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I don't really understand how pilots fund their training and then, how it is paid back. Could someone possibly provide a 'timeline' that covers:

  • How much does flight school/training cost from being a day 1 beginner, to getting a job as an FO on a commercial budget airline in a jet?
  • How do most people fund this? (Loans, grants, family wealth?)
  • If it is typically borrowed, how many years (on average) do pilots spend paying off their training?

I will ask the two below as a separate question as they are about career progression, not financing.

  • After becoming an FO, how long (on average) does it take to become a captain?

  • What is the approximate difference in salary between a captain and an FO?

Note: Not asking this for myself, I am too old (30) and not in a position to pursue this. I am just interested, and thought it might help other people who are interested in making a career of flying.

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    $\begingroup$ those are 5 different questions, please pick one or this will most likely be closed as too broad $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 20 '18 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ Hello, I answered your first three questions and left out the last two. I'd suggest removing them and asking a separate question; since the first 3 are about financing pilot training and the last 2 are about career progression. $\endgroup$ – kevin Sep 20 '18 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ The challenges of getting into the major airlines is not unlike getting to the top of any high skill profession but now may be the best time to try. I understand there is a looming severe pilot shortage in the US due to the traditional biggest source drying up, the military is producing far fewer pilots than ever before. Airlines may need to fill the gap with paid (partially, at least) from-scratch training. $\endgroup$ – radarbob Sep 20 '18 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ This does vary across the world $\endgroup$ – Ben Sep 20 '18 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ Average is a fairly useless metric fot this IMHO.If it costs 10K in Place A and 50K in Place B how does that help anyone in Place C? $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 20 '18 at 9:36
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this question is on the broad side (and possibly opinion-based). The details obvious vary between continent. Airlines in the same continent generally have similar schemes.

First thing first, you are not too old to pursue an airline career with that is what you desire, albeit on the old side of the spectrum.

How much does it cost from day one (no experience) to qualified in airliner (second officer / first officer)?

Roughly $100,000 USD. (If you're interested in a break-down, please ask a separate question).

How do most people fund this?

Most people fund their initial training themselves, i.e. up to solo-qualified, PPL or even IFR.

Then it depends on where you are. A number of flight schools in the United States offer loans (example) to students pursuing professional aviation qualifications. These schools will then recommend their graduates to airlines (example).

In Asia, airlines tend to fund the training on day one, from zero experience all the way to second officer (example), with the condition that once you complete training, you must fly with the airline for a number of years (or pay back your training cost if you want to leave). Competition for these openings are tough. Airlines use a rigid recruitment process to filter candidates, since they are committing a large amount of capital on an individual. Still, not everyone who make it into the cadet program graduate.

You can get around the tough competition if you are rich. I've heard of a story where a person goes to the same flight school where the airline sent their cadet pilots, and fund everything himself. Upon returning, he was hired by this airline immediately.

If it is typically borrowed, how many years (on average) do pilots spend paying off their training?

Ballpark figure around 3~6 years. I have no statistics on this.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the linked flight schools and/or airlines.

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    $\begingroup$ There is alot of opinion in this answer, without any evidence to back it up. It would benefit from some to make a good answer great. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 20 '18 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec The answers to the first and third question varies greatly with region, airline, global economy and the circumstances of that individual. I admit I do not have statistics to back them up. $\endgroup$ – kevin Sep 20 '18 at 12:40

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