How to become a pilot with no money

Dreaming of a career in aviation but concerned about the cost of flight training? This article provides crucial info on how to become a pilot with no money.

You don’t have to be a wealthy millionaire or the descendant of a Rockefeller to become a professional pilot. While flight training is expensive and extensive, many alternative options exist to achieve your aviation aspirations.

According to studies, pilot wages are high and are only trending upward, with airlines creating better compensation contracts with their employees. That said, training to become a pilot will “pay off” if you undergo the required educational commitment.

There are three primary ways to gain a flight education in the United States. You can study flight at an aviation-specific institution like I did, learn at a local flight school, or apply for a slot in the military. While there are a couple of other options and routes people take to become pilots, these three are the most common among professionals today.

Whatever your financial background, just know it is possible with hard work, a good plan of action, and dedication! There are even options to become a pilot if you don’t have the money for training at all. Read on as I explain further.

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How to become a pilot with no money -  pilots in cockpit
There are a lot of milestones to achieve before sitting in a cockpit like this

How much does pilot training cost in the USA?

On average, it costs about $100,000 to become a professional pilot. When searching for a flight school to complete training, students must know the difference between Part 141 and Part 61 training environments. If you aspire to become a professional pilot, an FAA-approved part 141 program may be more appealing than a recreational part 61 education.

Universities and “successful flight schools” usually have an approved Part 141 curriculum, which allows you to get your certificate and ratings in slightly less time and has stricter training standards than the traditional Part 61 education. While many flight schools offer Part 141 programs, it does not necessarily indicate that this flight school will train you better than a Part 61 school; it just expedites the overall curriculum and provides stricter oversight during pilot training.

Regardless of the curriculum you choose, the price is still hefty. It is essential to understand that this training usually happens over some time rather than all at once. While obtaining all your pilot qualifications and credentials at once is possible, some opt to take a break after completing a certificate or rating and enjoy the “fruits of their labor.”

Another concept of becoming a professional pilot is time building. To apply for different certificates, ratings, and most airline pilot jobs, you must meet the aeronautical experience criteria. Also, most jobs usually require at least 1500 hours of flight experience to be eligible for employment. Many pilots build experience and flight hours by instructing, banner towing, and aerial photography, just to name a few.

In the United States, the usual format for flight training is as follows. All numbers below are subject to the fuel price, economic inflation, and training location:

Private Pilot License: $30,000

Instrument Rating: $20,000

Commercial Pilot: $30,000

Multi-Engine Rating: $10,000

Certified Flight Instructor: $10,000

How can you become a pilot with no money? What are the options?

Figuring out how to pay for this can be challenging, but as I’ve said before, it is well worth it.

Below are some feasible options for flight education if flight training costs are a big issue for you:


Many aviation institutions and organizations offer flight training scholarships. AOPA, EAA, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) are just a few organizations that allow aspiring pilots to apply for flight training scholarships. Usually, to complete an application, there is a technical written essay followed by an oral interview talking about yourself to a panel of donors.

When you apply, you might get many “No’s,” but remember, all it takes is one person to say “Yes.”


Airlines and flight schools have created sponsorship programs for student pilots.  Companies such as American Flyers and SkyWest have created programs for select candidates that will allow you tuition reimbursement and funds to complete flight training as part of an employment agreement.

While you do have to dedicate and agree to a significant amount of time with the sponsor, this could be a golden ticket to a debt-free aviation education. Some programs offer partial sponsorship, while others offer 100%. 

American airlines plane
Sponsorship through the major airlines can be a great option for those going down the commercial path

Military Training

Another option to become a pilot is to be trained by the United States Air Force. Between ages 18 and 33, the USAF provides training to pilots who successfully complete the application and have been selected by a committee. Training by the USAF is some of the most complex and strenuous schooling, but it seeks great rewards if successful.

You have the opportunity to fly an array of advanced military aircraft and receive some of the highest respect and praise amongst employers and the aviation community. Usually, pilots training under the military must serve for 5-10 years, depending on the contract. Still, if it is as the American taxpayer dollar, it seems like a deal too good to pass up if you can stomach a military lifestyle.

Military air force pilot in plane
Becoming a Pilot through the military can be one of the best ways to learn

Loans / Financing

My last recommendation is to receive a personal financing loan. APR for a flight training loan is relatively high, ranging from 13% to 15%, and many companies offer this to students seeking financial assistance.

The high interest rate is because there is no collateral if the loan defaults. While falling into debt is scary, reports show that being a professional pilot is one of the top-paid professions. If done correctly, slowly pay off the loan or financing plan you agreed to and become a pilot. To help out with this, most airlines and companies offer sign-on and retention bonuses, which, when used, can clear your financial obligations even sooner!  

What is the cheapest pilot license?

If you view flying as a goal/hobby, consider receiving your private pilot certificate. As a private pilot, you can fly anywhere you want with some restrictions on meteorological conditions, as you would need an instrument rating to fly in low visibility and cloudy days. A Part 61 education can be at your leisure and is a more “ kicked back” flight training experience.

Another less expensive alternative is becoming a sport pilot. A sport pilot can do everything a private pilot can but is limited to only light sport aircraft. A sport pilot endorsement requires less training than a private pilot, making it more affordable to hit the sky solo! Another factor that makes a sport pilot endorsement so attractive is that there is no need to receive a medical certificate. You can receive a sport pilot certificate if you hold a valid state-issued driver’s license and have never been denied a medical.


There are methods and tactics to make flight training and aviation accessible to everyone. One of my most significant recommendations as a former flight school manager and instructor is to come to lessons prepared, ready to learn, with realistic expectations.

Whether you’re seeking an airline pilot job, a job as a flight instructor or a sport pilot, you can only control the things you can control, but if you put your best effort forward, your flight training experience will be well worth the achievement of a lifetime pilot.

Blue Skies and Tailwinds everyone!

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