Beginning your flight training journey is an exciting step and also a significant commitment—it’s something you want to be sure about to find success. Earning your certificate is not something that happens overnight and requires not only financial resources, but also your time in preparing for and completing each lesson. Anyone considering a pilot training course has similar questions that help make your final decision on when, where, and how to get started.
As a pilot and lead sales and customer experience representative at a busy flight school, I spend most of my time speaking to individuals interested in the pilot experience. And while the questions posed are mostly the same, the answers are not. Answers and solutions vary based on each person’s circumstances, but there is universal guidance to help get you started. Here are three questions I’m being asked right by with potential students.
- How long will it take to earn my private pilot certificate?
While we can’t get to the specific hour or day, the good news is that you control much of your own destiny. In other words, how much time you have to commit to the process will be the greatest influence on your time to certification. While you control many of the variables related to time, it’s also important to have realistic expectations of the flight school and flight instructor availability.
Work schedule, family, and other obligations will certainly come into play so you’ll want to ensure you have the full backing of your personal support network. Some students are able to take lessons daily, while others may be only able to take lessons on weekends. A good balance is a schedule allowing two or three lessons per week. I know this is a successful recipe for balancing enough time for adequate preparation and ensuring good continuity in your training.
I’d suggest being wary of schools that promise a license in 40 hours and a couple of weeks. Not only can this be indicative of poor training quality, but some of these organizations may have ulterior motives. Remember, learning to fly should be a pleasurable experience and not feel like boot camp. You’re in this for the long haul!
Here’s my breakdown of what you can expect in calendar time to certification:
1-2 lessons per week – around 6 months+
2-3 lessons per week – around 3-4 months
4-5 lessons per week – around 2-3 months
Accelerated (2 lessons a day, 6 days a week) – 3-4 weeks.
2. How many hours do I need to fly to earn my private pilot certificate?
This is another question involving a number of variables without an exact answer, but again, you are in control! The greatest influence on training time is entirely related to the time you are willing to invest in preparation. For students who commit to the recommended frequency and good study habits, the average amount of hours our students have in the aircraft before checkride is 50-60 hours. If a student enters a program with previous experience and studies hard, I do not doubt training time of less than 50 hours can happen. Conversely, if a student enters a program entirely unprepared and doesn’t dedicate themselves to the training, they may experience training hours far beyond 60 hours. Bear in mind, these are new physical skills you’re acquiring as a pilot and likely no two pilots will complete in the same amount of time.
3. How much does flight training cost?
Similar to the last two questions, the answer is very much dependent on the student’s personal investment of time and preparation. Based on the average of 55 hours, you could expect an investment ranging between $11,000-$13,000 based on aircraft pricing in the Midwest. Now, that’s not to say you can’t get through the program with fewer hours which, in turn, saves you money. One of the benefits of Sporty’s Academy is that we don’t require large deposits or exorbitant fees to begin and continue your flight training. Be wary of those that do. We offer a pay-as-you-go option, which tends to help when it comes to budgeting.
The answer to all of these questions is: “it depends on the student.” We offer a customizable service that caters to the needs of each individual person, whether a student wishes to fly once a week or twice per day. We certainly push our students to earn their license in 55 hours or less and provide a supportive environment and numerous resources to support our students’ success.
You may also consider asking about lower-cost aircraft options. For example, we offer a lower cost airplane with only the basic equipment. Investing in an online training course for your ground school and written test preparation, such as Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course, will also pay for itself many times over.
The good news is that you control much of your destiny—predicated on your dedication to learning and the continuity of training. Stay engaged, be a dedicated student, and study hard to succeed in flight training. It’s always a great time to get started on an aviation path. The aviation community and industry are unlike any other and you will create many phenomenal life experiences and build lasting friendships along the way.