The Cost of Flight Training
There is no simple answer to the question, “What is the cost of flight training?” The cost of flight training will vary greatly upon the student and their ability to train frequently. Knowing how to make the most efficient use of your time and money while going through flight training can substantially lower the overall cost of flight training.
We have solicited the advice of over 4000 pilots, student pilots, and aviation enthusiasts on ways to reduce the cost of flight training. Below is the result of all of their input. As you review this list, please contact us with any further ideas. We will continue to add to this list whenever we get further suggestions that we feel will help the general aviation community as a whole. Together, we can continue to build the general aviation community by helping to reduce the cost of flight training.
Here are some great ways to reduce the cost of flight training:
1. At least half the cost of flight training is the airplane rental, so it only makes sense that you should focus your money saving efforts on the airplane. Generally speaking, aircraft with traditional analogue gauges will be less expensive than those with newer “glass cockpits”. If saving money is a priority, learn to fly with analogue gauges, and then make the easy transition to glass after you’ve earned your pilot’s license. To help with the transition and overall cost of flight training, American Flight Schools provides free glass cockpit classes and low-cost simulators. When doing research on where to do your training, be aware that there are other flight schools and instructors out there that might try to push you to train in higher cost aircraft. If you are on a budget, take control and don’t allow yourself to be pushed into a more expensive aircraft without good reason. It is your money and your decision.
2. Find a compatible instructor. An ideal instructor loves to teach, and the right one for you will teach each lesson in a manner that you best learn. Finding an instructor with compatible scheduling availability is also very important. Take the time to interview prospective instructors and if you don’t feel comfortable after a lesson or two, find another instructor that better suits you. It is your money and your time. If you are being taught in a manner that doesn’t work for you, it will cost you more time and consequently, money.
3. STUDY! It is amazing how much you can reduce the cost of flight training if you study and show up to each lesson prepared. Study the suggested material and go over the maneuvers that you will be accomplishing in your head prior to arrival at the airport.
4. Fly frequently. In an ideal world, you would fly, at a minimum, 2 to 3 times per week throughout your flight training. Realizing that none of us live in an ideal world, you should try your best to fly as often as possible… at least once per week.
5. Take advantage of simulators… both loggable Basic Aviation Training Devices (BATDs) and desktop simulators. It is true that while these devises do not react exactly like a real aircraft, they are great for teaching systems, techniques, emergencies, and instrument procedures. Practicing in a simulator can help you retain what you learned during your previous lesson. The use of simulators could realistically reduce your overall time and cost of flight training by 10 to 15%.
6. Apply for scholarships. Yes, there are scholarships available, and commonly they go unused. Research scholarships and apply for any and all that you are qualified for. AOPA is a great starting point to see just how many and varied these scholarships can be.
7. Join a flying club or flight school that has a strong social community. It’s one of the best places to get to know other private pilots, and networking with other pilots means opportunities to find people to study with.
8. Find a mentor that has already obtained their certificate; look for one at your flight school or flying club. Find one that is not necessarily a CFI but a pilot that is doing what you want to do in aviation and has the ratings and certificates that you aspire to obtain. Mentors are invaluable, and their experience and guidance will help you greatly.
9. Work as an intern doing aircraft cleaning, font desk dispatch, etc. Though internships are typically non-paid positions, there is a lot to be learned by being immersed in the flight training environment, and there could even be some opportunities to log some free flight time.
10. Speak with your employer about education benefits. Many companies reimburse employees for any training they undertake. Speak with your HR department and see if flight training is eligible under their program.
11. Come up with a plan. Sit down with your instructor and develop a training plan tailored exactly to your needs and learning abilities. Set goals on your calendar and stick with them. Review about once per month. This will help you keep on target and assess your progress.
12. Use “recycled” training materials. Purchasing used books and materials will save a lot of money over purchasing new ones. Some schools have a swap area, so use it. Great deals can also be found on craigslist or eBay, however, use caution when doing so. Make certain you are buying a current issue of the book, as FAA rules and regulations change regularly. Outdated materials could be teaching you outdated regulations.
13. Purchase your own aircraft. If you are committed to learning to fly, it can make sense to purchase your own aircraft to fly in. You may be able to come to an arrangement with your school to lease back the aircraft to them when you are not using it. Investing $30-$100k in a flight training aircraft at a busy school will put 40-60 hours per month on your aircraft. The income generated should totally offset the cost of your training. When you are finished, you will still own the aircraft. Additionally, the tax incentives for purchasing an aircraft have rarely been more advantageous then they have been over the past decade. Read more about aircraft leaseback>
14. Join AOPA for free as a student pilot, active military member, or AV8RS Youth (anyone between the ages of 13 to 18 is free). The free trial includes: Six issues of AOPA’s flight TRAINING magazine – digital or print edition, Exclusive Flight Training Helpline with Veteran CFIs for one-on-one answers, and personal training support. Additionally you get flight planning tools, training and safety information, education resources such as flight schools, instructors, and aviation colleges, and AOPA’s award-winning training videos. If used properly, these free resources should reduce your overall cost learning to become a private pilot. Once you join AOPA, remain a member and take advantage of all their other free services.
15. Ride along programs. Obtain permission from other students and CFI’s to sit in the back seat and learn by observing. Listen to the lesson and interaction between the student and CFI and observe and learn without the stress and responsibility of controlling the aircraft.
The Bottom Line
Keep the cost of flight training to a minimum by being an advocate for yourself. Find a great instructor; fly frequently, use a low cost aircraft with traditional gauges, and take advantage of simulators. Follow these tips and you will certainly be able to decrease the cost of flight training.
At American Flight Schools, you’ll start your flight training seeking a private pilot certificate. Earning a private pilot certificate will require a minimum of 40 hours of training, and will allow you the authority to fly a wider variety and size of aircraft, and also permit you to fly at night. Using the methods listed above; here is an overview of the minimum costs involved in learning to fly. The minimum cost shown below is based upon our lowest cost aircraft in the fleet as of May 1, 2022. Additionally, we based the minimum cost upon the minimum hours required by the FAA (40 hours). Please keep in mind that it is very rare for an individual to complete their private pilot training in 40 hours.
The second example is based upon our New Cessna 172’s and what we understand is the national average for hours to complete the private pilot rating (65 hours). A typical student should see their cost come in somewhere between these two examples.
|Minimum Cost||Premium Cost|
|Aircraft Rental (Cessna 152 $109/hour or Glass Cockpit $189/hr)||40||$4,360||65||$12,285|
|Flight Instructor ($55/hour)||45||$2,475||85||$4,675|
|Ground School **||$300||$300|
|FAA Knowledge Exam||$175*||$175*|
|FAA Class 3 Medical Exam||$120*||$120*|
|Airplane Rental for Check-ride||1.5||$156||1.5||$284|
|FAA examiner costs vary by location and by examiner|
* These prices are just an estimate. Actual costs will vary on an depending on the student’s learning style, proficiency, and preparation. Aircraft and Instructor rates may also vary by location. FAA Examiner costs vary by location, your examiner will give you their cost when contacted for your exam.
Additional material recommended but not required:
- Ground School Materials***: $199
- Ground School***: $300
- Miscellaneous Training Items: $500 (Ipad Mini, Foreflight Subscription ect.)
*Prices are based on the minimums and are subject to change. Costs are highly variable depending on the student’s level of commitment and proficiency.
**Club Dues are billed automatically at $45 per month. Group Renter’s Pool is required annually.
***The ground school and materials are optional but highly encouraged. Those serious about learning to fly will need some type of course materials and to learn the ground knowledge, whether it is in a classroom setting or not.