How much does it cost to earn a pilot’s license?

No one wants to pay too much for a product or service, and it’s certainly no different with learning to fly. Learning to fly involves some expense, but it’s important to examine this expense as an investment that will provide a lifetime of return. The extent and depth of the training you will receive for your money makes learning to fly one of the all-time great bargains compared to many other recreational or business pursuits.

For your investment, you will acquire the basic skills needed to safely enjoy an extraordinary and unique activity for years to come—a pilot’s license never expires! Cost varies by flight school and license, but it is usually about the price of a family vacation for a week (anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000). And, you can pay as you go, so there’s no large payment due up front.

As with many things, in the long run value turns out to be more important than the bottom-line cost of your flight training. You should be concerned with what you are getting for your money, not just how much you’ll spend. Value is measured by the quality of the training, and the relationship that develops between you and your instructor or flight school. The cheapest usually isn’t the best.

When researching cost, be sure to ask about all the expenses associated with training: instructor time, including preflight and post-flight briefings, aircraft rental, ground school, the written test, the oral exam and check ride, and the necessary supplies.

Some schools, and most ab initio career-training academies, charge an all-inclusive price covering flight and ground training for all certificates and ratings in the program. Look carefully at these deals. A seemingly low package price may cover only the minimum instructional flight hours required in the regulations. Since most people take longer, you could end up spending considerably more. Also check on the school’s financial stability and refund policy in the event you must withdraw for whatever reason and always be cautious of paying large sums of money up front.

If cost is a critical concern, make it a priority on your school shopping list, but don’t lose sight of the importance of value.

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John knows how lucky he is to go to work every day at an airport. As Vice President of Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s Catalog Division, he says, “I get to hang around airplanes all the time, flying regularly and testing new products for the catalog.” Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC-12 and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Despite his love of low and slow flight, John says, “I love the challenge of IFR flying in the system. Seeing the runway lights as you break out on approach is a thrill.”