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Commercial Pilot Fast Facts

Pilot Training Cost - How Much?

The first thing a lot of people want to know is "how much does pilot training cost?". The simple answer is... it depends. Let's take a look at some of the various types of training available and list an estimated price range for each in the United States:

  • Sport Pilot License - $3,000 to $5,000
  • Private Pilot License - $6,500 to $12,000
  • Private + Commercial License - $10,000 to $16,000
  • Private + Instrument + Commercial - $18,000 to $24,000
  • Private + Instrument + Commercial + ATP - $30,000+

The prices listed above are estimates for training in single-engine aircraft and assume you can complete school in a reasonable amount of time. If you stop and start your training, expect to pay much more. You may be able to earn your licenses and ratings for less by using independently certified flight instructors (CFIs). And conversely, you may pay a little more at the larger flight academies. Costs will vary greatly depending on where you go to school, from state to state, and from country to country. The best thing to do is to contact schools to get more info about costs.

Additional Cost Resources:

  • What is the overall cost for pilot training all the way to ATP?
  • Learn to fly cost calculator

Types of Schools

Choosing the right school is critical. All schools are not the same. Most large flight academies specialize in "ab initio" or "from the beginning" training for people who want to become commercial, airline, or corporate pilots. On the other hand, local flight schools train for a wide variety of missions, including people who just want to fly for fun.

Here's a quick breakdown of pilot schools and their specialties:

Certified Flight Instructor

Independent flight instructors are usually found at your local airport. They normally provide both ground and flight instruction on an hourly basis. Most independent CFIs do not own airplanes, opting instead to fly planes their students rent from a local fixed-base operator (FBO) found at nearly all airports.

Recommended for people who want to learn to fly as a hobby or for personal business use.

Advantages: Advantages to using independent flight instructors include flexible scheduling, potentially lower costs, one-on-one training, and local knowledge.

Disadvantages: Could include limited access to aircraft and training facilities, potential downtime for aircraft maintenance issues, and possibly having to find new instructors to teach advanced ratings and licenses.

Local Flight School

Local flight schools typically offer at least Sport or Private Pilot programs, and some can train all the way to ATP. Local schools may have a few aircraft available for training and rental, and most have facilities for ground training such as classrooms, flight planning rooms, and even small flight simulators.

Recommended for people who want to fly for fun, or as a profession.

Advantages: Advantages of using a local flight school could include access to a variety of aircraft, training close to home, lower costs than some flight academies, and access to training facilities.

Disadvantages: This could include limited training for advanced ratings and possible downtime of small fleets due to maintenance issues.

Large Flight Academy or University

Flight academies and college/university flight training programs have a lot going for them. If your goal is to fly professionally, this type of training may be the best option. But if you're only in the market to learn to fly as a hobby, some academies may not be able to accommodate your needs. It's best to contact each school to find out.

Recommended for people who want to fly for a career.

Advantages: Advantages to attending a flight academy/university program include state of the art aircraft fleets with glass cockpits, flight crew training environment, industry-standard flight simulator training, potential employment as a CFI after graduation, access to job interviews with affiliated companies, and minimal downtime due to maintenance issues.

Disadvantages: This could include higher overall costs, the possible need to relocate to attend an academy, less flexibility on time and scheduling, the training not as personalized.
No matter what type of flying you intend to do, it's important to talk to as many schools as possible to find out which one fits your learning style, personality, and ultimate aviation goals best.