November 13, 2005
How much does learning to fly cost?
One of the questions I get most from prospective pilots is "What is the cost of learning to fly and earning a private pilots license?" That is a tough question to answer because there are so many variables that determine the final cost: frequency of lessons, amount of studying between lessons, aptitude, plane rental, and cost of instructor. Estimates for costs of learning to fly range from $4,500 to $10,000. BeAPilot.com estimates the cost to be between $4,500 to $6,000 and Private Pilot Magazine quotes the national average as between $5,000 and $8,000.
A podcast that I have been enjoying recently is Jason Miller's The Finer Points - An Aviation Podcast. Jason is a Certified Flight Instructor and in his most recent episode "Dollars and Cents" he shares his insights for the cost of earning a pilots license. He suggests budgeting between $7,000 and $10,000. He points out that a pilot can take his or her flight test with just 40 hours of flight time and 20 hours of instruction but that in his 10 years of flying he has only met one pilot that earned their license while their total flight time was still in the 40s. One suggestion he makes is that to save money, a student should schedule at least two flights a week and study for three hours between flights.
I completely agree with Jason's advice. I was able to earn my license after 47.2 hours of flight time and spending $4,536.74. Both of those numbers are below the averages quoted by the several sources above. I believe the main reasons I was able to earn the license so efficiently is because I made a point of flying 2-3 times per week and dedicating several hours between each flight studying and preparing for the next flight.
Though, one should not pass on learning to fly if they cannot dedicate the time or money to fly 2-3 per week but should realize it may end up taking more flight hours and instructor time because they may forget some of what they learned between lessons. Therefore their overall costs may be higher in the end if training is more spread out. If you can stick to a plan that involves frequent flights and studying I think a license can be earned for less than $7,500.