Can I Make Money with a Private Pilot’s License?

The general rule with private pilot licenses is that you cannot fly for hire or compensation. This means that you can’t charge for your services as a pilot except for in some limited circumstances.

Some might argue that private pilot licenses are therefore limited, but this just isn’t the case. You see, private pilot’s licenses are designed to allow you to enjoy your aircraft and flying experiences to the fullest, so long as you’re doing so as a private citizen.

With a private pilot license (PPL) you can fly yourself and passengers around the country. You can take up aerobatics, you can become a ground instructor, and much more. In fact, you can earn a living wage with a private pilot license provided you take the right opportunities.

The big no-no with PPLs is charging passengers for passage. They are allowed to split the expenses with you, but they can’t be charged a fare. They are also not allowed to offer any other kind of compensation in return for your flying.

Similarly, you can’t carry cargo for a fee or compensation. You can move your own items using an aircraft, but you couldn’t transport other people’s property for money.

How Much Money Can You Make with a Private Pilot’s License?

There are a few circumstances where PPL holders can earn money while flying. They are somewhat niche which means that not every PPL holder will be able to earn a living doing these things.

You should also note that you’ll need additional ratings and endorsements to be able to do some of these jobs.

1.       Ground School Instructor

You don’t actually need a PPL to be a ground school instructor, but it certainly helps. Now, you might not fancy this option as it doesn’t actually involve flying. It is, however, a rewarding job with a decent salary.

The national average for ground instructors is about $50,000 a year though some salaries go as high as $90, 000 depending on experience.

2.       Aircraft Salesperson

You might not think it but being an aircraft salesperson will actually get you up in the air. You see, salespeople are allowed to take to the skies if they are demonstrating the aircraft to prospective buyers.

You can expect to earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year as an aircraft salesperson. What’s more, you generally earn a hefty commission when you close a sale!

3.       Aerobatics

Ever watched an airshow and thought you’d like to give those death defying stunts a go? Well, the good news is that you can get started with your PPL.

When gaining your PPL, you’ll have to learn some maneuvers like the lazy eights or the chandelle. These form the basis of many aerobatic tricks which can help you find your feet.

If you do want to look at a career in aerobatics, you’ll need to get a tailwheel endorsement because most of the aircraft used in aerobatics have tailwheel landing gear.

You’ll also need to take an introductory aerobatics course which lasts for between 8-10 hours. This course will be instructor lead and will teach you some basic maneuvers.

As a stunt pilot, you could earn between $45,000 and $90,000 a year. It depends on how many shows you book, your experience, and your ability.

4.       Towing

One of the easiest ways to earn money with a PPL is by towing gliders, unpowered ultralight vehicles.

To do this, you need a PPL and the following requirements:

  • 100 hours as a pilot in command.
  • Have an endorsement from an instructor stating you have received training with gliders and ultralights.
  • Perform 3 supervised flights towing a glider, or ultralight craft. This also needs to be endorsed by the supervising pilot.
  • Salaries vary depending on your contract and experience but on average, tow pilots can expect to charge between $15-$50 an hour for their services. 

What Pilot License Do I Need to Make Money?

If you want to make a more stable and consistent income as a pilot, you’ll need a commercial or airline pilot license.

A commercial license will allow you to do everything except work for airlines. You can carry passengers and cargo, carry out crop dusting, rescues, and survey flights.

An airline license allows you to fly for commercial airlines. Most people tend to work their way up from PPL to commercial and then to airline if that’s what they want to do.

If you want to make a living as a pilot, then getting your commercial pilot license is the best way to start. You can do a huge variety of jobs with a commercial pilot license, and it sets you on the right track to enter the big leagues with an airline license.