Costs of Flight Instruction

Costs of Flight Instruction

How much will earning your private pilot certificate cost? That's a really good question. There are fixed costs and variable costs. One of the costs that are 'fixed' is paying for your flying instruction. What is the cost of instruction? There is actually a lot to consider, and it doesn't just cover your flight instructor's lunch.

I will show you some of the variables in the cost of instruction, including a few things that you might not have considered. Even smaller amounts add up, so it pays to go into flight training with your eyes open. Let's begin.

How Much Does Flight Instruction Cost: A Detailed Breakdown

Of course, much depends on what type of instruction you select (school, independent) and who owns the airplane (school, friend, you).

Airplane Costs

Plan for: $4000-6000

It should be obvious that you are going to have to hire an aircraft to start flight training.

The cost can vary depending on several factors.

As a good general guide, I'd work on somewhere between the $80 and $120 per hour. To make the math simple let's go for $100 as a healthy average. The benefit of renting an airplane from a flying school is that the fuel price is normally included. This is called hiring the aircraft 'wet'.

If you've read my guide on pilot training requirements, you'll already know that the absolute FAA mandated minimum for flight training is 40 hours.

So straight away, we can calculate 40 hours x $100.

That equals $4000! Pretty steep, right?

Obviously, this depends on the model of aircraft. If you drop to $80 per hour, this figure becomes $3200. That's a 20% saving!

It's important to remember that a cheaper airplane will get you exactly the same license in the end!


Your average flight student (including myself) rarely needs only 40 hours. As a realistic estimate when calculating costs of instruction, it'll probably be closer to 60 hours… So $6000 for airplane hire alone.

Instructor Costs

Plan for: $1200

Instructors charge around $50 – $70 per hour. Again, let us work on an average of $60 to make the math easy.

You'll need a minimum of 20 hours of dual instruction time signed off in your logbook to acquire your license. 20 hours x $60 is $1200.

If this sounds steep, instructors often offer generous discounts for those who negotiate and make block bookings.

Landing Fees and Charges

Plan for: $100 - $300

This can be a variable depending on the instruction options you choose. At some fields, landings are free, whereas other larger airports assign a dollar value every time your wheels touch the ground. (yes, even when you are doing touch-and-go landings in the pattern).

This shouldn't be an issue if you fly from a small field, but you'll want to steer clear of large airports, where a single landing can run into hundreds of dollars. (They do this to deter small aircraft from visiting).

For now, let's plan on $200 to cover any landing charges

Tuition and Reference Material

Plan for: $800

While education is a basic human right, unfortunately, so is free enterprise. As a result, you can expect to pay for ground school classes along with textbooks.

A good average when looking at how much private pilot ground school costs is around $500. You can expect to add around another $300 for textbooks, charts, and a flight computer.

If you are looking to lower the cost of this, I have a few solutions: -

·         See if you can source second-hand flying textbooks and study guides. Often when people pass, they leave them in the corner, gathering dust.

·         The same applies to old charts. While I wouldn't suggest using them in the air, they may be sufficient for ground school.

·         Consider supplementing your ground school with online resources. That way, you can get the most out of your time in the classroom and maybe even reduce it.


Plan for: $370

There are a few bits and pieces that you will almost certainly need if you fly. The cost of these, while not astronomical, soon adds up.

What are some of the things you may need when considering the cost of instruction?

Here's a list of 'extra' equipment: -

·         Flight headset ($250)

·         Charts ($50)

·         Sharpie Pens ($20)

·         Kneeboard ($30)

·         Fuel strainer ($20)

The good news is that these are all one-off purchases that you'll be able to use once you qualify as a pilot. I'll include them as they will initially be part of the cost of instruction.

The final cost of instruction to learn to fly?

Remember, this is just an estimate and can be variable. Still, by my reckoning from start to finish, you'd be looking to pay somewhere in the region of $8500.

How to Make Your Costs of Flight Instruction Cheaper

There are ways to make this a little cheaper. Based on the above, here are the ways to make your flying a little more frugal: -

·         Hire a cheaper airplane

·         Try and find a cheaper instructor, or try for a block booking discount

·         Fly from a field that doesn't charge landing fees.

·         Try and source learning material second hand

·         Make the most of online resources to supplement your flying ground school

·         Where possible, borrow equipment from your flight school

If you already have a training plane, your costs will go down. If you can take only one lesson a week, you should take more hours of instruction to compensate for the memory loss between lessons.

All the above in mind, here are some other points you may want to consider when assessing the cost of instruction: -

·         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.

Costs of Instruction. Summary

It is certainly worth trying to reduce costs of instruction where possible. However, remember, in most cases, you get what you pay for. Your flight instruction is the foundation for building your future skills, so sometimes it pays (literally) to go for the quality. Want another way to save money? Why not practice on a flight simulator at home. It really works!