Guest Post by Cassy Parker
If you’re an aspiring pilot getting ready for flight training, you’re spending all your spare time dreaming of the sky. But before you literally get your head in the clouds, you need to come down to earth to think about the costs of flight training and how to prepare financially for the process.
1. Research instructors first
Your flight instructor will have a huge impact on the cost and time involved in training. Unfortunately, many instructors are just waiting for a job at an airline, which can mean they’re checked out and likely to fly away before you finish training. Plus, if you simply don’t mesh well with a particular instructor, you may end up needing more time in the air to get basic concepts down before you get your certificate.
According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, you can expect to spend between $5,000 and $9,000 to learn to fly and get a pilot certificate. But the better you work with your particular instructor, the fewer hours of in-air training you’re likely to need.
2. Understand you may need more or less hours
While you’re researching flight schools and instructors, you’ll get lots of numbers thrown at you. Most schools will tell you that their programs will cost a certain amount from start to finish. But the fact is that students differ in their needs. If you learn more quickly, you may need fewer hours, getting through flight school at a lower cost. If you’re training slowly, you may need more review time in the air, resulting in higher costs.
Instead of looking at a school or instructor’s base price that the average student pays, look at hourly costs. On average, you’ll pay $135 to $155 an hour to fly something like the Cessna 172. So be sure to work the per-hour flight costs into your training costs as well.
3. Be prepared to study
One of the best ways to make flight school more affordable is to study as much as you can. Reviewing procedures, scanning techniques, and other flight information all the time will mean you’re picking up those concepts faster – which means you need less flight and review time before you test for your certificate.
No matter how much you study, you’ll still need to put in a certain number of hours in a plane before you can get your certificate. But studying hard can help you make the most of those hours, so that you don’t need much more than the minimum to get your certificate.
4. Have some extra in savings
Since you’re going to be spending lots of time studying and in the air, it’s best if you can go into flight school with nothing else on your agenda – especially if your goal is to become a commercial pilot. If you’re just a hobbyist, of course, this won’t matter to you so much.
But if you plan to become a commercial pilot and aim for a job as a pilot, you’ll definitely want to get through school as quickly as you can. And that means having some money in savings to live off of so that you don’t have to work while studying and flying.
5. Consider the pros and cons of credit
If you need to get into flight school now but don’t have cash or savings, consider the pros and cons of credit. If you can get a low-interest loan or put your school-related expenses on a credit card with a long 0% APR introductory period, it may be worth starting now. The key is to make a comparison of your options, and to choose the one that works best for your particular needs.
If you do choose to take on debt to get through flight school, remember to have a plan to pay it off quickly, especially if you’re taking advantage of a limited-time introductory rate on a credit card.
Using these tips, you can plan financially to get through flight school, so you’ll be ready for life as a flight instructor or pilot later on.