How Much Does It Cost To Get a Pilot's License?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published June 26, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published June 26, 2020

Pilots have the responsibility of getting passengers to their destinations safely. In this profession, you need to have extensive knowledge of how to operate an aircraft and all the safety protocols involved. Pilots prepare for this high-pressure job by going through rigorous education and training.

Upon completion of your pilot requirements, you can obtain a pilot's license for the type of aircraft you are qualified to fly. In this article, we explain the different types of pilot licenses and answer how much it costs to get a pilot's license.

What is a pilot's license?

A pilot's license is how pilots prove that they are certified to operate an aircraft. It shows that you have completed your training, experience requirements and flying test. With a pilot's license, you can legally operate the type of aircraft you are certified to fly. You can also use certain pilot's licenses to qualify for different jobs as a pilot.

Related: How To Become a Pilot

Types of pilot's licenses

Before you can get an estimate of what it costs to get a pilot's license, you must first determine what type of license you want or need. Here are the most common types of pilot's licenses:

  • Student: This is your license to learn how to fly, but you do not need it to take flying lessons. You need this type of license to be able to fly solo.

  • Private: A private pilot's license has fewer limitations than a recreational or sports license. As long as you complete training, you can fly any aircraft for non-commercial purposes. You can fly at night and carry multiple passengers.

  • Sport: With a sport pilot's license, you can fly recreationally. You are limited to one passenger and may only fly during the daytime up to 10,000 feet.

  • Recreational: Though this certificate is starting to become less common, some pilots still choose to earn it. It has nearly all the same restrictions as a sport license, but you can lift limitations with additional training.

  • Commercial: If you want a career as a pilot, then you need a commercial license. You can receive payment for transporting people and goods.

  • Flight instructor: If you want to teach others how to be pilots, then you need this license. It allows you to train pilots, conduct flight reviews and give endorsements.

  • Airline transport pilot: If you want to work for a scheduled airline, then you need this license. This is the most extensive license you can get as a pilot.

  • Remote: This license allows you to fly drones for commercial purposes. This license has no formal training requirements, although training can be helpful.

How much does a private pilot license (PPL) cost?

A private pilot license (PPL) costs around $10,000 to earn, but the total cost of flight training can vary widely. Factors that affect cost include different flight schools, instructor cost-per-hour, location, airplane type and total practice hours in flight. Aspiring pilots earning private, sport or recreational licenses may spend more or less than $10,000 depending on these factors and learning pace.

How much does a commercial pilot license (CPL) cost?

A commercial pilot license (CPL) costs around $71,000 to $130,000 to earn, depending on factors like airplane rentals and flight instructors. Aspiring pilots must train with instructors, rent airplanes for training purposes and pass many tests to receive a pilot's license.

Commercial licenses also require 430 hours of flying time. Although these expenses may seem high, the expenses and time are similar to the average cost of four-year colleges and universities.

Related: How Much Do Pilots Make? Pilot Salary Info and FAQs

Costs involved in getting a pilot's license

Expect these costs when trying to earn your pilot's license:

Rental fees for aircraft at a flight school

To get your required hours to be a pilot, you need to rent an aircraft to fly. Depending on where you rent it, you may need to factor in additional costs for fuel and oil.

Instructor fees

Instructor fees range depending on the location and demand for trainers. You often have to pay based on an hourly rate for both classroom or flight instruction.

Flight club membership

To use the facilities and training at a flight school, you may need to become a member first. Often, this membership provides insurance for training with the club's airplanes and equipment.

Testing fees

You must pass the applicable exams to earn your pilot's license. Each of these exams costs a fee.

Supplies and other expenses

Pilots need headsets, ground school and study materials and an FAA Examiner Fee, among other miscellaneous costs. Ground schools average $300, school materials average $200 and the Examiner Fee is around $700.

Medical expenses

All pilots must pass medical examinations to prove they can fly. Before beginning your training, you should make sure you pass these exams.

Related: How To Become a Commercial Pilot: Step-By-Step Career Guide

How to keep costs down while obtaining your pilot's license

Follow these steps to lower the costs related to getting your pilot's license:

  1. Choose flight schools with fewer students.

  2. Apply for scholarships.

  3. Focus on your studies.

  4. Purchase second-hand training guides.

  5. Finish on time.

1. Choose flight schools with fewer students

Choosing a flight school with fewer students makes it easier to schedule your flight time and earn your required hours. When schools are overbooked, they tend to charge students more for airplane rentals and the instructors have higher hourly rates. Save by enrolling in a less busy program.

2. Apply for scholarships

Several scholarships are available for pilots in training, such as the Flight Training Scholarship, the Epic Flight Academy Aviation Scholarship and the U.S. FAA Commercial Pilot Scholarship. Recipients may receive thousands of dollars toward flight training and earning a pilot's license.

3. Focus on your studies

Regularly studying can help you get through your program faster which can save you money. Students who understand their aircraft and how to operate it get more benefits out of each lesson. Increasing your flight knowledge can improve your chances of passing your flight exams the first time, helping you save money on exam fees.

4. Purchase second-hand training guides

Instead of buying brand new materials, try to look for second-hand alternatives. When buying second-hand guides, make sure you have the most current version so you can learn about the most recent FAA rules and regulations. If you know anyone who recently completed flight school, ask them if they are willing to sell their materials to you.

5. Finish on time

Rather than taking large gaps between your flight hours and lessons, try to get through your program as quickly as you can. This way, you don't need to take additional lessons to refresh your memory. It's also beneficial to your learning since you can work with the same instructor throughout your program.

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