“So how much would flight school set me back?” I get asked that a lot, even by people that truly have no intention of becoming a pilot. Flying the friendly skies is one of those dreams that plenty of people entertain, but it all comes back down to the logistics and cold hard cash. Here I’ve compiled, to the best of my ability, current costs associated with obtaining a private pilot certificate.
The Physical Checkup
If you’re going for anything but a sport pilot certificate, you’ll have to go in for a physical checkup. You’ll be checked on by an FAA-designated doctor to see if your vision, color perception, and hearing are up to par. They’ll also check out which medications you’re currently prescribed to see if anything you’re taking will make you a potential risk while flying. Prices are going to vary wherever you go and can cost up to $115 or higher.
The next thing you’ll be on the lookout for are your instructor fees, which is essentially equivalent to tuition fees. When you’re shopping around for instructors, don’t automatically seek out whoever’s going for the lowest dollar sign. Look for an instructor that you vibe with and that seems like they’ll teach to your learning style. Also be on the lookout for somebody with a considerable amount of training hours under his/her belt—that way you know that they really do like teaching and are good at it. Instructors are going to cost you hourly and will end up billing you between $3000 and $5000 when it’s all said and done, depending on the school. Get your money’s worth.
The aircraft that you learn in will generally be charged as a rental. Older aircrafts will sometimes cost less and be a little more difficult to learn in, though newer, lighter, sport aircraft are usually more fuel-efficient—meaning they could cost less. Research which of these craft you’re going to want to fly in. The Cessna 172 and the Piper Cherokee have long been popular choices for pilots learning to fly. Expect to spend anywhere between $135 and $155 per hour in one of these, or right around $9500 for 65 training hours.
As far as supplies go, many flight schools offer a kit that will come with everything you need: a pilot’s operating hand book, a log book, a fuel tester, and sometimes a loaner headset too. Prices will vary, but an average price on those could end up running you right around $400. If you’re serious about flying (and I would assume you are if you’re going through flight school!) you might look into investing in your own aviation headset. Otherwise you might be looking at a couple of additional books, and perhaps an emergency kit if you’re flying in remote rural areas. My recommendation would be to set aside between $500 and $1000 depending on how fancy you’re looking to get.
CATS and FAA Check Ride
The last thing that really stands in your way after completing all of your flying time is going to be taking the written private pilot test. Either your flight school or a testing center run by CATS or LaserGrade will generally administer these, and charge right around $150 for them. Additionally, you’ll be required to take the FAA Check Ride, a.k.a. the “practical test”. The practical test consists of a one hour oral test and about two hours of flying—the good news here is that if you do this with an FAA employee it’s free. Otherwise look at forking over between $400 and $500 to a school designated examiner.
The final price that you’ll generally hear quoted is going to be anywhere between $8000 and $13000 depending on who you go through and what prices will and will not be associated with these costs. It’s hard to tack on a final and universal price, because it’s going to change depending on where you go—I’ve seen prices as high up as $18000 for the whole shebang.
Always be seeking out deals, but remember never to skimp on your education. It won’t be worth it to pay a ton of money for a certificate and still not know how to fly a plane properly.