cost of flight training

How to Save Money on Flight training

How Much Does Flight Training Cost & How Long Does It Take?

cost of flight trainingJust as one shoe doesn’t fit each foot, there isn’t one set path or fixed cost for flight training. There are innumerable variables affecting the cost of a PPL, such as previous experience, diligent study habits (or lack thereof), type of aircraft (rental rate), big school vs. little school… Generally speaking, though, the longer it takes, the more it costs.


Training Supplies Cost
Medical, Rental, Exam & Instruction Costs
Ground School$300-800
Instructor Fee$45-150/hr      (20hrs)
Aircraft Rental$100-300/hr    (40hrs)
Medical Cost$175-395
Written Exam$165
Total $6,000-17,560
Combined Total $6,200- 18,810

Estimated costs are based on the prices we’ve encountered across the nation. The upper limit goes over $30k if you choose a very expensive plane and have poor study habits with the average total cost in 2022 being $13,455.


Training Supplies



This is an optional, but highly recommended, tool. It is a clipboard that straps to your leg to provide a sturdy writing surface while flying. The cockpits are cramped…there isn’t a lot of desk space in there. It also ensures papers and checklists remain secure in one spot, versus falling by your feet in bumpy weather.


student pilot wearing bose headsetWhile you can usually rent one from the flight school—yuck, lice—we recommend buying one (once you’re certain flying is for you). You can purchase a cheap one off of Amazon, or an expensive one through an avionics shop. Either way, you’ll get what you pay for.  If you’re on a budget, the David Clark brand has a variety of price points (probably offering one of the cheapest options). They have been worn by hundreds of thousands of pilots for decades, and they last a long time. Just know that budget headsets will most likely be passive noise reduction, potentially leading to hearing issues later down the line. If money is no object to you, and you want something comfortable with better audio to understand ATC’s garble, go with Bose or Lightspeed. Bonus points: they employ active noise-canceling technology. Permanent hearing loss plagues over 30% of aviators…just saying.


This map-plotting tool is essential. You will use it to plot cross-country routes near the halfway point of flight training.


Another essential—the E6B is a rather ingenious, ancient flight “computer.” The US Navy’s Lt. Philip Dalton introduced it to the Army in the 1940s, and it’s been in pilots’ hands ever since. It is a paper or metal analog calculating device, used in course plotting and in-flight navigation adjustments. There are electronic versions out now, such as Sporty’s Electronic E6B or ASA’s CX-3.


The sectional is a must-have for students and private pilots alike. It is a paper map used for aerial navigation and flight planning. You can most likely find one for your area by stopping by the local airport.


Medical, Rental, Exams & Instruction

Aircraft Rental

The aircraft rental fee depends on the type of aircraft, its condition, type of avionics/panel, plus the owner’s operating costs. A “wet” rate (aircraft rental with fuel included) will vary based on local fuel prices.

Instructor Fee

A CFI’s hourly fee usually depends on their experience level and type of instruction (flight or ground). If they work for a flight school, the school sets an hourly rate for all instructors, regardless of experience.

Ground School

Online ground school is cheaper than individual lessons with a CFI in person. With our online course, you can still ask questions through live support online (from real CFIs), plus rewatch videos as many times as you want. In-person, you’ll hear the info once and then they move on. Online ground schools give you a chance to review topics at no extra charge.

Medical Cost

The first-class medical generally costs more than a third class, but the pricing is set solely by the AME (aviation medical examiner; doctor). The FAA has nothing to do with it.

Written Exam

You can make sure the cost for your written exam is a one-time expense and don’t need to retest. How do you ask? By utilizing our online ground school and written test BootCamp. We guarantee that you will pass your exam or we will reimburse you for the cost of the exam.


The cost for your checkride is set by the DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) and can range from $500 to as high as $1,000, which is reason enough to ensure you study not to fail. DPEs do not work for the FAA, although they are authorized by the FAA.

Flight Time

Airplanes student flying a planeare expensive classrooms. The average in-flight lesson runs about 1.5 hours. Let’s say the aircraft rental fee is $140/hour. Your CFI charges $50/hour. That lesson is now costing $285. Would you want to spend that hour and a half staring blankly at your instructor, wishing you would’ve studied prior? It sounds like a sure way to repeat a lesson, thereby spending double the money.  This is why we emphasize ground study so much. If you do not study before a flight lesson, you can watch your hard-earned money burn right out of the exhaust. Trust us—we’ve been there.

Calendar Time

You’re a full-time loan officer at a local bank, pursuing a PPL in your spare time. The bank won’t let you skip out of work to go fly (rude, right?), so you only take lessons on the weekends. And you’re a busy parent—so lessons are now twice a month. This sounds fine and all, but let’s talk “currency.” Pilots, students, and professionals alike, have to fly semi-often to maintain currency and proficiency within a certain aircraft or skillset. If you take longer breaks between lessons, it’s much harder to keep up your skills (and improve them) because you’re constantly needing a refresher. This is why stretching PPL training over a long period (calendar time) will ultimately cost you more.


How To Save Money On Your Flight Training


Spend Time On The Ground, Not In The Air

While this may not sound appealing, I promise it’s the best way.  Let me explain. You can spend time on the ground studying (which costs little to nothing with our course), or you can spend a lot of time in the air with your instructor…who will be trying to explain things over engine noise and vibration to the tune of $200-400/hr. By that logic, would you rather spend 1 hour of study on the ground and 5 hours being taught a maneuver in the air, or 5 hours studying on the ground, and 1 hour in the air? Confusion or preparation? I know which one I’d choose.

Pre- and Post—Flight Briefs

Let’s paint the picture: you show up to the airport starry-eyed and excited for your fourth training flight. Your CFI approaches you and says,  you ready for a slow flight?” Hold on…what’s a slow flight? “You didn’t study at all? Ugh. Okay. Did you at least work on the radio calls that were weak last flight?” My radio calls were weak last flight. This stuff would have been nice to know before today’s lesson, right? That’s where pre- and post-flight briefings come in.  The upcoming tasks and goals for the day are addressed during the pre-flight brief. Once you’re back on the ground, you and your CFI can assess your performance while reinforcing the main lessons of the flight (AKA the post-flight brief). Your CFI will also discuss what to study for the next lesson. DO NOT let your CFI take you flying without first briefing you on what to expect.  DO NOT let your CFI end the lesson without thoroughly debriefing you on what you did well, what needs more work, and what you should study to prepare for the next lesson.

The Right Instructor

The “right instructor” is someone who cares about you and your success. You will have a million questions during your flight training journey. But, if you have that instructor in your corner, you’ve got an invaluable resource who will walk you through the process (and even tailor it towards your goals and learning style). Before we start getting into the negatives…there are people 28 out there who love teaching, care about their students, and see the hours/ pay as a mere bonus. The unfortunate truth, however, is the majority of CFIs out there are only using teaching as a way of survival—both in terms of time building and income.  It’s pretty difficult to find a CFI who wants you to be the best pilot you can be (especially in the shortest time and lowest cost possible). This is because the longer it takes you to get through flight training, the more money you hand over to the CFI and school. If you save money, they are likely missing out on revenue. So…how do you find an instructor who is invested in you and not the hours?

Purchase A Plane

J-3 cub propeller spinningAlthough the initial upfront costs of purchasing a plane are higher compared to renting, it can save you money in the long run. If you intend on becoming a professional pilot you are going to have to spend a lot of hours building time and experience before reaching the required 250 hours for your commercial pilot’s license. By the time you complete your CPL you will have spent roughly $30k+ in just rental fees, which is enough to get you into a good trainer plane. You also go into a partnership with someone who has similar aviation goals as you and split the cost of ownership.


How to Pay For Your Flight Training

Save Up

If possible, save up the total cost of training (plus a contingency) before starting. This will take a bit longer. But, you’ll waste far more time and money if you pay as it comes in! In any situation, taking out a loan is a serious thing to consider. However, if you are looking to pursue aviation as a career and get to the airlines fast, loans are a viable option. This will allow you to train full-time, which means retaining more knowledge and progressing quickly. Note that private flight schools are not usually tied to universities, which makes it nearly impossible to pull out a student loan.  Large flight schools will most likely have a company they partner with for flight training loans, such as Sallie Mae or Wells Fargo. If they don’t, look into AOPA Finance. These companies see your training as career- or trade-based, which gets you closer to student loan-style loans.


Taking out a loan is a serious thing to consider. However, if you are looking to pursue aviation as a career and get to the airlines fast, loans are a viable option. This will allow you to train full-time, which means retaining more knowledge and progressing quickly. Note that private flight schools are not usually tied to universities, which makes it nearly impossible to pull out a student loan.  Large flight schools will most likely have a company they partner with for flight training loans, such as Sallie Mae or Wells Fargo. AOPA Finance is another avenue available to you. These companies see your training as career- or trade-based, which gets you closer to that student loan style.

Military Assistance

how veterans use the gi bill for flight training

Quick note: The Tuition Assistance Program will not cover flight training fees. However, it can be used with the GI Bill to cover fees outside of flight training (especially if pursuing a university program). The GI Bill offers tons of benefits for financial compensation. However, you must have a private pilot’s license to qualify. The Department of Veterans Affairs states the following requirements must be met before using GI Bill benefits:

•Qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill, and

•You have a private pilot’s license, and

•A second-class medical certificate valid for second-class privileges—or a first-class medical certificate if you want to pursue the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

The Silver Lining: You know how we just told you the GI Bill can only be used if you’re an existing private pilot? Here’s the loophole—you can use the GI Bill to cover from Day Dot (zero time) if you attend a university/college aviation program. Why? Because the flight training is lumped into your degree training! This option allows you to get a bachelor’s and flight certificates/ratings all in one. The GI Bill can be used in a vocational or degree program at a private college, university, or Part 141 private flight school. Consult Military One Source, the VA website, or the local base education office for more details.

Work at a Flight School

This is a perfect option if you’re also looking for a job! Most flight schools offer employee discounts on flight training fees (aircraft rental, instructor fees, etc.). You can work as a front desk attendant, dispatcher, line technician, airplane detailer, etc. Check your local flight schools to see if they offer this as an option!




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