Hello fellow Flyers!
I just got back from a flight with my instrument student and I wanted to share with you a topic that came up right before the flight. The weather was kind of dicey with broken clouds and the surface temperature 10deg C above freezing. Rob (my student) debated whether to cancel the flight or take a risk in spending money on a flight in which we migh have to turn right back if we started to pick up any ice.
We ended up going for about an hour long flight, popping in and out of clouds. He learned some good lessons , but it started me thinking:
With the soaring costs of flying today, how can you plan your budget if you decide you want to become a pilot?
The short answer is: It depends.
Do you just want to get your private pilot certificate OR do you want to eventually have a career as a pilot?
If you want to become a pilot for recreational purposes, you can get your pilot’s license for anywhere from $4,000 – $10,000. This figure varies, but it mostly depends on you. Some people take 2-3 months, others take 2-3 years. Obviously the longer you take, the more it’s going to cost.
If you want a career as a pilot, however, you’re going to need to spend a tad more than that. I’m talking between $40,000 – $200,000. That’s almost a quarter of a million dollars to become a professional pilot!
“Why such a huge range”, you ask?
1. Initial Cost of Flight training (~ $30K – $80K): The very, very minimum you need in order to be allowed to get paid to fly is about 250hrs of flight time. Even if you use an average cost of $120/hr, that amounts to $30,000! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because with only 250 hours, no one is going to hire you as a pilot. Would you hire a pilot with only 250 hours of flight time to fly your loved ones around? I didn’t think so.
2. Need of a College Degree (~$20K – $80K): In today’s competative industries, no one hires without a college degree. I know of great pilot with thousands of hours of flight time, including time in Boeing 737′s, that is working as a non-pilot because no one will hire him without a college degree.
3. Time-building Phase of a pilot’s career ($0 – $50K): No one will hire you with only 250hrs of flight time, which is what you end up with after getting all your certificates that allow you to work as a pilot. To get those coveted pilot jobs (airline pilot, corporate pilot, cargo pilot), you will need THOUSANDS of hours of flight time. While you don’t have to pay for these hours if you work at entry-level pilot jobs, you will be making very close to minimum wage while you build up your flight time. These 2-10 years can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars since you will probably be taking out debt (credit cards, loans, etc.) just to make ends meet. Additionally, unless you paid for your flight training out of pocket, you will be making payments on your student loans with thousands of dollars in interest.
So, really, the only way it makes sense to pursue a pilot career is if you don’t give up until you are making enough money to have your flight training be worth the cost. This requires a lot of determination, passion, discipline, and a little bit of luck!
For more information on how to become a pilot, check back often for weekly posts and don’t forget to read some of my articles to the right.
Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below!
I want to know what type of pilot YOU want to be? What are YOUR plans for financing your flight training?
People want to learn to fly for one of three reasons (or a combination):
Some people love aircraft so much, they want to figure out a way to get paid to fly. So, they work hard and pursue life as a professional pilot. Whether it’s working for an airline, being a crop-duster pilot, flying fighter jets, or taking people on scenic flights, some of us just want to get paid to do what we love to do.
Other people are just in love with the beauty of flight and the freedom they experience up above the clouds. Maybe they never got the opportunities to pursue a career in flying, but it’s always been one of their dreams. Others are in love with the technology that makes flight possible, but consider it a hobby and don’t want to turn a hobby into a “job”. These are recreational flyers.
There is also a third group of pilots that exhibit a little of both of the above traits. They are business owners, entrepreneurs, or successful professionals with little patience of ground highway traffic. They know they’re smart enough to operate and airplane and would rather fly to a meeting or conference in a fraction of the time than it would take to drive there. These smarty pants also know that an expensive hobby, such as flying, can easily be used as a business expense if they use it for business-related purposes.
In any case, all pilots share a common trait – when we get back on the ground from a flight, it doesn’t take long for us to start thinking of the next time we’ll get to go up again.
Your PilotTrick of the day is:
If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, it’s imperative that you know which of these three categories you fall into. Knowing this little tidbit could save you thousands of dollars because which flight school and/or flight instructor you choose depends on which of these type of pilots you want to be.
Now, I want to hear from you awesome flyers and flyer-wana-be’s out there! Please leave a comment below and tell me what type of pilot do YOU want to be?