You’re interested in becoming a private pilot — it’s a rewarding and exciting experience — but are concerned that the “flight path” to pilothood is a costly one. It’s true that pursuing your flight certifications is an investment, one that requires understanding and planning for.
Pureflight’s here to help. In this blog post, we discuss the:
- Costs associated with getting a private pilot license
- Breakdown of costs
- Factors that can affect the cost
- Best tips on ways to reduce the cost
What’s a Private Pilot Certification?
A private pilot certificate is your ticket to fly! It’s an official permit that allows you to operate aircraft that you’ve been trained on and qualified to pilot. You can get a PPL for helicopters and planes.
With a basic private pilot license, you can fly solo recreation, host passengers, and transport cargo — as long as you aren’t doing so for pay. Getting a private pilot license is a jumping off point for additional ratings and endorsements and also an important milestone for aspiring commercial pilots.
Understanding the Costs Associated with Becoming a Private Pilot
Can you become a pilot for free? Probably not.
Getting your PPL requires a commitment of time and resources. So, it’s important to know exactly what is involved before taking the leap.
Flight Training Costs
Private pilot training costs typically include tuition and other fees related to coursework.
Ground school is an important part of the training process. Ground school courses are offered in-person (at local flight schools), online, and in hybrid formats. Ground school fees typically include the cost of textbooks and course materials.
Flight instruction fees are the single most expensive part of getting a private pilot license. This fee covers the cost of the airplane, fuel, instructor’s time, and other associated costs.
As part of your initial training requirements, you’ll need to take solo flights to gain experience. These flights should be included with your instruction at a flight school. These solo hours and cost associated are generally detailed out.
There are other costs associated with getting your PPL that you need to consider. These include the cost of getting a physical, purchasing flight logs, and other miscellaneous items.
Travel & Accommodations
If you plan to attend a flight school that’s not close to home, you’ll need to account for transportation and living expenses during your training. This could include rent, rideshares, food, and more.
Aviation Medical Exam
An aviation medical exam is designed to evaluate your physical and mental fitness for flying. The cost of the exam can vary depending on your location and the type of exam you need.
In order to get your PPL, you’ll need to take a written exam. The cost of this exam varies, depending on the testing facility. Additional endorsements may require more written tests. But, as a frame of reference, the Airman Knowledge Test (AKT) is $175.
The checkride is your final practical exam. During this test, you’ll fly with an examiner who evaluates your performance as a pilot. Checkride fees typically range from $600-$1000 and include the cost of the examiner’s time and any applicable fees.
While all of your flight hours needed for certification are included in your training costs, you may want to log additional air time on your own — and this could mean renting an aircraft. This cost depends on the type of aircraft and rental duration. It’s important to factor this sum into your training budget to ensure you have enough funds to complete the necessary flight hours.
You aren’t required by law to carry student pilot insurance, but some schools and aircraft rental companies won’t deal with you without it. So, it’s highly recommended/a necessity to ask if this is included in the training costs. (Pureflight provides insurance as part of its tuition.)
How Much Does It Cost to Become a Private Pilot?
There’s no standard amount for private pilot training cost or data indicating how much is a private pilot license.
All in, though, some estimates suggest that it could cost upwards of $6,000 — and more likely in the $10,000 to $20,000 zone — for an airplane license.
Getting a helicopter license is more expensive. You’re probably looking at at least $18,000, and more likely $20,000-$30,000.
Sample Breakdown of Costs
To put this into better perspective, an example may help. Here’s an average rundown of costs associated for a flight school trainee working towards a private pilot license.
|Description||Total Cost – Airplane||Total Cost – Helicopter|
Flight School Program
40 Dual Flight Hours
|10 Solo Flight Hours||$1,500||$3,900|
|Aviation Medical Exam||$130||$130|
|Checkride Examiner Fee||$700||$700|
Bear in mind that some of these expenses are due up front while others occur over time. Also, full-time students usually finish their training in six months whereas part-time students take longer (so costs may be spread out over more time).
Factors that Affect the Cost of Getting a Private Pilot Certification
Each person, school, and situation is a unique combo of variables. The result is that your costs today may differ from someone else’s tomorrow.
Take a look at some of the levers that can influence the price tag of becoming a private pilot.
- Type of aircraft used
- If you have to rent your aircraft
- Frequency and timing of flight lessons
- Duration of flight school program
- Cost of living in the area where you’re training
- How you pay for your training
- If you’re pursuing additional certifications
- The kind of training you do
How to Reduce the Cost
The good news is that because so much goes into the overall cost of becoming a private pilot — there are plenty of options for saving money.
Below are just some ways you might lower the cost of private pilot training.
Research Flight Schools & Instructors
Shop around. Different facilities offer different training options at different price points. You may discover schools that offer accelerated programs or seasonal discounts. The right flight school is out there for you!
Similarly, the cost of hiring flight instructors is a range. As long as the one you pick is certified to teach for the aircraft you’re learning — it may make good sense (and cents) to take the more budget-friendly person.
Plan Ahead & Set a Budget
Start saving up for your flight school dream. The more cash you have to put towards costs, the less you’ll need to finance. In the long run, this translates to a cheaper pilot’s license.
Furthermore, this gives you a chance to find suitable flight training near your home or secure accommodations near your school that are within your means.
Consider All Financing Options
Look for scholarships, discounts, educational funding and credits, and low-cost loans. Don’t leave free money on the tarmac! Learn more about financing here!
Take Advantage of Tech
Doing an online ground school or using a flight simulator when possible could cut your cash outflow.
Opt for Old
Sometimes, it’s less expensive to fly older — well-maintained! — aircraft and doesn’t impact the quality of your training.
Look for Ways to Become a Pilot for Free
How to get a pilot’s license for free, you ask? Is this even possible?
Yes it is. There are opportunities to get companies or other organizations to sponsor or reimburse the costs of your flight training. You may also qualify for special career training funding or scholarships that would cover the entirety of your costs.
However, there are often tradeoffs to consider. For example, you may have to commit to a certain amount of time in the military or working for a particular company. Or you may not get to choose the type of aircraft you get to learn to fly or where you go to flight school.
Pureflight is Here & Can Help!
At our flight school, we strive to make pilot training possible for everyone. We offer a range of programs and payment options, including financing and scholarships. Our team of experts is here to guide you through the ins and outs of paying for your training. Give us a fly by today to find out more!