Agonizing over the cost and loans


Well-Known Member
I've been tossing around flight school choices in my head, so pardon me if it seems I am thinking out loud.

I've visited FSI twice and combined with what I have heard here and elsewhere, I truly believe it is the best training available and has many networking possibilties. However, it's also among the most expensive. In an attempt to be financially responsible, I've explored a few other schools that have lower prices and more multi time, but adding it all up on a spreadsheet, a bigger loan for more years equals a lower payment. It's the first few years that concern me most, and the part I can't believe is borrowing more means I pay less. A $60K loan for FSI even leaves enough extra to pay off my car loan, eliminating a $250/month expense. So I would be down to a Key Loan payment and living expenses. And better training.

I guess my question to the group is this: How did you feel about taking out a $60K loan? And for those further down the line and finished, how do you feel now? Would you have done it again? What are your payments, and is it difficult making them?
It's one of those things that you just carefully decide on and then never look back! When you actually see the money flying out of your account, you have to just close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and just hum. Don't think about it on an hourly basis, because that'll freak you out even more....especially when it comes to the Seminole. Just accept that it costs a lot and don't look back.

The money I've spent on my flying eduction so far is about what a BMW X5 costs. Now, I see those things all over the place - depreciating. An investment in yourself is never a bad idea as long as you follow through on the inverstment - get a job flying and keep moving up. But keep in mind, like any investor, you must determine what your return will be. In the case of a flight school, look for people being hired on the other side of the training. Meaning - are instructors getting hired by good regional airlines? And yes the quality counts too. So make sure you're getting a superior education. Alot of which is up to you.

One last note. Make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Most flight school estimates don't include all of the costs. The FSI estimate does. And if you work hard, you can come in under budget like I did.

Good luck!
I agree with much of what both previous posters said, like Chunk said you shouldn't freak out when you see money flying out of your account. But at that same time that was a motivation of mine to study hard and truly try to take it what was supposed to be learned in a lesson. Similarly I agree that an investment in yourself really is beyond that of any material item. Personally I find now that I'm instructing outside of Vero Beach that I was VERY fortunate to have studied there. Heck, even a Riddle grad onve said that FSI had the best initial training anywhere. Possibly consider doing your private outside of FSI, that may shave off an extra couple $$. Good luck!
I secound the "get at least your private before you come down" scenario. You fiqure out if flying is for you, and the 141 syllabus for a pre-private is the most difficult to finish on budget. Once you have the fundamentals of flying down solid (and this amount of time varies wildly from person to person) the rest of the syllabus should be completed very close to the quoted price.
ok now i have a question.

If i dont not have any kind of rating or licence to fly an airplane, absolutly no training. And i go to FSI to get ALL my rating and time in to become CFII, (with a loan of course) how much would my monthly payments be?
I did this on the key loan payment estimator.

Loan Amount: 80,000.00
Term: 240 Months (20 Years)
Interest Rate (Varies) 5%
Monthly Payment: 527.96
Interest Payed (20years): 46,711.50

Interest varies along with the prime interest rate.
You finished under budget? Details please.... I've heard of a few that did that at FSI, and would like to join you guys. I know it involves dedication and hard work, but does flying more frequently help? The schedule while there doesn't sound too hectic-worst case would be school and one flight, or two flights in a day. There seems to be a lot of spare time. Now that may be just my angle-but coming from an 11-hour a day IT job, that's not bad!

I flew 3.6 today alone and was home in time for a late lunch, and I'm not exactly killing myself.

Are you considering FSI? There are a lot of VA dudes here...the VA rep (FSI employee) is awesome. She'll work hard to get you every dime you deserve.

Plus she hands out free candy....

No just looking around at the posts. I did a short stint at COMAIR. Some family problems popped up, I realized I wouldn't be able to help, financially, if I stayed at the school, so I got my old job back in Denver. Right now I'm going the FBO route. I have 4 years until my son graduates High School then I off to the flying full time. Flying cargo or the regionals is what I really want to do.
Here's how I finished under budget. It may or may not work for you.

First, I didn't fly during ground school. i just studied. I know it's possible to fly during ground but I wanted to be completely prepared for each flight lesson when I was flying. Potentially repeating a flight is a costly mistake.

Second, when in the flying portion of the program I studied the material laid out in the syllabus before I showed up for each lesson. I know that sounds too simple and it is. You'd be amazed how many people show up to a flight expecting the instructor to cram the info into his/her brain.

It was this prep that got me under budget. In the cost estimate you receive when you start, there is a certain amount of time prescribed for brief, both before and after the flight. Now, if you really know your stuff ahead of time, you can cut that time down by 15,20, 30 minutes per lesson. Some days you may go over, but over time this savings adds up. The instructor's main goal besides getting to eat is to build flight time, not breif time. Believe me, your instructor will be releived to have someone show up prepared.

In my case, I went over in hours by maybe 10 to 15 total, but was so far under on brief time that I was more that 500 dollars under budget. Not alot, but I'd rather have the flight hours for my money.
Your own rate of learning will affect this greatly, but it can't hurt to try.

Good luck.

I also finished under budget. CMEI, SEAD, & CFI. (arrived with private) This also included about 7 rental flights and other random stuff I purchased at the store with money from my account (including a nice ICOM handheld). The biggest reason for being under budget is because how FSI estimates costs for each program. I took a loan out to cover the three programs above, but each estimate FSI gives you assumes you are arriving for the first time. So for each course there was a drug & apptitude test, uniform, spatial dis. training for CFI listed over again. Right off the bat you can subtract a few grand from the estimates.

The next savings is dependent on you and your instructor. I cant find a single lesson tag where we used all of the suggested brief time and in most cases I was billed for about half what is alloted. Next I had MSFS2002 (with yoke etc) at home and was well practiced for my instrument prep so I never did a single MS Lab. At $50 an hour the brief and MS time really adds up so a consistent reduction in brief charges will really make a difference. Finally my instructor was really good at keeping the lessons on time budget. Once and a while we would go long because I needed more work & I even repeated several lessons, but in general we were on budget and the brief savings made up for the extra flights. Keeping your solo flights on time helps as well.

In the end I was just a little under budget, but considering all of the rentals, a few expensive purchases, & perhaps three lesson repeats I am pretty happy with the final numbers.
How did you convince your instructor to drop the MS lab?
I didn't think it was optional.

We had to get brief tags and bill out some time so the lessons could be complete. My instructor then subtracted that brief time from another lesson later on. My instructor really hated the MS LAB. I liked the idea of the lab but I had a much better computer and FS2002 at home. We had talked about it and had already done an instrument lesson or two and my IP was happy with where I was at so I was given MS homework rather than going to the lab.

Im guessing that missing MS lab is not common practice. I got lucky
Is ALL the time in the MS lab billed at $55 an hour, or can I just show up and do some work by myself for free?
Once you've completed a certain amount of lessons, you can go there any time. you're never billed for the use of the computers, only for your instructors time.
The hour amount suggested for the MS labs are just that suggested. As instructors we have to complete all the MS labs but have a certain amount of discretion about how much time each lesson could take. The guide line is usually about 1.5 hours MS lab and 1 hour of brief time per lesson, but if the student is sharp maybe that lesson can be completed in .5 hours.

You have to be a little carefull about this because if later on your student really stumbles and unsats lessons/runs over budget they look back and say "if they are having so much trouble why did you blow thru all the MS labs?"

As boring as the MS lab can be it also can serve a good purpose- learning checklists, flows, instrument procedures, ect. The purpose is not to perfect your flying skills but to work on procedures. Remember PA-44 time goes for around $250 per hour, it's a heck of alot cheaper to learn this stuff in the lab than in the airplane!!!!