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How Do I Become an Airline Pilot if I Don’t Have Much Money?

flight school pilot and student

Many people want to become pilots, but most of them don’t have the bucks to simply pay their way through flight school. You may have another job at the same time, family responsibilities, loans from a previous school program, credit card debt … or any other combination of financial stressors under the sun. It’s more common to need financing for flight school than not.

With that said, how can you become a pilot on a limited budget? If you’ve found yourself asking “How do I become an airline pilot if I don’t have much money?” you’re far from alone. The answer is that you can, but you’ll have to do some work to put the puzzle pieces together. Whether you’re building a first-time career or are switching fields mid-career, it is possible to finance flight school and get the education you need.

Let’s take a look at how.

What Do You Need to Become a Pilot?

First and foremost, what is required in order to become a commercial airline pilot? In a nutshell, you will need:

Instruction Time

You need a certain amount of instruction to learn how to operate an airplane safely, what to do in an emergency, your compliance and medical responsibilities, and more. While flight lessons aren’t cheap, you can get affordable lessons from JA Flight, for instance, for around $12,000 – including the cost of flight, ground, and training materials. This is significantly less than the national average.

Logged Hours

Once you’ve completed your instruction, you will need to log a minimum number of flight hours. This varies depending on the type of aircraft you want to fly. You can get all the information you need about the specific logged hours requirements by aircraft type when you do your instruction.


Completing your schooling will allow you to apply for and get a license. This is necessary if you want to become a pilot.

List of Aviation School Scholarships

One of the best answers to “How do I become an airline pilot if I don’t have much money?” is scholarships! These are funds that you can qualify for, and which you never need to pay back. It is free money that you put toward your flight program to reduce the costs, plain and simple. Some examples include:

Air Traffic Control Association

The Air Traffic Control Association, or ATCA, offers a range of scholarships that may fit your situation depending on your enrollment status and the institution at which you are learning. Review their list of potential scholarships and see if one of them might work for you.


A top-tier and long-standing member of the aviation industry, it’s no surprise Boeing wants to see young pilots succeed. They offer scholarships through institutions, so the best way to find out if you might be eligible is to first apply for a program and get accepted, then look into the scholarship. If you have questions, you can also contact Boeing.

Other Scholarships

You can find dozens of other scholarships through the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, on this page. Getting even one of them could do a lot to defray the costs of flight school and get you on your way to becoming a pilot faster. Do a comprehensive review and see if any of them fit your situation.

Is It Possible to Become a Pilot for Free?

While it is technically possible to get enough scholarships to fund your aviation journey, it’s more likely that you may get some scholarships and will have to finance the rest. That’s excluding the potential of you getting a sponsor, of course, which would include anyone – like Mom or Dad – who might be willing to put you through flight school without needing to be paid back.

If that’s not the case for you, you’re better checking out financing options such as the following.

  • Meritize: JA Flight Training partners with Meritize to help you see your loan options in minutes without impacting your credit score. This is a great way to get a feel for your potential costs.
  • AOPA: This is your source for loans for programs that cover Private Instrument and Multi-engine ratings. You can get qualified for loans up to $30,000.
  • Liberty University: JA Flight Training works directly with Liberty to bring you subsidized and unsubsidized loans from the US Department of Education. These loans have generous terms through the federal government.
  • GI Bill: Once you get your Private Pilot License, or PPL, the GI bill will kick in. This typically coves 85% of the cost of pilot ratings after that. That means you’re responsible for only around 30% of the total cost of training if you’re a veteran.
  • Private Lending: This is the option to which many people turn if they are still asking the question of “How do I become an airline pilot if I don’t have much money?” The answer is, private lending is a great option that will get you the rest of the way there!

One of the best things you can do if you want to become a career pilot is make the most of your training so that you can get a good job quickly and start paying back any debt you might have accrued. When you work with a program like JA Flight Training, you get hooked up with instruction, internships, and affiliations that look great on your resume. It’s a great way to increase the chances you’ll get hired and start making money.

Learn More About Affordable Flight School Through Liberty University

Because money is so tight for so many of our students, and because we’re committed to seeing them succeed anyway, JA Flight has put a raft of financing options in place for its students. Our team would love to speak to you about your application, enrollment, and funding at any time, so please feel free to get in touch with us today.

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