The cost and length of your training will
involve several factors so the discussion below will begin with discussing
what traits you need to bring to the table and other factors that can help
minimize the time and cost of obtaining your Private Pilot License.
How fast do you learn?
Two types of learning need to
be addressed, since they are directly related to how much you will need to accomplish your goal of becoming a pilot. These two
types can be described as that of academic or 'book' learning and physical or 'eye-hand
The type of academic or 'book' learning that
you will do will include studying for the FAA's written test and some other
memorization items. You will also be learning to do some simple calculations
for your cross-country phase as well as weight and balance calculations to
make sure you and your passengers and cargo aren't too heavy. All of
the math you will be doing will be very basic, thought so don't be too
worried, it's not rocket science!
In terms of 'book' learning, ask yourself
some questions. Are you an attentive student? Do you have a good memory?
How are your analytical, logic skills? Don't worry if you are or were
a 'C' student, the wonderful thing about flight training is that you can
learn at your own pace, and there is only a pass-fail test for each rating
(license, we'll discuss terms a little later) which can be retaken at any
time. The FAA doesn't punish you if you're a slow learner, or don't
take tests well, you can still become a pilot, it'll just take a little
longer that's all.
There is a great deal of studying involved in
pilot training, so just keep your abilities in mind, and take this as an
opportunity to improve your study skills along the way.
Flying is a also very much a physical skill,
like driving a car, riding a bicycle, or any sport. You must be able
to react quickly to things as they happen in a dynamic environment.
Think back to when you first learned to ride a bicycle, you probably didn't
know what would happen if you tried to turn a corner really fast, or didn't
lean into a turn but you soon picked it up through trial and error. Therefore, the more
experience you've had with sports and other eye-hand coordination activities
like riding a bike
or driving a car, the more quickly you will be able to pick up piloting.
Skills like these will transfer nicely to flight training. Conversely, if you don't
have as much experience, your training may take a little more time as well.
The Costs - Airplane
The two most important things that will cost
you money are your airplane rental, and your instructor. Each time you
have a lesson, you will be renting an airplane to fly, and hiring an
instructor to teach you. You have other costs like study materials and
supplies, but since the cost of your instructor and airplane are the
highest, these other costs shouldn't amount to much more than those of a
lesson or two.
As a rough rule of thumb, the airplane is
going to cost you 3 to 4 times what your instructor charges you. Since
this is the biggest expense item, let's discuss airplane types and rental rates. Where you live and the
airport where you will be training will depend on what you will pay for your
airplane. The type of
airplane you rent will also have a bearing on your costs as well. The
most common trainer airplane in the U.S. is the Cessna 172, but Cessna made
some smaller versions called the Cessna 150 and 152 that are usually cheaper
Cessna 150/152's rent from as low as $50 an
hour and up, and Cessna 172's depending on the year (since they make brand
new ones) can rent from $75 to over $120 per hour.
- Instruction and Time requirements
Flight instructors usually charge between $15
and $40 per hour, again that will depend on where you live, but can also be
quite different between different schools and instructors on the same
airfield. At the airport where I did my initial training, the
instructor rates currently vary from $20 - $35 and hour. We'll talk
about shopping for instruction on the next page, but first we're going to
talk about the types of instruction you can receive.
The Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA)
is our governing body and has requirements that must be met in order to
qualify for your Practical Test, which is basically your final exam,
comparable to the test you take for your driver's license. When you pass
this, you're officially a pilot!
There are two different ways you can train to
become a pilot. They are, either learning directly from an instructor,
or attending an FAA approved Flight School. All flight training requirements
are defined by the FAA's regulations Part 61
and 'FAA approved Flight Schools' also follow Part 61 but additionally
follow the requirements of Part 141. So, if you hear the terms Part 61
or 141, they are really talking about the way the training is conducted.
When somebody says 'Part 61' they are essentially saying that instructor is
more of a self-employed person who doesn't want to jump through all the
hoops to become a full blown 'school' in the eyes of the FAA.
When they say 'Part 141' they are talking about a school that follows all of
the FAA's rules for becoming a school (and a bunch of other requirements)
and is therefore 'FAA approved'.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of a Part 141 school is that it must have a building, office,
or whatever to perform training and you will know that their flight training
curriculum is approved by the FAA. You will have more of an 'I'm at school'
feeling at a 141 school - you may even be required to wear a uniform.
Additionally, since the FAA has approved the syllabus of the school, the
minimum training time required by them is only 35 hours. The disadvantages
are that Part 141 schools must teach each student the same way in the same
order with the same
curriculum - there is no real personalization. Part 141 schools will also cost
more than training under Part 61.
The advantage of learning under Part 61 is
that you can better control how your dollars are spent and how you learn.
It's a more laid back environment where nothing stands between you and your
instructor. Your instructor can develop a training curriculum based
around who you are and how you learn. And because there isn't as much
overhead and FAA hoop jumping, learning from an individual instructor will
be less expensive. The disadvantage to learning under Part 61 is that
the minimum requirement for training is bumped up to 40 hours.
It really boils down to personal preference,
whether you want more structure, or more flexibility. It
doesn't really matter - you'll still get the same training either way.
Costs - Bottom Line
Here's the bottom line - you should expect to
pay anywhere from $75-$160 per hour for flight instruction and airplane,
that's a pretty big difference, but again it will depend on where you live
(or where you are willing to relocate for awhile). Now that you have
an idea of an hourly rate, you need to know how many hours of instruction
you will really need.
So, you might be asking, does everybody complete their
training in 35 or 40 hours? Not hardly. According to the FAA,
the national average to obtain a Private Pilot certificate is between 60-75
hours. So, as you're playing with your calculator, don't factor your
training at the 'minimums' of 35 or 40 hours, start with at least 60-75, so
you won't have any surprises later (or worse, not be able to finish at all).
Keep in mind that if the national
average is 60-75 hours, how would you honestly rate yourself as a student?
Are you above average, average or a little below? Give yourself a fair
and honest assessment and then adjust the estimated time you might expect to need for
Another big factor in figuring costs is how
often you will take your lessons. If you are planning on flying 2 or
more times a week, you will finish faster, become more immersed in your
training and have less time to forget things. If you can only train 1
day a week, or every two weeks, you will have to plan on spending much more
money for your license, since you will be spending more time reviewing the
previous lesson and possibly relearning altogether. Since flying is a
dynamic skill, your body needs to learn and remember how to handle an
airplane and cannot do that effectively if it hasn't been in one for 2
So, for example:
$78.00 / hr
$30.00 / hr
Total Hourly Lesson Rate
$108.00 / hr
I'm a little below average as a student
I'll estimate it will take
me about 75 hours
$108 x 75
Don't forget, this is only an example and
it's kind of on the high-end time wise. Your costs can vary greatly from place to place.
Just be honest with yourself about your abilities, then plug in the numbers
that you get from the training facilities at your airport.
Keep reading to learn how to find flight
schools, and instructors in your area.
Finding training in your area -
I hope this has been helpful for you, please
drop me an
e-mail and let me know what you think, or if you have any questions.
Some more links:
Federal Aviation Administration - Information
about types of flight schools