Oct 112012

Just Google “Cost of Private Pilot License” and you’ll be presented with a several flight schools estimates enticing you to choose them for your flight training needs.

Their prices will vary from $4,000 to around $8,000 for the cost of a Private Pilot Certificate.  They will even tabulate all the different costs that will look something like this:

Exam for FAA medical (student pilot certificate) $65
Supplies (charts, books, flight computer, plotter, etc.) 120
Written test fee (computerized) 80
Ground School (to complete written test – based on self study) 0
Airplane (C-172 @$113/hr for 40 hours) 4,520
Flight Instruction (30 hours @ $35/hr) 1,050
Ground instruction for flight lessons (10 hours @ $35/hr) 350
Flight test (examiner $250, airplane $170 based on 1.5 hours) 420


You should think of this as getting an estimate for a complete remodel of a house.  The contractor will quote you all the minimum costs based on everything going perfectly during the remodeling of your home.  No delays, no problems that require re-work, no surprise hidden charges.

But, what they don’t want you to know about is that flight training almost never goes as planned – just like the remodeling of a house.



Flight schools know that the minimum number of hours required to obtain a pilot certificate is 40hrs, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  However, the national average is around 65hrs.  At $130/hr, that’s a difference of almost $2,000 if you’re “average”.

You should keep these two things in mind:

  1. Just like construction work, there are always delays and the longer your training takes, the more you will pay.
    1. weather delays
    2. delays due to illness (you or your instructor)
    3. airplane maintenance delays
    4. scheduling delays (instructor unavailability or your unavailability, etc.
  2. The national average time it takes is based on large numbers of students going to dedicated flight academies and flight training universities.  These students eat, breath, and sleep aviation, and they still take longer than 40hrs, but they don’t go much more over this minimum.  What this does is that it pulls the “national average” number down.  If you could separate these numbers into two different averages, they would look more like this:
  • 55hrs – average time it takes for a student of a flight academy or dedicated flight university to obtain their pilot certificate
  • 75hrs – average time it takes for someone who is flight training part time to obtain a pilot certificate

I would even go as far as estimating 80hrs to obtain your certificate, especially if you’re flying 2 times per week or less.

With this in mind, you can easily look at more than $10,000 to obtain your pilot certificate. 

What can you do to keep your costs down?

As much GROUND PREPARATION as possible.  The more you learn on the ground, the less you’ll have to learn while in the air.  Here are the top 3 ways you can get your flight training done faster and cheaper:

  1. Chair fly before each lesson
  2. Take notes on what you did right and what you can do better after each flight lesson
  3. Schedule yourself 4-5 times per week so that you can end up flying at least 3 times per week (leaves room for cancellations and delays)

I’ve also put together a FREE Private Pilot Prep Kit to get you going in the right direction:

learn to fly kit

  5 Responses to “What Your Flight School Doesn’t Want You To Know About”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I worked a full time job and my certificate ended up taking more than 40 hours. However, I think this was directly based on a “you get out of it what you put into it” model. In other words, if I had not let work and other things cloud my mind and get in the way of pre-studying for each lesson, I would have finished sooner. Self study (ground school) is hard for some who lack the discipline…. I probably fell into that category.

    • Well, congratulation on getting it done – better late than never! Yes, a self-study course definitely takes self-discipline, but if you have a good instructor, he/she should keep you on track by assigning you reading assignments. Another option is to sign up for a course offered by a local flight school or university. However, even this will only teach you the theory of flying – you will still need to do a lot of self-study to pass the written and oral exams.

  2. Great post. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Its great to see your estimated costs, I think it is very important to keep a keen eye on your outgoings, always check whether you are paying by a flight by flight basis or standard fee.

    I went to Malta school of Flying, I received 22 hours of ground tuition, I decided to leave after they booked my exams on the wrong day and charged me 92 Euro for 4 mock tests.

    I was given a bill for 1100 Euro for 22 hours of ground tuition, 8 of which involved being sat in a room with a computer while the instructor was out moving aeroplanes!

    Be careful guys.

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