All great journeys have to start somewhere, and this is your beginning. Knowing where to start is one of the first major hurdles that all would-be pilots face, but you've done the right thing and come to the right place. This article, and indeed my whole site, will talk you through various flying-related questions in plain terms. It's a great place to start and build on your knowledge.
In this section, I will give you a little information about my background, a very brief overview of how flying suddenly became much more affordable, and from there, send you on your way to explore and discover the fantastic world of flying and all the resources I have to offer.
Hi, I'm Dan Ramsey | Pilot and Writer
Thirty years ago, as I wrote my best-selling book, Budget Flying, private aviation was in a surge of growth. People were having loads of fun learning to fly. But just five years later, many pilots were grounded by a round of burdensome regulations, higher insurance premiums, and other rising costs.
Some of the biggest names in small planes were facing layoffs and even bankruptcy. For the next two decades, growth in private aviation leveled off. Even the addition of ultralights and the recreational pilot certificate couldn't quite get things moving again. General aviation was having a 'bad weather day'.
Dark skies don't make for smooth flying…
Then, on September 1, 2004, everything broke loose. More pilots went flying. More low-cost planes became available. More people were having fun flying again.
The Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA) regulations happened.
The culmination of nearly 10 years of hard work by aviation associations and aircraft manufacturers, the SP/LSA rewrote the book to make pilot certificates easier to get and a new type of safe aircraft easier to buy. (And I wrote the first major book on the topic: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sport Flying.) It was a new way of thinking about flying.
Not all pilots even want to fly high-performance aircraft in crowded airspace. Using common sense, the new rules make it much easier for non-commercial pilots to get trained and certified to fly plenty-fast planes under visual flight rules (VFR).
In the simplest terms, if it's clear enough to see, well, it's nice enough to fly. No flying at night and stay away from clouds. And you don't have to buy a plane that costs as much as a new house! Based on this common-sense concept, private aviation leaders develop a full-blown proposal that, after much hard work, is now the law of the land.
Unfortunately, while the cost of new light-sport aircraft is lower than that of new standard aircraft, flying isn't cheap.
Some things still cost the same amount, regardless of the type of aircraft you fly. You'll find that numerous things add to the overall expense of flying.
What do I mean? Well, things like: -
This is a set charge applied by certain airfields when you touch down on their runway. While there can be some variation depending on the aircraft's weight, these costs, even for the lightest aircraft, can soon start to add up.
When you are training, you'll fly a lot in something called 'the circuit'. A rectangular traffic pattern that always leads back to the runway.
Great for landings, not so great on the wallet! At $5 per touchdown, 10 landings soon add to the cost significantly!
The good news?
They don't charge two landing fees if you bounce!
Gas prices have been going up for years, and aviation (both commercial and private) is subject to fuel price fluctuations.
You'll need more than just an aircraft to fly successfully. There are little 'add-ons' that you will need and can be costly. A flying headset is a large one-off cost (top tip, borrow one from the flying club).
You'll also need charts, pens, a knee-board, a fuel strainer, a set of dividers… The list is as long as you want to make it.
A parking space costs the same whether you are in a Bentley or a Datsun. The same applies to flying. Airfield operators charge for parking!
You pay for the instructor's time when you take a flying lesson, regardless of the aircraft type. While you might get a good deal by block booking, this is still a relatively fixed and high cost.
The bottom line?
Pilots on a budget still have to be frugal. That's okay! You can still earn your private pilot or sport pilot license on a budget and even own your aircraft — if you're frugal about it. That's what this website is all about: frugal flying.
Where to Start?
So, let's dive in!
As with a good flying checklist, the best way to get ready is to start reading and doing!
If you are looking for the cheapest way to start flying, you have come to the right place and are probably looking for ways to save money right off the bat?
Start with 10 Tips for Frugal Pilots. These are my top 10 suggestions for ways you can quickly (and cheaply) earn and spreading your wings.
Read Frugal Pilot Guides based on the information you are looking for. The site is organized into the following categories: -
This section deals with things that are set-in-stone and must be satisfied before you can get airborne and call yourself a pilot. I take a detailed look at the things such as regulation, documentation, rules regarding airspace and even delve into a little physics to explain the forces that act on an airplane in flight.
Like I said previously, the best way to learn anything is by doing. Aviation is no different!
When you are buzzing along at 120 knots, it can all get a little hectic, and it is easy to miss one or two vital pieces of information that will aid your understanding.
It sometimes helps to sit and be able to read the information in your own time. When you can relax and take it in.
The instruction section focuses on techniques, theory, and other things you will encounter during your flight training.
Let's face it.
The reason we are all here is that we love airplanes!
There are a few options out there when it comes to commanding your own aircraft. You can rent, lease, or even buy outright.
But, remember, we are trying to be as frugal as possible.
This section will go through some great tips to save you money, regardless of which means you use to acquire an aircraft.
'Flying' it's all the same, right?
You'd be amazed at the different opportunities that are available once you receive that coveted license!
There are so many possibilities that fall under the umbrella of 'flying'.
In this section, I look at special interest groups, talk about different types of flying and offer general guidance on things you can do with your license.
Private Pilot Licence | Start to Finish (Video)
How to Use Frugal Flying
I remember when I first started flying, and it seemed like there was so much information to take in. Dare I say it, too much information at times.
I want to make it easy for you.
My site is organized in a way that makes it easy for new pilots.
Along the way, you will find practical sidebars to show you the safe and smart way to do things. You'll also find definitions of words and terms you might not be familiar with.
And you can enjoy the benefits of other's experiences…
I'll point out any dangers or pitfalls and give you other bits of helpful information when relevant too!
Seeing as we are going to be flying VFR, you'll want to keep a good lookout for the following things: -
Here are some valuable tips from pilots, manufacturers, officials, and other aviation folks on how to get the most out of your flying experience, as well as other related information you need to know.
Here's the thing about flying. It is jam-packed with technical terms. At times it feels like a whole different language.
If you find yourself asking, "What does that mean"? Here you'll find a concise definition of important flying terms in context. Also, check the Glossary for more definitions to make things clearer.
Sport planes are safe provided you pay attention! Here's how to fly safely and keep others safe as you discover the many thrills of sport flying.
You knew there would be a test! This site includes concise tips specifically aimed at helping you pass your FAA sport-pilot knowledge and practical tests. You'll ace it, ace!
I hope you are excited; I certainly am! You are about to get rolling on the runway that will eventually take you aloft! Now that you've read my introduction to flying, you'll know where to find various information on the site and have been made aware of what we are trying to achieve here.
It's time to put on our flying boots and explore! As I said above, your next stop should be 10 Tips for Frugal Pilots, there you'll discover 10 great ways to keep your flying as cheap as possible. Speaking of cheap, are you still wondering how much it will cost to get your wings? Here is the answer. Be sure to check it out!