Financing flight school: my out-of-the-box journey

For most people, this is the most challenging part of their journey in becoming an airline pilot: financing flight school.
I can totally relate to that. Financing my flying career was an enormous struggle that took almost a year.

I always get a lot of questions about financing flight school. And people saying that they will never be pilots because they don’t have the money. But let me start with saying that most people don’t have that amount of money just lying around.

What are the options?

The options you have also depend on the country you’re from.
There are a few countries that have flight training as a university degree, meaning that the state pays for your education. Getting admitted can be quite hard, but if this is an option for you, go for it!

More and more airlines are offering cadet programs. Some are fully sponsored, some are at a reduced rate and others at a “normal” rate. The big advantage is that you will be hired by that airline after you finish flight training. You do need to sign a bond for a certain amount of years, where you are not allowed to leave the company (without paying back the total amount of flight school costs).

Another option is to work yourself through flight school. Either work a few years and save money or do a modular course on a slower pace and work in between phases to finance your next step. This option might take longer, but you’ll be free of debt when you finish. 
Shop around for schools, as prices are anywhere between 50000€ and 150000€ and the level of training and airplane fleet can be quite different. 

Some flight schools work together with banks that will grant you a loan. Obviously, you have to pay it back with interest. And they usually need security in the form of property with the value of at least 140% of the total amount of the training. 
When you sign for a loan like this, make a clear and realistic agreement about the payback. There is a good chance that it may take a while until you find a job with a decent salary.

So how did I finance my flight training?

I got a loan at a bank. Eventually. 

Like I said before, banks need some kind of security in the form of property. Me being 19, I had no property whatsoever. My parents also didn’t have enough security, only a part of it. I went to a few banks and all the responses were negative. The most frustrating part of it was, that I already did the selection process at the flight school of my choice and I passed it. So I was ready to start with the upcoming class! If it wasn’t for the money…
I had no idea what to do next. I was working at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, but they could only give me a low amount of hours on flexible times. It would take me ages to save enough to fill the gap.

One day, my father read an interview in a Dutch national newspaper of a famous art dealer who gave his children a commercial pilots’ license as a gift, because he believed it was good for their personal growth and it gave them responsibilities.
At the time, my father was feeling bad for me that money was withholding me from achieving my dreams. He decided to write this man a letter. In the letter, he explained my dedication and my dream and asked him for advice on how to get me flying. 
A few weeks later he got a reply and we were invited to his office. I had absolutely no idea that this letter was sent. I went to open days at universities and even enrolled at a course, as my hopes of being able to start flight training were almost gone. As you can imagine, the news of this letter and the invitation came as a great surprise to me.

We had a good and friendly conversation with this gentleman and at the end, he offered to give the bank security on his behalf.
Amazed by this unique gesture, I quickly made an appointment at the last bank who I was in contact with. They accepted the security and gave me a loan for the total amount the training would cost me, which was 100,000 Euros.
A month later I had my first day at Martinair Flight Academy, the flight school of my choice!

The way all of this happened always felt like a miracle to me.
But it’s also proof that sometimes you really need to think out of the box to achieve what you are aiming for. The solution can come from a very unexpected direction!

So don’t give up if you haven’t got the money lying around, but look for options and opportunities.
If you want to become a pilot bad enough and are suited for the job, you will be able to find a way to finance your dream!

If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out to me on my Instagram @kassiezandstra or email me!

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