How much does flight school cost? Like anything more significant than buying groceries, pilot training has a certain level of associated costs. If you're in the process of finding a flight school or even if you've already started pilot training, you may find yourself wondering, "How much is too much?" The good news is that pilot training costs consist of a few basic building blocks; the bad news is the costs can fluctuate for a variety of reasons.
Average Costs In The USA For Various Types Of Flight School Training
Sport Pilot License = $3k - $5k Private Pilot License = $6.5k - $12k Private, Commercial = $10k - $16k Private, Instrument, Commercial = $18k - $24k Private, Instrument, Commercial, ATP = $30k+
Depending on the pilot training course, the FAA requires a minimum of 35 or 40 hours before you can qualify for a Private Pilot Certificate. Most students actually take longer, averaging about 60 hours of training. While this is certainly an important item to consider, there are plenty of other items that are often overlooked. Exam fees, both written and check ride, books, and other materials are an important part of flight school costs. Exam fees can range from anywhere from $100 to $400 or more depending on the examiner. Books and other materials--like a flight computer, log book, and navigation plotter--are less costly, but combined can add up to around $100 or more.
Now, let's jump to what is typically the largest cost: the aircraft. There are many ways to get an airplane for training, for example buying or borrowing, but most people rent a plane. There are a myriad of ways to pay for the plane rental, but to keep things simple, we'll assume you are paying for each flight hour rather than a flat rate. If, like many, you need 60 hours to complete your training and you rent a typical training aircraft for about $120 an hour, this can push aircraft costs to around $7,000. You may find your training goes quicker or rental aircraft cost more (or less) so this number can vary greatly but $7,000 is a decent average.
Instructor costs, for better or worse, typically split the difference between the other two. The catch is that since your instructor isn't always in the plane with you, you don't always have to pay for an instructor. After the first 15 or 20 hours, you'll have a lot of solo lessons. This means that, on the average 60 hour training course, a $40 an hour instructor may only cost you about $1,000.
In sum a thoroughly average pilot training course for a private pilot certificate totals about $8,500 in the USA (2013 prices). This may sound like a lot, but there are plenty of ways to make pilot training costs have less of an impact. Furthermore, you may find that there are much cheaper aircraft for rent at your local airport or that a school nearby offers flat-rate package deals. In any case, it is always nice to know when you're getting a deal and when you're paying too much.