Learning to fly is hard, challenging, nerve-racking (at times), but also a lot of fun. When I was first taking flight lessons, my head was full of questions. Most of which I was either afraid to ask or had forgotten by the time I drove to the airport. Let’s face it, many instructors are underpaid and overworked, and may be the single most influential person in your flight training history. I had some amazing instructors, but there are a few details that they might have missed that you may find helpful as you’re advancing through your flight training.
Flight Schools do have to compete with other flight schools. As a result, they often will try to quote a best-case scenario price. Sure, if you can get your private license in the minimum amount of flight time that estimate may be accurate, but the average license usually requires much more time. For me, the largest portion that I didn’t consider was the materials investment. You will need a headset, charts, plotter, fuel tester, books, training course, flashlights and a load of t-shirts to brag about being a pilot. Obviously, these are not included in most quotes. Plan on having approximately $500-$1200 invested in gear by the time you have your checkride.
Much like having to learn calculus or advanced economics, there are things that must be taught to fulfill FAA requirements that you’ll probably never use in real life. I remember filling out my first cross-country plan form with waypoints and headings and leg times. I really questioned my future job choice if I had to do this for every single flight. Looking back, I’m glad I learned it, but it would have been less intimidating if I knew this was more for show than for future use.
Choosing aviation as a career path has its advantages, but starting pay is not one of them. After investing tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) into your flight training, your starting pay will probably be less than if you were working full time at a fast food restaurant. Not to discredit the burger makers, but think about that next time you hop in a regional airliner. The guy in the right seat probably also has a part time gig to help make ends meet.
You can save a lot of money by using a training course.
Flying requires a lot of knowledge, some of which is not taught in a cockpit. Attending a concentrated ground school or buying a video-based training course will save you a lot of money in the long run. Instructional rates vary from $30 to $65+ per hour. A good training course will save you tons on ground instruction and help your instructor focus more on flying and less on teaching regulations.
No matter the hurdles you face during your flight training, don’t let them deter you from joining the rank of pilot. Flying is an amazing experience that few are lucky enough to enjoy. Welcome to the club.