Generally speaking, you can expect to spend between $12,000 and $15,000 to earn a private pilot certificate. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time to be eligible for a private pilot certificate, which includes a minimum of 20 hours of instruction. However, most students require anywhere from 10-20 additional hours of instruction to gain the proficiency and confidence to pass the practical test on the first try. According to the FAA, the average number of total hours logged by applicants for a private pilot certificate is 75. If we calculate the total cost based on the minimum FAA requirements, with a student flying a Cessna 150:
Solo flight time (10 hours of flight time): $120/hr x 10 = $1,200 + 7.5 percent sales tax = $1,290.00
Flight instruction (30 hours of flight time, assuming 1 hour of flight time per 2.5-hour lesson): $187.50 for 2.5 hrs of instruction + $120 for aircraft rental = $307.50 per lesson x 30 = $9,225.00
Total cost for 40 hours in a Cessna 150 = $10,515.00 (exam fees not included)
Additional 20 hours of flight instruction = $3,900 for a total of $14,415.00
Total cost for 40 hours in a Cessna 172 = $12,552.50 (exam fees not included)
Additional 20 hours of flight instruction = $4,900 = $17,452.50
The primary factors that affect the overall cost of learning to fly are:
Frequency of training — Students who fly regularly (we recommend at least 1 lesson per week) retain the knowledge and motor skill necessary to make progress and maintain proficiency. Students who fly infrequently tend to require more hours to prepare for the check ride, and ultimately spend more in the long run to earn a certificate. Learning to fly is similar to learning to play a musical instrument: if you only pick up the instrument once in a blue moon, you’ll make some noise but never learn to play music.
Aircraft used for training — The Cessna 172 costs more than the Cessna 150 because it burns more fuel per hour, and costs more to insure.
Student aptitude — Every individual has a unique learning style and ability to learn new things.
How much does each lesson cost?
Lessons are scheduled in 2.5-hour blocks of time. Each lesson includes some ground instruction (about 1 hour), and also usually includes some flight instruction and aircraft rental (about 1 – 1.5 hours). The exact cost of each lesson will be determined by what’s on the agenda and what’s accomplished during the lesson. For example:
1.5 hours ground instruction (pre and post flight) = $112.50
1 hour flight instruction = $75
1 hour flight Cessna 150 = $120
Total bill for lesson = $307.50
The same lesson in a Cessna 172 would cost $357.50 (billed at $170/hr for the aircraft).
When do you offer ground school?
Years ago, before the Internet, student pilots would gather in a classroom several days a week for a “ground school” class led by an instructor. The purpose of the class was to prepare student pilots for the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test. Today, most student pilots prefer to prepare for this test with an online home study course such as Sporty’s Learn To Fly Course. This online course also provides much of — but not all of — the information you will need to pass your Private Pilot Practical Test (a.k.a check ride).
During the course of your training, you will also receive one-on-one classroom (ground) instruction from your flight instructor as part of each flight lesson to evaluate your general knowledge and also to learn local procedures and information that are not covered in a book or an online course (for example: performance characteristics of the make and model of aircraft you are flying, and local area airspace procedures). This local knowledge is covered on our Pre-Solo Knowledge Test. See our Private Pilot training page for more information.
Some lessons are ground only and do not involve a flight. For example: how to plan a cross-country flight; how to get a standard weather briefing; and pre-solo knowledge evaluation.
At Holladay Aviation, full payment for each lesson required at the conclusion of each lesson. No pre-payment is required, but we do offer a 5 percent bonus credit on all cash or check payments of $1,000 or more.
Here’s a link with information about other scholarships that might be available.
Do I need an iPad? Which one?
While an iPad or tablet isn’t required by our flight school or by the FAA, from a practical standpoint it is a functional necessity. So much of what we do both on the ground and in flight is facilitated by quick access to digital information, and the app of choice for providing this information is ForeFlight on an iPad. Click here for guidance on selecting a device to run ForeFlight.
If you already own an Android tablet and smart phone, you will want to download the Garmin Pilot app instead. Garmin Pilot also claims to work on iOS, but ForeFlight is considered the industry standard.
Can I use my VA benefits to pay for flight training at your school?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the following guidance on their website. Generally speaking, VA benefits will not cover the cost of earning a private pilot certificate. For more information, please contact your VA administrator.