Real Answers from Real Pilots

Self Sustainability during CFI Time

(Matt Damm) #1

Hi guys,

I recently learned about my projected monthly payment if I’m to finance my training via Sallie Mae. I’ve spent some time looking over ATP’s page regarding the specifics of pay while being a CFI with ATP, and I’m trying to ascertain how feasible it is to pay for housing, make loan payments, and generally sustain myself while being a CFI. Any input would be hugely appreciated.

If there’s anyone in this corner of the forums who is/has been a CFI with ATP, were you able to make payments towards your loan, afford housing and living expenses with relative ease? Did you find yourself having difficulties making ends meet? Did you need to pick up extra instructing hours to get by, and if so, was it difficult to do so?

If this post needs to be moved to a different part of the forums (such as Student Experiences), let me know.


(Tory) #2


Had I not received tuition reimbursement, through the Tuition Reimbursement Program ( I would not have been able to make my minimum loan payment. I strongly recommend interviewing for a regional that offers tuition reimbursement as soon as you have the hours.

I was also saving a lot of money on rent by living in ATP’s housing at a reduced rate for being a CFI. Between the reimbursement and discounted housing, I was able to make ends meet.


(Kyle) #3


ATP says you can begin receiving tuition reimbursement from an airline after you interview with them, somewhere between 300-500 hours. Does the minimum hour requirement vary with the specific airline? And if so, are you aware of the minimum requirement for Horizon?

(Tory) #4


Yes. Each airline has their own minimum. Horizon’s minimum is 500.


(Danielle Calnin) #5

All airlines begin paying Tuition Reimbursement at 500 hours of total flight time. It’s recommended you interview prior to the 500 hour mark so you can promptly begin receiving payments as soon as you hit 500.

(Chris) #6

Does anyone have a general idea of what the monthly payment is if you start at zero time and get an extra $800 or whatever it is now for living expenses on your loan? And correct me if I’m wrong, I thought I saw somewhere the payments are deferred up to 3.5 years?

(Tory) #7


If you’re referring to the monthly loan payment, that will depend on your interest rate and loan term. Hopefully a more recent grad will chime in, but my payments were about $700 per month.




I recommend that you contact the admissions department and speak with them as they can give you exact answers.


(Jack) #9

Could I get some clarification regarding tuition reimbursement? I understand it’s an additional $5 per hour you get on top of ATP’s CFI pay, capped at 100 payable hours per month. This means that when you fly less than 100 hours each month (I assume most CFIs do), you’re giving up on a bit of free money. You also get up to $11,000 for tuition reimbursement ($5,000 while at ATP, another $500/month for 12 months once hired), however I hear some airlines make you choose between tuition reimbursement and first year bonus.

If a regional is offering $15,000 or greater for the bonus (and many are from the looks), then wouldn’t it be prudent to decline tuition reimbursement? Even factoring in the interest that would accumulate on your giant loan for the 10 months at ATP you wouldn’t be receiving tuition reimbursement?

(Tory) #10


It depends on the conditions of the contract. Each airline partnered with ATP has their own unique agreements. When I received tuition reimbursement from Horizon, I also received a signing bonus.

You’re right though. Other airlines make you choose between one or the other. In that case, it’s up to you to decide.


(Danielle Calnin) #11


There is no cap on Tuition Reimbursement. You receive $5 per flight hour on top of CFI pay. This is paid directly to the student loan lender if you have one. If you do not have a loan a check is sent to you. About half the airlines offer Tuition Reimbursement on top of the bonus and others offer it as a “draw” on the bonus. None of the airlines offer one or the other.

If an airline was offering $15K bonus and you receive $11K in Tuition Reimbursement then your bonus would be $4K. I don’t see any reason why you would not want to take advantage of Tuition Reimbursement. Money in your pocket today is better than hoping there is still going to be money available when you reach 1,500 hours. A bonus can go away at any time .


Be sure to check with a tax preparer, but generally speaking, Tuition Reimbursement is not taxable, while bonuses are.

(Jack) #13

Danielle, Chris, and Tory,

Thank you for your answers! I think I’ll just need to double check with the specific airlines when the time comes to apply for tuition reimbursement.

(Walker Haken) #14

Trying to figure out the same thing. I have a wife and three young kids I have to provide for. Weighing whether or not to save the money I have so that it’s money to help live off of till I start making enough to sustain us or to use that money to pay for some of the costs to go to atp so I have a smaller loan.

(Sergey Kireyev) #15

Being able to sustain a family of five on one income is tough on MOST single incomes. I cashed in all of my savings for retirement in order to be able to make it work and it may last me until I get to the airlines. Only you can determine what you can or cannot make happen within your personal family budget. My location is very busy and CFIs make a decent living wage if they are motivated to work hard. That being said it means Monday through Saturday work schedules with long hours at the training center flying, conducting grounds, helping their and other CFIs’ students, etc. Like 60-70 hours a week… Can you do it? Depends on you, the location needs, and your family’s ability to adjust.

While I was in a similar situation and understand your anxiety over making ends meet, every single answer to this topic is a WAG. By the time most of the people asking get to being hired as a CFI, the situation with location workload etc. will change again. So, best you can do (if this is all you’ve ever wanted to do in life) is to prepare for contingencies and jump in. No plan survives first contact with the enemy anyway!




First I appreciate the need/desire to keep your loan and debt as low as possible particularly when there’s family involved. That said aviation has one unique aspect which must be considered. Airline pilots have a very finite and definite shelf life. You MUST retire by age 65 period. That and ALL airlines salaries top out at year 12. What that means is every year you delay is a year you won’t be earning the top salaries which are over $300K. Not to mention years of a lessor quality of life and money that won’t be going into your 401K. Obviously you have to do what’s best for you and your family but if you can start sooner you should.


(Walker Haken) #17

Thanks for responses. I’m like 80% sure I’m gonna dive in and do it. Cramming numbers down trying to figure out which option is best. Narrowed down to start Summer 19 with a loan for the full amount or start summer 20 where I can pay for 1/2 to 3/4 out of pocket.

I’ve read many posts about delaying is just postponing seniority and I know the money will be great after a couple years just trying to make sure I can get my family to that point haha.

Appreciate your replies a lot. This forum is amazing and so cool that you guys are here to help everyone.

(Rodney Phillips) #18


Same boat here. Wife and 2 kids under 10. I’m weighing whether I can struggle through my brain-splattering office job another year and save about half the tuition or jump in this spring and finance it. I’ve looked at the financing numbers and I’m not a big fan of terms that WF and SM are offering when student loans at universities are paid out much cheaper. I’m assuming bc it’s aviation related?

I have a few other hiccups that are holding me back for now, so hoping to get some good answers on those soon.


College loans sometimes have lower interest rates because they get are federally subsidized. The loans from Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo are not subsidized.