How I hit my flight training budget within $50

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Me (left) on checkride day with my instructor Kurtis

I’m officially the newest pilot on the Sporty’s team. It has been a long and challenging journey, but I’m no longer a student – hello PIC time. Of course, all pilots are still “students,” because a good pilot is always learning; however, in the eyes of the FAA, I’m a Recreational pilot and that feels good to say.

Earlier this year I wrote an article about Getting Back into Flight Training. Over the winter of 2015, I went just about three months without getting in an airplane. I blamed the unpredictable southern Ohio weather, but mostly it was a lack of motivation and not being able to see the end in sight. Thankfully, with the help of an awesome flight instructor, I got back on track.

Following the checkride, I totaled all the money I spent on training to discover it was $50 less than what the flight school manager had estimated at the beginning. When pilots talk about hitting the numbers, it usually refers to spot landings, but this was equally impressive.

How did I do it?

The secret is that I didn’t wait until my training was complete to total up my bills. I monitored my expenses and progress and used that information to gauge my pace. When my instructor turned to me and said, “You’re just about ready to take your test, we could sharpen up a few maneuvers, but I think you’ll be ready,” I had no doubt that I could afford the additional refinement because I knew my training was tracking under budget.

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A pre-checkride boosted my confidence

I didn’t view this “pre-checkride” as the time to pinch pennies. Instead, I found that possessing the added confidence before my checkride was worth triple the cost of one more lesson. Trust me, when you’re face to face with your examiner (DPE), you’ll be thankful for every second spent on training. When you set aside time and/or money for your flight training, my advice is to use every bit!

This is the part of my chronicle that’s going to sound like a commercial but honestly, we test every product Sporty’s sells. That’s why I was confident in using the online Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course for my ground school, flight prep and knowledge test preparation.

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Personal, at-home study was crucial to success

Personal study at home was where I mastered the majority of the material. When I met with my instructor, I brought specific questions and topics that required further explanation. It made our time together much more valuable and efficient. Without the material in the Learn To Fly Course, I predict I would have easily spent 40-50% more on my training.

It’s not my intention to make this sound like biased marketing material since, as previously disclosed, I work at Sporty’s. But I am making a sincere effort to speak to my fellow pilots as one who recently joined the club and perhaps has some insightful tips for other students working toward their goal of becoming a pilot.         

Here’s my list of most useful tools to reach my goal on budget.

  1. Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course. The training videos easily and clearly communicate the topics for each lesson. The interactive ACS with links to the video content is a lifesaver; I mean time-saver. My favorite feature of Course was the written test prep module with learning, flashcard, and practice test modes.These tools make it easy to prepare for your written exam. 
  2. Pilot Community. I spent my down time talking with other students, instructors and pilots about their experiences and just making friends. If you’re not around other pilots frequently, you’re at a disadvantage. Ask for help and you will receive it.
  3. Safe, affordable airplane. I made use of Sporty’s 172 LITE – a re-manufactured version of the 172M/N model that is currently only available at Sporty’s Eastern Cincinnati Aviation. The airplane I flew rented for $115/hr wet. There’s no fancy GPS and no extra instruments and I didn’t need that. It’s designed to get students familiar with the basics and not overwhelm them with unnecessary information. I highly recommend using the least expensive airplane you can access. A Garmin G1000 is nice, but I’m saving hundreds of dollars by training without one and can make a transition at some point in the future.
  4. Home study. Put down the Xbox and cancel Netflix (temporarily). You have to use your time at home diligently to hit your goals. You must commit your spare time to flight training so that you spend less time and money relearning the material with your instructor.

I’m happy to finally be able to write this for other student pilots that are starting, in the middle or restarting their training. I know how long of a journey it can be but it’s well worth the time to become a licensed pilot. So from one pilot to another, blue skies ahead and keep flying.

If you have any comments or questions for me about my training please write them below and I’ll be happy to reply!

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I'm a pilot and part of the Sporty's Pilot Shop team in Cincinnati, OH. I'm also a University of Cincinnati alumnus. I've been flying and working on airplanes with my Dad since I was old enough to hand him a wrench. I've worked at Sporty's for more than 5 years and love every minute of it.

3 COMMENTS

    • Full disclosure here.. I had 19hrs under my belt from 5 years ago before I got back into flight training. I hadn’t soloed yet. The beginning of my recent training was to get solo ready then I moved on from there.

      I spent $4,745.82 for my training (including the cost of exams/checkride)
      I was quoted $4,775 from my flight school.

      I, like many pilots, have started training at one point and let life get in the way. My 5 year break certainly didn’t help the overall cost of my training. I’m not sure how much was spent on the original 19hrs. The 4 tools I utilized definitely helped lower the costs this time around and will for anyone training, no matter how many hours they have/need.

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