One large problem facing the helicopter training industry is a lack of funding for students. When the credit crisis hit several years ago, lenders such as Sallie Mae and Key Bank stopped making educational loans for non-degreed programs like flight training. Although this affected both fixed-wing and rotor-wing schools, the higher cost of a professional helicopter program (about $80,000) caused quite a drop in student enrollment.
There are a few options available, such as Pilot Finance, Inc. (www.pilotfinance.com); however, its loans are limited to about $15,000. Personal loans, home equity loans, and credit cards are options, yet with tougher credit requirements and the high cost of a professional helicopter pilot program these most likely would not provide enough funding.
Prospective students who served in the US military have somewhat better options. The Montgomery GI bill pays 60 percent of the training cost for ratings above private. However, this still leaves an out-of-pocket cost of over $40,000 for a professional helicopter pilot program. Prior to this year the Post 9/11 GI bill would pay 100 percent if the training was taken through an institute of higher learning (a degree granting institution) and as a result several flight schools partnered with local colleges to qualify. This was a costly and time-consuming process. The flight training industry regained some optimism when a bill was introduced last year to directly include flight schools in the program. However, the optimism was short lived when the bill recently passed with a $10,000 per year cap on flight training.
With entry level helicopter pilot jobs hard to find some might argue that training more pilots is really not needed. Maybe in the short term, but five or 10 years from now there could be a shortage of helicopter pilots.