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Breaking the Financial Barrier

Banks have been reluctant to loan money for flight training. Talbot Biggs reports on alternatives.


October 2, 2007
By Talbot Boggs

John Gronlund is typical of many young Canadians who dream of a career
as a pilot. He took money he had saved from working for three and a
half years after university, got a $25,000 line of credit from the TD
Bank, plus another line of credit, to scrape together the $40,000 he
needed to get his multi-engine, instrument rating commercial licence
from the Brampton Flight Centre. Gronlund graduated last September and
a couple of months later went to Yellowknife with his wife in search of
his first flying job. He is working temporarily supply teacher while
actively seeking a flying position.

“Financing
is a problem for many people,” he said. “I was lucky I had some
savings. A couple of guys I knew had to stop their training because
they didn’t have enough money and had to get part-time jobs. It’s a
very intense course and you just don’t have time for a part-time job.
Financing is a real barrier for many people.”

Financing flight
training, particularly a commercial licence, has been a challenge for
many years. A survey by the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC)
and the Department of National Defence found that the average cost of
obtaining a private pilot’s licence, based on full-time attendance and
48 hours of flying time, was $6,869.19. For the more career-minded
student, the costs are much higher. Tuition for a commercial pilot
licence with a multi-engine and instrument rating ranges from $30,000
to $50,000, depending on other educational requirements such as a
degree or diploma. “Financing any human activity involves risk, but
flight training is higher risk than many,” said Glenn Priestley, ATAC’s
vice president fixed-wing, air taxi and flight training. “Most banks
aren’t interested in taking on the risk unless they get the parents to
co-sign or have large collateral. It’s a real problem.”