesson. It might only take an extra 15 minutes, but that time is profitable. A word of caution, you'll want to make sure everything is in line with the regulations; you should consult a certified flight instructor or a local FAA representative before starting anything.
4. Buy an aircraft and lease it back
This isn't necessarily an option for everybody and it can require the services of a lawyer or accountant, but you may be able to buy an aircraft and lease it to the flight school for their rental fleet. This may come as a surprise to many pilots, but a lot of rentals aren't actually owned by the flight school that rents and maintains them. In fact, they are actually owned by someone else and the flight school is paying them for the use of their airplane. Two important caveats are that not just any plane will interest a flight school and you probably won't make a fortune, since the flight school takes operating costs out of your cut. That said, this can be a good way to pay for flight training and own an aircraft that you might not be able to afford otherwise since you're not the only one flying your plane and several other people are paying to fly it.
5. Hang around at the airport and be friendly
While this is certainly creative, it is also risky. Not from safety perspective, but from a risk-reward perspective. While it is entirely possible you'll meet someone who might share an aircraft with you, it is more likely that you'll just meet a lot of interesting people. Still, you might find people willing to pay you to do stuff, like washing their plane, for them.
This is certainly not a conclusive list and for an entrepreneurial pilot, the opportunities to pay for flight time are endless. Some are more lucrative than others, but every little bit helps. So, if you think cash or credit are the only options you've got when paying for flight training, think about these other ways you could be paying.