No, not in the same sense as, say, some schools will pay trainee teachers to study onsite and contribute to day-to-day educational tasks. Unless you are officially employed by the aviation academy you’re studying at, you won’t receive a paycheck.
In fact, the very idea of holding a job during full-time pilot training isn’t all that realistic. Aviation training may well be the challenge of your life, and you’ll need to focus up as best you can.
You may be able to pull off a very flexible part-time job during the flying phase of training, as it’s not as hour intensive as ground training, but for the most part, you should stick to seasonal jobs during the holidays.
However, that’s not to say that you have to sell everything you own to struggle through flight school surviving on bread and rice. There are financial aid options available to aviation students. You may not be able to get said aid via traditional channels, namely, FAFSA, but you do have options.
But before we move on and discuss those options, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that a very small percentage of aviation schools are actually FAFSA accredited institutions. So, if you’ve got one of these special institutions on your shortlist of prospective flight schools, you can apply for financial aid through FAFSA as normal.
We highly recommend applying for the Pell grant as well as a loan, as you won’t have to pay that back. Failing that, your FAFSA-based options include a subsidized loan (Education Sector covers interest until 6 months after graduation), an unsubsidized loan (you cover the interest), or a PLUS loan (your parents take out a loan that covers the course fees).
If your prospective aviation academy isn’t accredited for federal financial aid, you’ll have to look into private loans from banks and other lenders. Two of the best in the industry at the minute are Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. Both of these companies are highly respected and specialize in trade-centric student loans.
If you’re worried about money, bear in mind that a high score on a pilot aptitude test can vastly increase your chances of sourcing financial aid, so study up, work hard, and you’ll be just fine.
Do Airlines Pay for Pilot Training?
In a select few cases, aviation schools have been working hard to forge associations with mainstream airlines.
The general idea is that you will promise your employment to one of the partner airlines, and they’ll reimburse a certain amount of your course fees. It’s a fantastic deal on all accounts. You get part of your tuition fees reimbursed, then you go straight into a well-paying job in the exact line of work you’ve been training for.
How much money you’ll get reimbursed depends on the airline you choose to work with. Let’s take a look at the partnerships secured by ATP flight school to give us an example of how it works. They’re currently partnered with seven prominent airlines: Envoy, Silver Airways, Horizon Air, CommutAir, GoJet Airlines, Republic Airways, and Piedmont.
Of all Seven, Silver Airways offers the least amount in terms of base pay when you finally join them as a professional, but they offer a whopping 11K in tuition reimbursement. Envoy, on the other hand, offers only 5K in fee reimbursements, but the base salary they offer is over 10K more than Silver Airways.
Then we have Piedmont, who offers the largest base salary of all as well as an 11K reimbursement for your studies; however, their bonus salary is almost half that of Envoy.
If you’re lucky enough to land a place in one of these partnership schools, these are the financial aspects you’ll have to weigh in order to make your final decision on industry sponsorship.
Do Flight Schools Make Money?
It only takes a quick glance at the course fees of flight schools to realize they’re fairly lucrative businesses, but even though full tuition can reach beyond $100,000 in some instances, these schools aren’t millionaire makers.
What you have to understand is that owning and maintaining multiple aircraft is not cheap and cannot under any circumstance be done on a budget. The amount of money that goes into simply refueling airplanes year-round is extensive; we’re talking burning through $50 with each airborne hour.
Then there are annual aircraft inspections that cost between $600 and $1200 per plane (more for specialist aircraft with retractable landing gear). After that comes insurance, which could be upwards of $2000 a pop.
Finally, you have to account for staff wages and the fact bad weather can lead to extended periods of inactivity (wet periods are notorious for sending flying schools under). That being said, if an owner runs the business side of their flight school well, there’s no reason they won’t be exceedingly well off.