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The Cost Of Learning To Fly And The Private Pilot License

Nov 20, 2007
Since I started flying, I noticed that flight schools were not completely straight forward with the students. I was also a victim. Since that time I have grown into a Career Flight Instructor and we even a flight school owner. I owned and operated 5 airplanes and have had many flight instructors working for me.

One thing I always tried to do was be straight forward with students, telling them exactly what they were going to spend. Also to make sure they understand if they don't stick with their training, the more it is going to cost.

The first thing you want to make sure you do is commit to getting your private pilot license. Many people will start learning to fly and then run out of money because a flight school wasn't quite truthful about what it was going to cost. Another scenario is the student will let everything get in their way when learning to fly. In short many people won't get their license because they don't plan.

The first thing you want to do is plan. Would you just start building a new house without a plan? Probably not. So why do so many people just start taking flying lesson without a budget or plan?.

So I will familiarize you with some terminology that you will need to know and start you going thru this entire process.
When you start looking around you will find a few things that are in the cost estimates of all the flight schools.

Dual Instruction: This is also known as flight instruction received. This is the time you are up in the airplane with your flight instructor. In the case of dual instruction the cost will include both the airplane and instructor.

Solo Time/Aircraft Rental: This is the time you will be renting the aircraft that is charged on a per hour basis like the dual instruction:

Flight Instructor: This is the charge per hour for the flight instructor.

There are some different ways that a flight school will word their cost estimates.

One school may have DUAL INSTRUCTION in an estimate and another school may have Aircraft Rental and Flight Instructor.

I will give you some sample prices below:

Flight Instructor Rate: $50.00 Per Hour
Aircraft Rental Rate: $96.00 Per Hour

Examples of a brief cost estimate from a flight school may look like this:

A: 40 Hours Aircraft Rental $3,840.00
B: 20 Hours Certified Flight Instructor. $1,000.00
Total $4,840.00

Another Flight School May have a cost estimate that looks like this:

20 Hours Dual Flight Instruction $2,920.00
20 Hours of Solo Flight $1,920.00
Total $4,840.00

In a lot of cases this will be it. Some schools do try and make this a little more realistic. But in general they all will stay very competitive. Since flying is very expensive they like to keep their cost estimates as low as possible to get the students.

You have to remember this is just pure business. So you may want to call it a scam or you may not want to call it that. I call it just telling the customer what they want to hear.

Now the FAA only requires 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo for the private pilot license but there is still a minimum of 40 so you have to get them somewhere. I just put them under the solo hours.

Most of the schools will be honest about it if you start asking the right questions. You have to remember that there is a lot of competition in this industry and there aren't enough students to keep every flight schools planes flying 100 hours per month. Bottom line is they need to keep the planes flying or they go out of business.

You will want to remember that the national average for private pilots is 65 hours. Most private pilot syllabuses are between 45 and 55 hours. There are to many things that need to get covered. If you want to be a safe pilot you should plan on over 30 hours of dual instruction.

With that said, you have just added another $2000 on to the above cost estimate. Remember this will also depend on the aircraft rental rates and the flight instructor rates. So you are already somewhere around $6,800 and you haven't included any books, materials, medical expenses, flight test fees and any other costs you may have.

The first thing you want to do before you start learning to fly is PLAN. I tell all of my students to plan on at least $7,500. You may want to add a little to that estimate since people learn at different speeds.

Once you start, don't let anything get in your way. This is the best way to keep the cost down for a private pilot license.

You have to remember that learning to fly is not like driving. You will need to be proficient in all the maneuvers and be a safe confident pilot. The quicker you can get it done, the better.
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