Training to become a commercial airline pilot is a pretty attractive career choice. Not only do you get to be in charge of some of the biggest flying machines in the world, you also get to travel the world, meet interesting people, and all while being paid potentially six-figure sums for your time. For those that love planes and aviation, it’s the Holy Grail of careers.
But entering this market is not always easy. The days of full scholarships for flight training are largely behind us, and most student pilots must face the reality of self-funding their pilot training journey. As such, many people have to weigh up the pros and cons of entering into this career, as it’s likely to require securing a sizeable loan, and being burdened by that for many years to come.
But for those who can afford it, who have the right aptitude to pass the strict entry exams, and have the right personal skills to work well on the flight deck, becoming a pilot can be an incredibly rewarding career – both financially and personally. Let’s see how much it costs to train as a pilot in 2022.
Becoming a commercial pilot can be incredibly rewarding. Photo: ATP Flight School
Getting your head around $ 100,000
To most people, regardless of age or financial means, $ 100,000 is a significant amount of money. In some parts of the world, it’s a house (although in North America and most parts of Europe, it’s just a healthy deposit). If you were to win such an amount on the lottery, it could be considered moderately ‘life-changing’. $ 100,000 is often bandied about as the cost of pilot training, but is that figure accurate?
One of the biggest and most reputable flight schools is ATP. With 72 flight schools across the US, this training provider spits out around 117 commercial multi-engine pilot graduates every month! ATP states that it costs $ 91,995 to become a pilot when starting with no previous experience, or $ 71,995 when starting with a private pilot certificate already in place.
But that’s just for the ATP tuition to become a commercial pilot. They offer this as an up-front, fixed cost price for training, based on realistic flight time requirements. However, that’s not all the money that’s required to become certified.
$ 100,000 is a good budget to have in mind, but the reality is it could end up costing even more than that in total. Photo: L3Harris Pilot Training
In addition, the student will need to find between $ 8,400 and $ 9,200 for FAA examiners fees and knowledge test fees. Pilots usually require access to various third party apps on their journey to certification, for which ATP recommends a budget of $ 200. Students will also need access to an iPad, headset, flight bag and other pilot gear, for which ATP suggests around $ 1,600.
Checking other popular flight schools, and the figures seem to be very similar. L3Harris, for example, notes that the cost for commercial pilot training starts at $ 83,995. UK-based careers guidance service Prospects lists pilot training costs as being between £ 70,000 and £ 120,000 ($ 58,000 – $ 99,000). In India, resources say that the cost for Commercial Pilot Training in India is around Rs. 45 Lakhs (US $ 67,000). However, that does not include the Student Pilot License (SPL) or Private Pilot License (PPL), which would add to the cost.
Getting help and other costs
Aside from the direct costs of obtaining a commercial pilot’s license, students need to think about where they will need to be located in order to undertake their training. This may mean moving to a new area and renting accommodation. Some universities offer degrees with pilot training incorporated, which can be a way to access included or cheaper accommodation.
There are still some grants and funding streams in some parts of the world, but they are unlikely to take care of 100% of the cost. Photo: ATP Flight Training
Some grants and funding streams do still exist. For example, in the USA, there are a number of aviation scholarships on offer to support or contribute towards the cost of training. Some airlines offer to defer course fees, with the funds later being paid back out of earnings. And some flight schools have partnerships to offer low-interest loans to prospective pilots.
Fees, funding options, and other details will vary depending on who you train with and how quickly you wish to obtain your license. Taking a modular course over several years while you work in another industry can be a more accessible way to cope with the high costs. If you’re serious about becoming a pilot, talk to your local flight school for advice on funding pathways and the best route for you to get qualified.