To help you estimate costs, consider that a typical two-seat trainer aircraft, wet (with fuel), will rent for about $100 an hour (something between $80 and $120 an hour depending on the model). Your instructor will charge about $60 an hour ($50 to $70 is typical). Figure on 20 hours of dual instruction (you, the instructor, and the plane) times $160 an hour ($100 plus $60) or about $3,200. You also need 10 hours of solo (you and the plane) at $100 an hour for an additional $1,000. Add another $1,000 for the other 10 hours needed to come up to 40 hours. And add about $500 ($250 to $750) for ground school and $300 for textbooks and equipment. The bare cost is now up to $6,000. However, very few students earn their license with the minimum of 40 hours required by the FAA. The typical student needs 60-80 hours of flight instruction and practice to earn the certificate. If you budget about $10,000 to get your wings you’ll probably be about right. A frugal pilot can cut it to as low as $6,000.
Remember, that’s just an estimate. If you already have a training plane your costs will go down. If you can take only one lesson a week you should plan on taking more hours of instruction to compensate for the memory loss between lessons. If you live in the Big City and need to travel to a small airport or you need to pay Big City prices at a nearby airport, your costs will go up.
My advice: Be a smart consumer, but don’t be cheap. A $30-an-hour instructor might not be a good teacher. A trainer plane that rents on the cheap probably is. Instead, find a recommended flight school or instructor and fly only in well-maintained equipment.
There are many other ways you can bring down the cost of going up. In fact, another Flight Guide shows you how to fly at home in your own flight simulator for just a couple hundred dollars. You can practice whenever you want and even walk away from crashes. It’s fun!