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  • Rachel Miller

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Pilot? Private, Instrument, Commercial, CFI

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Pilot?

One of the biggest reasons that excited, wide-eyed potential pilots don’t follow their passion is the price of flying. A common misconception is that learning to fly is simply too expensive for the average person, when in fact it is less expensive than law school, medical school, and 4 year undergrad tuitions. And yet… profession pilot careers are within the top 16 of highest paying jobs according to Business Insider. Plus, you're all but guaranteed a return on investment if you decide to become a professional pilot.

Flight training prices will vary for several reasons. First, training is performance based. For example, let's say that landing the plane doesn't come easily to a particular student. That student might have to spend a few extra lessons practicing landing in the traffic pattern, whereas another student might not have to pay for that extra time. The price can also vary depending on the type of aircraft you are training in. For example, flight training in a Cirrus might cost $280 per hour while training training in a Cessna152 might cost $150 an hour.

Here are the estimated costs, but keep in mind that you may not need all of these licenses depending on your goals.

Private $13,000

Instrument $10,000

Commercial $30,000

Flight instructor $5,000

These prices include ground and flight instruction, written exam fees, fuel, plane rental, and solo time. For example, the commercial license is more expensive than the others because it includes all of the solo or shared time-building required by the FAA.

Student Pilot License Cost

Free! Your instructor will help you register as a student pilot through IACRA, a website you’ll update every time you are ready to earn a new license.

As you prepare to get your private pilots license AKA your ticket to leisurely fly with passengers, you’ll need a medical certificate. This is a physical done by an FAA medical examiner (find yours at the bottom of this page) in which your eyesight and physical ability to handle an aircraft will be assessed to receive a medical certificate. This costs between $75 to $250.

Book a Discovery Flight to fly in the Pilot in Command seat for the first time!

Private Pilot License Cost

The private pilot license (PPL) allows you to fly aircraft for fun and/or continue training for further licenses. This is your ticket to fly your friends or family for that “$500 cheeseburger.” You can fly to various airports in your owned or rented aircraft and utilize your private pilot skills as you explore and travel.

To meet the FAA requirements and become a safe pilot, you’ll need 40 hours of flight time. However, most pilots require more than 40 hours to feel comfortable and maintain consistent safety in the plane.

You'll also need to pass a written exam (approx. $150) before your checkride (approx. $600). Your written exam test prep will be a life saver because it gives you almost word for word exam questions you may be tested on. Dauntless Written Test Prep regularly updates their test question bank and gives you lifetime access.

If you are here because you want to get paid for flying, keep reading because you’ll need to earn your commercial license to do so.

Instrument License Cost

The instrument license is required if you have professional aviation goals. If you are flying recreationally, you may want to consider getting it anyway as it increases safety and ability to fly in less-than-visible-conditions.

We estimate this cost to be $10,000 because there is a great array of topics to understand in order to fly in clouds and hazy IFR conditions. Your PPL skills will improve tenfold as you learn to scan the instruments and follow precise instructions.

Commercial Pilot License Cost

If you love your occupation, everyday can feel like a vacation. Imagine your office view is the scenic sky on a calm, smooth-air day.

In order to get paid for flying, you’ll need your commercial license. This shows future employers and the FAA, “hey, I have the advanced skills, knowledge, flight time, and responsibility to earn a paycheck from the air!”

You’ll need 250 hours or 190 hours depending on whether you’re training under Part 61 or Part 141. Depending on how many hours you need, the estimated cost of your commercial is $25,000 to $30,000 because of the time-building required. For example, at this point you might have 60 hours from your PPL and 50 from your Instrument rating, so you may only need (250-110=) 140 hours left to time-build.

Flight Instructor Certificate Cost

Becoming a flight instructor allows you to earn money while perfecting your piloting skills. You will gain incredible experience as you teach and remind yourself of maneuvers, requirements, and other aviation material.

This is a common path for pilots to quickly earn hours to become an airline pilot (starting at 1,500 hours) or other low hour job (starting at 500 hours).

At our school, we estimate your CFI costing $5,000, and your CFII an additional $5,000. These numbers fluctuate depending on how quickly you grasp the new information and how diligently you prepare/study at home.

Minimize Flight Training Cost

We've all googled this once in our lives, haven't we? You can minimize your flight training cost by studying at home, believe it or not. Since flight training is performance based, you can lessen the amount of time you need your instructor to review new or redundant information if you already have an understanding from your own studying. You won't need to pay for an extra hour of instruction to review the METAR, if you've already studied it.

Learn before you get in the plane. "The plane is a terrible classroom" - every instructor I've ever known. It can be difficult to learn the pre-landing checklist acronym in the plane if you're concentrating on manipulating the controls, scanning the instruments, watching for traffic, checking the weather, and trying to squeeze in your tail number and request to ATC in between the many calls from other aircraft. There's a lot going on! If you have already memorized the acronym and practiced chair flying, you will be mentally able to focus on what's going on in the plane.

What happens if the cost of getting started is too much? Don’t worry, you don’t always need to fork up $13,000 right away unless you want to complete your PPL in just 1 month (very possible!). Many flight schools offer payment plans that enable you to finance your training over the course of several months. Some flight schools allow you to pay per hour, so you'll get billed only $250-ish after every flight (this might be the best option if you're only flying once per week or month).

​You can also obtain a personal loan for your flight training, either through your own bank, or through a bank that specializes in flight training loans. Several options include:

There are also hundreds of thousands of dollars given away every year in flight training scholarships. AOPA, EAA, and WAI are among organizations that offer the most scholarships, but new scholarships pop up all the time – so search frequently, and apply often.

Tips on how to save $ on flight training

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