Financial Planning / outline for the airline career


New Member
I am one of those types who likes to plan things out. Financially I am facing difficulties with my flying ratings so it is taking longer to get these. I have asked people for advice and what they did and have got 2 responses:

1. Just fly at every chance you get and take out loans if you have to - get your CFI and then live Paycheck to paycheck till you get with a regional and move up

2. Plan out and save for the lean years in your career, save enough money so that you can go and get all your ratings at once and start instructing. Don't take out exorbitant loans because the creditors haunt you later and its just added aggravation.

I think no2. seems like a better option to me. Any advice how to go about planning and saving? How did you guys do it?
depends on your age and your family life. if you are 20, you can afford to do the paycheck to paycheck and fly for real (135/121)
later on

if you are closer to 30, I'd take the loan and go through one of the big schools. FSI, PamAm ATp etc etc.
I'll take door number two Bob.

I am 33 and have found myself finacially successful enough to pursue the dream.

I think the bottom line is: if you want bad enouhg you will get it, debt and all.
I'm also 30 and itching to get into a cockpit. I like the advice of jumping into a big school and getting the ratings and moving forward. But is it realistic to expect to be able to make the monthly minimum payment on a big loan and pay the rent/feed yourself/etc. on a flight istructor's paycheck? How much should one save up in advance to be able to do this! I only have myself to look after so am flexible. What is realistic?

Many roads to Rome:

In my late 30's.
Took out the loan.
Doing my training at the FBO.
Flying 3-4 times a week.
Aiming for the bigs.
Time will tell.

I've said it before and I'll say it again and again - do what's right for YOU! Good luck.
After earning my private wings at 36 I finally built up enough hours to get my commercial last fall and my instructors ticket in December. I left my former career and have been instructing full time since, earning my CFII and MEI along the way. The owner of the school I work for is super and I've had many great experiences. I get to fly a variety of aircraft, and have been to many cool locations on cross countries. Money can be made if you're willing to work (I'm there six days a work, sometimes seven) and I continue to make "contacts" that may someday lead to something more.
Unlike some of the other instructors, I'm in no hurry to get a so-called "real" flying job. I take my new profession seriously, and I can honestly say for the first time in my life, I enjoy going to work, and I'm proud of what I do.
Perhaps someday I will go on to bigger and better things, but right now, I'm enjoying the ride.
This is not to say it's all been easy and without sacrafice. It took some time and hard work to build up my business. Without the support from my wife and family, none of this would ever have been possible and I'd still be wearing a suit with a larger income. Funny how I used to think those things were important.

I can answer you question about the loan. I took out a PHATTY loan through SallieMae last August and defered it through this October. I will be paying $414/month and it will be paid off in 10 years. I'm going to try and get a better interest rate soon.

Hope that helps. Good luck and go for it.

$414 a month on a instructor's earnings? I wish you luck. I think that's going to get pretty frustrating after a while, comming up with the payment and eating ramen noodles all week. What's wrong with working nights and training days? Pay as you go, don't start out behind. I think these schools wanting someone to pay enormous amounts of money up front have a lot of conjones.
Find a local school that'll give you a discount for paying $1,000 or so at a time on account. Use an AOPA Visa and get a 5% rebate. Offer to wash planes, answer phones, whatever, or just work that second job or the extra night shift.
But like Dennis Miller says, it's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
The Pay-As-You-Go method sure sounds great for saving tons of cash. But I assume, and have read from others on this board, that that method takes a lot longer. Hmm. I certainly am in no hurry to jump into a mountain of debt that I can't repay, but a lot of instructors out there have done just that and are making it. Or so it would seem. Are there many instructors out there who have gone the Get-The-Big-Loan-And-Hope-For-The-Best route and are going hungry, wishing they had saved some cash? I'd like to know before I make that big decision.

Good luck everyone, and happy financial planing! /ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif
I know from reading these posts that a lot of people who are career changers stay in their current career until they have buiilt up sufficient savings to pay their living expenses while in school and instructing.
Some others, if they are in a good paying job, try to fly as much as they can before they leave that job.
Staying in your current job until you have enough money for school can be done, but it could take years. Ask yourself this, do you have the decipline needed to save over $30k? Even if you went the FBO route for your training, from 0 time through CFI will cost $20-30k.(or more)
If you pay as you go, that could take years also. If the average FULL time student spends anywhere from 18-24 months training and instructing to gain time, how long would it take someone working full time, and flying part time? Probably double that.
If your younger, say in your early 20's, thats fine. But if your changing career's in your late 20's or early 30's, you dont have that time, you need to get it done.
So it's a trade off, take out that big loan to save time. Think about it this way: the loan payment, is basically the same as your average new car payment. I am trading my car, for a career in aviation. It will be tough in the begining, but sacrifices have to be made to get what you want. Unless of course you have a rich relative, or Daddy who will pay for your training.
I, fortunately, have a career to fall back on if the flying thing doesn't work out so I can make the payments.

or you can live with you Mother..
you have lived with her for 17-21 years ... you can live with her for 2 more years... /ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif
You CAN stay in your current job and still get your ratings in about a year. I want everyone to understand that is doable.....IF you fly on an average of 3-4 times a week.

I'm still working full time at my current and last "regular" job. I fly (on average = wx permitting) 3-4 times a week and am on pace to finish all of my ratings in 10-11 monts time - start to finish.

The thing is - you MUST stay focused. There is nobody there telling you what time class is going to be held. YOU make that schedule.

All said and done - Choose the one that suits you.

OH - and I too, took out a loan. My payment is $157 a month. Paid off in 15 years. Going to double up when I make it to the "Bigs" and get it paid off post haste. Don't over extend yourself at the beginning. There is absolutely NO guarantees that you will finish and/or meet your goal....then you're stuck with a $400+ a month loan for 10 years.

I am 33, and am working on my bachelors in meteorology. Both my wife and myself are full-time students, full-time parents, and find the time to work part-time. The ability to fly while working just doesn't exist for us. I am not too fond of taking out a loan to pay for flying at an academy, but the choices I made in may 20's prevent me from taking a different route. /ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif Make no mistake, I believe with every fiber of my being that I am doing the right thing for me and my family. If you have a career and have the time and finances to do so, by all means, keep your job and get your ratings. It will be more financially secure for you and your family (if you have one).

So, let me finish with this: If you want to be a pilot, you will do anything to get there. If you're in it just for the money, find a different career. There are plenty of us who are pursuing it for the LOVE of it. It drives us, it possesses us, it is our passion. We will get there, financial aid or not. /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif
Did a cross country phase check with a student pilot last week who is a meteorology major and she taught ME a few things. Good luck with your studies.
And from one fellow late-in-lifer to another, you WILL get there.