What are the pros and cons for "paying for your training"? Specifically, there are companies out there that will sell the right seat for so many dollars an hour for those aspiring pro pilots to build hours. Is this a bad thing? Are there benefits to this approach. Is it simply a function of the competition new pilots face (not considering the rumors of pilot shortages we are about to face)? Is it unethical?

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    $\begingroup$ Could you please edit this question to make it less based on opinion and more asking for verifiable facts? (For instance, "is this a bad thing" and "is it ethical" are very subjective and could have a wide range of answers). As it stands this question does not fit the Stack Exchange model: Please take a look at How to Ask. That being said, this is part of our industry and I would like to see a not quite so opinion-based question on the site. :) $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Feb 14, 2014 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ We have the same issue on the PM exchange. But sometimes questions are still ambiguous and only have opinion based answers. I have written to that effect on the other site. Not sure how to edit this. I do not think there is an answer with verifiable facts on this topic, but I know there are a lot of opinions on this in the industry. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2014 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidEspina cost/benefit analysis, risk/reward comparisons, etc. etc. come to mind. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 20, 2014 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


Pay for training (PFT) is a bad thing. I am specifically referring to operations in which you pay to go through initial aircraft training and fly right seat. Yes, you not only pay for 121 initial (BAD!), you also pay to fly from the right seat. The bottom line is you are occupying a seat that the company should be paying you to be in!

Part 121 pilots are in a constant struggle over wages. Companies paint a picture that the only reason they take quarterly losses is that they pay the flight crews too much. Negotiating capital has to be spent to combat this. These pay for job (PFJ) operations hurt our negotiating positions on wages, as do the pilots that come out of these programs who some might argue are more likely to support concessions (after all, they'll fly for free!).

It is hard to combat these kind of programs because flying is more than a job for a lot of people. It is a dream and a passion and some of these people are more than happy to pay for the "privilege" of flying a beech 1900 from the right seat.

You asked for Pros and Cons, so:


  • You learn an aircraft and log some SIC and TT, maybe even turbine.


  • You are helping depress wages across the industry.
  • You are enabling the company to avoid paying a wage to half of its pilots.
  • You will probably carry a stigma when you move up in the 121 world, at least at the regional level (FO's I flew with were very reluctant to name their former operation if it happened to be [REDACTED])

Don't go the PFJ route. Find something to do that will pay you a wage to fly and build hours to get into a regional 121 seat. Once you have your commercial (and cfi) certificates, you shouldn't be paying to fly any more. You'll also find once you get into the 121 world that paying to accelerate your way there perhaps wasn't worth it.

  • $\begingroup$ Given that nobody is going to pay you to build hours towards a type rating, for many people it's a choice between paying for time or not getting a job at all. And yes, that's a sad situation, brought about by the glut of people out of work (and still a glut of new people entering the field with high hopes of magnificent wages for very little work brought on by romantic stories about the life of the pilot). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 20, 2014 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ If you goal is to fly for a 121 carrier, who cares about a type rating? The airline is going to take care of that for you, you just need the hours to get in. Plenty of people will pay you to get those hours. At 250 hours you can instruct and perhaps find a powerline/pipeline patrol or perhaps an SIC job. At 500 hours you are more insurable and more opportunities open up, including single pilot VFR 135. You are right that nobody is going to just give you money to build time, but plenty of people will pay you to perform a job flying. Ping me in chat if you want to discuss. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Feb 20, 2014 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ maybe. But most operators expect you to have X hours on type before allowing you to captain something. And getting those hours is what people are asked to pay for. Not saying it's right, but if enough operators do it, there's no way to get hours without submitting and going with the program unless you buy your own aircraft and most people simply don't have the money for that (and it'd likely cost more than paying for the hours too). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 20, 2014 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ And conversely if there weren't people willing to pay for something the rest of us get paid for, then those positions wouldn't exist and these same companies would pay you for doing a job. If you go to one of those programs you are being taken advantage of, and its a fair bit of marketing that you to believe you need to do it. The truth is that you don't. In the 4 years I sat in a 121 cockpit I flew with less than 10 people that went through a PFJ program. As a 121 CA if I had to choose between two 500 hour pilots that were ether a CFI or a PFJ to be my SIC, I'd take the CFI any day. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ One aspect that concerns me is the "student's" status. If they are paying to be there, they probably aren't an employee: They probably aren't covered by Workman's comp if injured on the job. They may have no Union representation, couldn't get unemployment benefits, aren't paying towards Social Security, etc. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:01

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