This is one of the most common asked questions that we see all the time in the various forums. “I want to become a pilot but I don’t have money.” Not everyone has parents that can afford to pay for pilot training or nor everyone is lucky enough to inherit large amounts of money. So you may be one of many that don’t come from a background where the money for pilot training is there. That is why we have gathered a few ways to become a pilot that are lighter on your wallet in this blog and you can also watch out youtube video about how to become a pilot without money.

Military

Becoming a pilot in the military is free in most countries. You can expect it to be difficult to pass the selection process and you will rarely be able to decide yourself which kind of plane you fly (fighter, transport, helicopter etc). What you end up flying will usually depend on how well you do and where the military needs you and think you fit.

Usually military pilots sign a service contract which ties them in to the military for 15-ish years. If you want to leave early you can sometimes do that but you can expect to pay a large sum of money to buy your freedom. 

When you are free of your service contract with the military you can change to become a civil pilot. You can expect to have to complete the theory to become a civil pilot and you will also have to pass a few civil pilot check rides. Of course your flying experience from the military will be a great help so the process to become a civil pilot is more a matter of spending time and money than a real challenge. 

Many military pilots decide to stay in the military which they can do by extending the contract. A lot of military pilots have, by the time they are free of their service contract, settled with a family. Changing to become a civil pilot is not without risks and change of lifestyle. Military pilots used to get fast track into a lot of airlines but in recent years it has become the norm that most military pilots don’t get any preferential treatment. Also the job uncertainty for civil pilots and the poor terms and conditions for most civil pilot jobs makes many military pilots decide not to change to become civil pilots even though they can.

Scholarships

You are unlikely to find a scholarship that will pay for all of your training but you can find some that pay a contribution towards your training. Some will pay around 1000 EURor some might pay for the whole of your PPL (private pilot licence) training. The hardest things about scholarships are finding out which ones you can apply for and then writing a really good letter of motivation.

Your chances of getting a scholarship is likely to vary depending on things like gender, race, age, family back ground, geographical location and income level.

Most scholarships will have a website where you can read more about what the scholarship is set up to support, who can apply, how you apply and when you can apply. You may also be able to find a directory which has a list of all the scholarships you can apply for in your area.

State funded schools

We know of 3 state funded schools in the Nordic countries. There is one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland.

You may never have heard of them and this is because these schools don’t do a lot of advertisement.

Even with no advertisement they still get 100’s of applications for maybe only a few openings per year. If they did advertisement their recruitment would simply become a mamooth task. Also naturally the private run flyings schools will not talk about the state schools as that would be like turning a potential customer away.

Going to a state school is not always completely free. You can still expect to pay a little bit towards your training. For example if you get into the school in Finland you can expect to pay around 30.000 EUR. To get into one of the state schools you need to go through a long application process. The first stage of the selection process is usually done based solely on your academic results and where you are from. So unless you have very high grades and you are of nordic origin you are unlikely to get past the first stage. The next stages of the selection process tend to be similar and just as hard as those you go through as a military pilot. Many of the state schools will add more academic content to the pilot training, so you can expect your pilot training to take 3 years vs the “normal” 2 years. Some airlines give pilots from the state schools preferential treatment as the quality of the students is well respected in the industry.

Cadet schemes

A Cadet Scheme is usually run by an airline. Sometimes the scheme is part sponsored by the airline and the idea is that you will complete the pilot training and then fly for the airline. To make this happen as smooth as possible cadets are normally training using the specific airline’s procedures. A lot of the time a typerating and linetraining programme is included in the end of the “normal pilot training”.

Often cadet schemes are a lot more expensive than normal pilot training but because you have a higher chance of employment at the end, banks tend to be more willing to support your request for a loan. 

Historically cadet schemes have had a mixed success ratio. 2 years (the time it takes for you to complete your training) is a long time in aviation and the airline could have gone from “needing a lot of pilots” to “not needing any pilots”. If this happens the cadet pilot ends up in a “holding pool”. Usually you don’t get paid anything in a holding pool and it can be a tricky situation for the pilot to be in as you cannot really commit to anything else. The worst case scenario is if the  airline decides to close the cadet scheme. In this case you sometimes still have to pay for your training.   

Save up by working

Of all the options this one is probably the most realistic one. This might not be what you want to hear but basically you need to work your ass of. It could be that you will have to have two jobs for a few years in order to save up.

It varies how much the bank is asking you to save up yourself. This could be 10%, 20% or 30% of the total cost to become a pilot but it depends on the financial market.

If you cannot get a loan at all, you can still become a pilot if you go the modular route. The modular route is where you are in charge of your own pilot training and you complete your training module by module, opposed to the integrated route (the most popular one) where you are part of a class at a flying school. If you have to work alongside your modular pilot training then of course it will take you longer to become a pilot but that way you could become a pilot without having had the opportunity to get a training loan.

Happy landings,

Ask A Pilot