Story of an Airline Pilot

Should I finance my training or save up as I go?

The Financial Story of an Airline Pilot.

In this article we want to clear up a lot of misconceptions and answer a lot of questions about what it means to be an airline pilot? how do I become an airline pilot and what is the most efficient way of getting there?

As pilots you will come to see that a lot of people do not know much about what it takes to become an airline pilot and what life is like once you have achieved your goal. Two of the most common questions pilots here are: How much did you schooling cost?and How much money to airline pilots make? However, since this article is written from the point of a flight school to its flight students we are going to focus on some questions that we believe to be even more important than the ones above. They are: What steps can I take to become an airline pilot? What is the return on investment? and most importantlyHow quickly should I do my training?

Click the link below to get started with you financing. 

Turbine Financial

Every student’s situation is unique and comes with its own set of circumstances. However, let’s discuss the options in answering the question of How quickly should I do my training?

Let’s assume you have the goal to become an airline pilot (which seems a pretty likely assumption since you are continuing to read this article), you essentially have two road blocks that prevent you from training as rapidly as possible. They are: time, and money. Money being the larger road block for the vast majority of flight students. So, let’s talk money. There are three ways to finance your flying education. They are:

  1. The rich uncle scenario
  2. The pay-as-you-save scenario
  3. Getting a loan scenario
  1. Now this does not necessarily have to be an uncle. It can be a father, grandfather, spouse, or even yourself! But it essentially means that you either have the money or have been given the money to cover all the costs of your flight training.
  1. This is where students will typically train very slowly as they are able to save up some extra money here and there. They take that little bit of extra money they have saved from working their jobs and put it towards flying. In this scenario students will typically be able to fly 2-4 times a month at a maximum.
  1. This can be either a private loan or a student loan.

So, which scenario is best? Well, obviously scenario 1 is best. But you probably wouldn’t have read this far if you were planning to finance your education with scenario 1. That leaves scenario’s 2 and 3. Which is the better of these 2 options? You could ask 100 pilots this question and you would get 50 that vote scenario 2 and 50 that vote scenario 3, which wouldn’t help in your decision making. We suggest that you look at both of these options from a financial standpoint. So, without further adieu, let’s start analyzing.

Starting with flight training.

Described below is the flight training program of Axiom Aviation. This includes costs, timeframes, and minimum flight times.

Private Pilot License

  1. 30 hours of flight time with an authorized instructor: $5,400
  2. 10 hours of solo flight time: $1,400
  3. Ground instruction: $200
  4. FAA written exam: $150
  5. FAA checkride exam: $500
  6. Total: $7,650

The private pilot syllabus at Axiom Aviation consists of 28 training events.

Instrument Rating

  1. 25 hours cross country PIC with a flight instructor: $4,500
  2. 20 hours cross country PIC solo (these 20 hours can also be done with a flight instructor at the flight instruction rate of $180/hr) : $2,800
  3. 50 hours of flight simulator time (this is optional but very beneficial and economical): $3,750
  4. Ground instruction: $200
  5. FAA written exam: $150
  6. FAA checkride exam: $500
  7. Total: $8,150 (or $11,900 with the 50 hours of flight simulator time)

The syllabus contains 40 training events.

Time build toward commercial rating

At this point in time you will have between 90 and 100 hours of flight time. In order to take your commercial pilot checkride you need to have a minimum of 250 hours total flight time. HOWEVER, if you decided to take advantage of the 50 hours of flight simulator time listed above, then you only need to get 200 hours of total flight time.

So, if you decided to take advantage of the 50 hours flight simulator time then you are looking at a flight time build of approximately 70-80 hours.

If you decided NOT to take advantage of the flight simulator time then you are going to have to time build between 120-130 flight time.

  1. Total cost with the flight simulator time: $9,800
  2. Total cost without the flight simulator time: $18,200

The syllabus contains 30-40 training events.

Private Multi Engine Rating and Commercial Multi Engine

To take your COMMERCIAL multi-engine checkride you need to have a minimum of 30 hours of multi-engine time.

  1. 30 hours of multi engine flight time with an authorized instructor: $10,500
  2. FAA written exam: $150
  3. FAA private multi engine checkride: $500
  4. FAA commercial multi engine checkride: $500
  5. Total: $11,650

The syllabus contains 18 training events.

Commercial Single Engine Rating

  1. 10-15 hours of single engine flight time with an authorized instructor: $1,800
  2. FAA checkride exam: $500
  3. Total: $2,300

The syllabus contains 12 training events.

CFI Multi Engine Checkride

  1. 40 hours ground instruction: $1,400
  2. 8-10 hours of multi engine flight time with an authorized instructor: $2,800
  3. FAA written exams: $300
  4. FAA checkride exam: $500
  5. Total: $5,000

The syllabus contains 12 training events.

CFI Single Engine Add-On

  1. 8 hours of single engine flight time with an authorized instructor: $1,440
  2. FAA checkride exam: $500
  3. Total: $1,940

The syllabus contains 8 training events.

CFII Add-On

  1. 8 hours of single engine flight time with an authorized instructor: $1,440
  2. FAA written exam: $150
  3. FAA checkride exam: $500
  4. Total: $2,090

The syllabus contains 8 training events.

So, the total cost for full program training is $56,980 without 50 hours simulator time or $52,330 with the flight simulator time.

Total number of training events (flights, simulator sessions, ground school sessions, checkrides, etc.) are between 156 and 166.

Ok, now we have all the important numbers to continue the story of the airline pilot.

There are many different routes a pilot could take at this point. From flight instructing to flying for small cargo outfits to aerial photography and parachute jumping. However, for this article we are going to stick with the most common route travelled and talk about what it means to be a flight instructor.

Typically flight instructors are paid hourly wages. These wages can vary from $25/hr to $50/hr. We are going to pick a conservative middle of the road average at $35/hr. How much a flight instructor flies per month will vary base on weather, mechanical issues, and student schedules. However, let’s be optimistic and say you decide to work hard and fly 70-80 hours per month. At $35/hr and 80 hours a month you will take $2,800 home. This number is fairly optimistic. For simplicity sake we are going to run the numbers for $2,500.

When you finish your flight training you will have approximately 250 hours of flight time under your belt. This means that you will need to accumulate 1,250 hours as a flight instructor before you are able to take your dream gig of flying with a regional airline.

At an optimistic 80 hours of flying per month it will take about 16 months (as a flight instructor) to get your coveted 1500 hours. Over these 16 months you will gross $39,062. Keep this number in mind so we can have a total return on investment at the end.

Before reaching the regional airlines you will have invested $52,330 and your return on investment at this point is $39,062.

The Regional Airlines

At this point in your career you will be looking at joining your first regional airline. I am going to base the following payscale on the SkyWest payscale found at

www.airlinepilotcentral.com

. When you first get hired to your regional airline you will be hired on as a First Officer. We are also going to run the numbers at the minimum guaranteed hours. Meaning that this is the bare minimum return on investment you will have. So, let’s look at the payscale for First Officer’s at SkyWest Airlines.

SkyWest has a monthly guarantee set at 76 hours per month (this is pretty standard throughout the industry).

First Year- $30/hr at 76 hours per month= $2,280 per month. Your yearly income would then be $27,360. These figures DO NOT include per diem.

Second Year- $40/hr at 76 hours per month= $3,040 per month. Yearly income= $36,480.

Third Year- $43/hr at 76 hours per month= $3,268 per month. Yearly income= $39,216.

Fourth Year- $44/hr at 76 hours per month= $3,344 per month. Yearly income= $40,128.

Fifth Year- $45/hr at 76 hours per month= $3,420 per month.  Yearly income = $41,040.

Now let’s assume you have worked hard and paid your dues appropriately (also these regional airlines are losing pilots like crazy). So, you are fortunate enough to make captain at SkyWest Airlines. Now we will be looking at the captain payscales.

Sixth Year (first as captain)- $78/hr at 76 hours per month= $5,928. Yearly income=$71,136.

Seventh Year- $80/hr at 76 hours per month= $6,080. Yearly income= $72,960.

Eighth Year- $82/hr at 76 hours per month= $6,232. Yearly income= $74,784.

At this point in your career you will most likely have the opportunity to move to a major airline if you desire. Some pilots will decide to move on and some pilots will be content with their income and awesome schedules at the regional airlines. Let’s say that you are gung ho and you decide to make the jump to the major airlines. You are fortunate enough to be hired by Delta Airlines as a First Officer. So, now we will look at median payscales for Delta First Officers.

Before we jump into these payscales let’s review our return on investment. Our investment still sits at $52,330 while our ROI (return on investment) is now at $442,166.Remember this number does NOT include per diem.

Major Airlines

Delta has a monthly guarantee of 65 hours.

First Year First Officer- $70/hr at 65 hours per month= $4,550. Yearly income= $54,600.

Second Year- $107/hr at 65 hours per month= $6,955. Yearly income= $83,460.

Third Year- $120/hr at 65 hours per month= $7,800. Yearly income= $93,600.

Fourth Year- $129/hr at 65 hours per month= $8,385. Yearly income= $100,620.

Fifth Year- $132/hr at 65 hours per month= $8,580. Yearly income= $102,960.

Sixth Year- $135/hr at 65 hours per month= $8,775. Yearly income= $105,300.

Seventh Year- $139/hr at 65 hours per month= $9,035. Yearly income= $108,420.

Eighth Year- $142/hr at 65 hours per month= $9,230. Yearly income= $110,760.

Again, at this point in your career you have been a reliable, professional pilot and you have been offered the opportunity to jump to captain at a major airline!

So far our investment still sits at $52,330 while our ROI is now $1,201,886. And now the fun begins!

Ninth Year (first as captain)- $213/hr at 65 hours per month= $13,845. Yearly income=$166,140.

Tenth Year- $220/hr at 65 hours per month= $14,300. Yearly income= $171,600.

Eleventh Year- $240/hr at 65 hours per month= $15,600. Yearly income= $187,200.

Twelfth and Final Year (top out on payscale)- $270/hr at 65 hour per month= $17,550. Yearly income= $210,600.

From your 12th year onward you will be making a MINIMUM of $210,600 per year NOT INCLUDING PER DIEM!

Our investment still sits at $52,330 while our ROI has climbed to $1,937,426.

Now that we see the whole financial story of the airline pilot let us return to our original question of how we should fund our flight training!

Let’s say that you decide to pay for your flight training as you are able to save money here and there. You are only able to fly once a week but you feel like this is a smart decision because you are not acquiring that $52,330 of debt! However, at one training session per week it will take you 160 weeks to complete your flight training! Meaning that you will be a CFI in a little over 3 years. You will then spend a year and a half to two years as a flight instructor. So, from day one it will take you 5 years to get to the Regional Airlines.

Now let’s say your twin brother decided to take out a loan for $52,330 so that he could train 4 days a week! It would take him 40 weeks to become a CFI. This is less than a year! He then spends a year and a half being a flight instructor and enters the airlines. So, your twin brother was able to make it to the Regional airlines in 2 and a half years! Which is almost 3 years faster than you did it in!

THIS MEANS THAT YOUR TWIN BROTHER WOULD MAKE $650,000 MORE THAN YOU OVER THE COURSE OF HIS CAREER! HIS ROI WILL BE $650,000 HIGHER THAN YOURS!

Is it worth is to take out a $52,330 loan to make an additional $650,000 throughout your career? This is a no brainer!

The moral of the story is “the faster you get your training done the greater your ROI!”And the difference can be drastic!

In conclusion, we believe it is far better to take out a loan so you can make it to your career faster and start making the big bucks sooner. This entire article we have focuses on the financial aspects of getting there sooner. What about the lifestyle benefits? Getting more days off? Getting the base you want? Getting to fly the aircraft you want? Getting to pick your schedule? Getting to be home with the family EVERY holiday? The lifestyle benefits are things you can’t even put a price on.

2017-01-16T22:04:06+00:00 May 14th, 2016|

Login

Current METAR

KOGD 172153Z VRB03KT 10SM CLR 01/M06 A3018 RMK AO2 SLP233 T00111061