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  • Writer's pictureJake Strong

How Much Does Flight Training Cost?

Updated: May 8, 2023



When you research the cost of flight training, you may ask yourself, why are all these prices so different? The cost of flight training varies, and different variables come into play. Many flight school’s sites will tell you the cost of training at the minimums to entice you to inquire more. I will be giving an in-depth look at how many hours it will take to reach the minimums for each rating as well as what the average is for most students in both a Part 61 and a Part 141 school. Keep in mind however, that many people take longer to become proficient at flying than the minimum hours suggest.


Private Pilot

In a Part 61 school, you will need 40 hours of flight time in a single engine aircraft for a private pilot rating. In a Part 141 school, you will need both 35 hours of flight time and 35 hours of ground time for a private pilot rating. Included in those 40 hours are: 20 hours with an instructor, ten hours of solo flight, and several cross-country flights with various requirements such as (day, night, with instructor and without and various distances).

The average for students’ total time however for the private pilot rating is between 60-75 hours of flight time. This is because most people do not come in every day and practice. Most people learn to fly for fun and not a career, they have other full-time jobs and can only fly when their schedule permits. This adds time to the learning process and extends the average time to get a private pilot license. For Part 61 schools, you will need to buy an online course for your ground lessons, as well as have supplemental lessons with your flight instructor.

You have heard of the saying “location, location, location” right? When it comes to the cost of a flight school/program, it can vary depending on the state you live in. For example, some flight schools in California charge over $200/hour for aircraft rental and over $80/hour for flight instruction. The school I attended in Idaho charged $180/hour aircraft rental and $60/hour for flight instruction. Here at Butte Aviation in Montana, we have an amazing deal at $130/hour aircraft rental and $60/hour flight instruction.


To calculate how much it will cost you to obtain your private pilot license we will use the numbers for Butte Aviation. Butte Aviation Flight School is a Part 61 school, so the minimum number of flight hours is forty. Forty hours at $195/hour is equal to $7,800. This number is what it would be if everything went perfectly, however, most people have a learning curve and need more time to be proficient. Realistically the number is closer to 75 hours of flight time which comes out to $14,625. Remember above we mentioned ground school…once you add in the ground lessons with your instructor and/or your online course to purchase, obtaining your private pilot license will cost closer to $8,000 - $15,000.

If you attend a Part 141 school, you will need 35 hours of flight time plus 35 hours of ground school to hit the minimum which will cost about $9,000. At the average, 75 hours, attending a Part 141 school will cost around $16,725, almost $2,000 more than a Part 61 school. In addition, the type of aircraft used can also affect the cost for both schools.


Instrument

As in the case of the private pilot, in a Part 61 school you will have to get 40 hours of flight time in a single engine aircraft and in a Part 141 school you will need 35 hours of flight time and 35 hours of ground time. Your instrument hours are broken down as follows: 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time of which fifteen must be with an authorized instructor, and one cross-country flight of 250 nautical miles. In addition, you must have a minimum of 50 hours accumulated cross-country time. While you only need 40 hours minimum to acquire your instrument rating, the average for full time students is 47 hours and 57 hours for part time students.


Using our above cost structure of $195/hour, at the minimums for a Part 61 school an instrument rating will cost around $7,800. An average full-time student (at the 47 hours) will spend about $9,000 and an average part-time student (at the 57 hours) will spend around $11,000. In a Part 141 school again, 35 hours of ground and 35 hours of flight time are the minimums, which will put you at about $9,000. For the average full-time student, you will spend $11,000 and the average part-time student will spend $13,000. Again, this is around $2,000 more than you would pay at a Part 61 school.


Commercial

To receive compensation for flying you will need to get your commercial pilot’s license. Attending a Part 61 school, you will need a total of 250 hours (accumulated training and personal flight time). At a Part 141 school, you will need a total of 190 hours to obtain your commercial rating along with an additional 35 hours of ground time. This training will focus on more advanced and precise flight skills and expanding your aeronautical knowledge.

Now to calculate the cost of the commercial rating. After finishing your private and instrument at minimums for a Part 61 school you need an additional 170 hours, at $195/hour getting your commercial license will cost around $33,000. If you go over the minimums like most people, you will only need an additional 118 hours which will cost you $23,000. If you attend a Part 141 school, you will need 120 hours total, and it will cost you about $26,000. This time a Part 61 school is $3,000 cheaper.


Total Cost

Let’s look at the total cost, we will calculate the cost for the minimum number of hours and the average number of hours. Starting with Part 61, you will spend $7,800 both for private and instrument and $33,000 for commercial for a total of $48,600. Part 141 is $9,000 each, for private and instrument and $26,000 for commercial for a total of $44,000. Realistically though most people, as we discussed will not finish their ratings at the minimums. Let’s do average costs now, Part 61 the total cost with private instrument and commercial is around $48,000. The average for a part 141 student is $56,000. A part 61 one school as you can see will save you about $8,000. If you want to know which school you should choose, check out our other blogs.

Obtaining a Private, Instrument, and Commercial Pilot License is a significant investment in both time and money. However, the rewards of becoming a pilot are immeasurable. If you are passionate about flying, you should consider investing in your training, as it can open up a world of opportunities in the aviation industry.

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