Expense is technically relative. If you have no money or are working 16 hours a day just to keep a roof over your head, then yes, it’s expensive to become a pilot. If you have hundred-dollar bills instead of handkerchiefs, then no, you won’t find it expensive, because you won’t feel the opportunity cost impact of spending the money to gain the skill.
As for how much it costs to become a pilot, that too depends on a lot of factors. First, the level of pilot you want to become – private pilot, IFR-rated, VFR-rated, commercial pilot? Each step along the way takes a significant investment in terms of both time and money.
So it’s a lot more expensive, for instance, to become a commercial pilot than it is to become a simple private pilot. The logic behind that is obvious – as a commercial pilot you can earn a salary with a major airline, whereas as a private pilot, you can fly only limited types of private plane, for your own benefit. The intervening ratings allow you to fly more complicated, multi-engine planes, and to fly in rough weather or cloud.
Ultimately then, you could say that becoming a pilot is expensive on a sliding scale, depending on the level of license or certificate you’re aiming to achieve.And then there are the subsidiary costs that have to be covered – you’re not just paying for the plane and the instructor. You’re paying to help house it. You’re paying to help maintain it. And of course, you’re paying towards the cost of the fuel that transforms it from a mechanical statue into the plane that can help you achieve your piloting dreams.
How expensive is flight training?
Assuming that you’re looking at paying as little as possible to get properly flight trained, it’s…still not straightforward to answer this question. Should be – but isn’t. The thing is, there are two bands of FAA-accepted flying school, Part 61 schools, and Part 141 schools.
They offer the same sort of training towards your Private Pilot’s License, but you have to choose a type of school, because they differ in flexibility, intensity – and often cost.
Bottom line, to achieve a Private Pilot’s License, you’re looking at
A Part 61 school will demand you take a minimum of 40 hours of training to achieve your PPL – and will often charge you more for those hours because they offer flexible training schedules which can fit around the rest of your life. Part 141 schools will demand a minimum of 35 hours of flight training to achieve your PPL – but will be structured much more rigidly and intensively.
While the FAA’s minimum is 35-40 hours, depending on which kind of flight school you go to, you’re really more likely to need between 65-70 hours in the air before you can confidently sit and take your Private Pilot’s License examination.
In terms of cost, that means you’re looking at up to $200 for your initial student pilot medical certificate, and then roughly $10,000 in ground and air fees to go from scratch to a Private Pilot’s License.
How much does a commercial pilot school cost?
It’s difficult to be specific about the precise costs of commercial pilot school because the two systems – Part 61 and Part 141 – continue to play a role. At a Part 61 flight school, you need to log a minimum of 250 hours to get your CPL. By comparison, in a Part 141 school, you only need to log a minimum of 190 hours.
Great, so the Part 141 route must be cheaper, right?
It’s actually more complicated than that. Part 141 schools come under higher levels of FAA scrutiny. That means they often cost more for every hour of aircraft rental and instructor time. So while you may end up needing fewer hours logged, you may pay more per hour at a Part 141 school to achieve the same goal.
It’s also worth noting that the FAA minimum number of hours needed is likely to be significantly smaller than the actual number of hours you need in the air to confidently qualify for your CPL. So, if we’re taking the roughly $10,000 of the PPL into account, and assume that as part of your CPL training you’ll also fold in multi-engine and instrument rating training, both of which you need if you’re to get a job with an airline, going from PPL to CPL will cost you at least an additional $30,000.
And it’s important to understand that depending on the flight school you choose, you might well be looking at up to double that amount. So anywhere from $40,000-$70,000 is what you’re looking at to get your CPL from scratch.
How much does modular pilot training cost?
The thing about modular pilot training is not that it costs significantly less. In fact, it can cost you more overall, because of the inconvenience factor of breaking up the training and allowing you to do it at your own pace.
But that’s the point. It’s not that the total amount is smaller, it’s that each individual payment is smaller, spread over a longer time period.
There are also potential savings to be made in terms of the modules you choose and when you choose them. Buying a single, intensive program means you can sometimes pay for learning or experience you don’t need, whereas modular training can be fitted much more specifically to your needs.
This is where savings can be made, but don’t necessarily assume you’ll be saving thousands off the overall costs you’d expect to pay for integrated training.
How much is the tuition fee for a pilot in the Philippines?
Flight training in the Philippines is traditionally more expensive than in many countries. But the average monthly salary for fully trained commercial pilots is also comparatively high in the local economy, so it feels ‘worth it’ to many people – if they can raise the money in the first place.
To get fully trained to CPL level in the Philippines, you’re looking at spending anywhere between P3 million-P5 million.
Yes, that’s a lot of money, but for instance, a First Officer in a big airline in the Philippines takes home around P180,000 per month. Hit Captain and that jumps to around P280,000. In terms of recouping your training investment, that’s less than three years’ work – everything after that is gravy.
Compared to, say, a doctor, who can spend P3.6 million on getting qualified to resident status and only expect to take home an average salary of P26,000 per month, training to be a pilot makes an enormous amount of sense.
Doctors would take nearly 12 years of work to recoup their training costs, whereas pilots would have been cost-free and earning for over 9 years by the time the doctor reached the same freedom.
How much money do I need to be a pilot?
As we’ve mentioned, the amount of money you need to be a pilot depends on whether you train at a Part 61 or a Part 141 flight school. It also depends on the level to which you train, and even the individual fees of your flight school, as well as whether you train on an integrated platform or a modular one.
Anything from $40,000-$70,000 in the US will probably cover you from the start of your training to the possession of your full Commercial Pilot’s License. But if there’s one crucial caveat to put on any judgment of how much money you’ll need to be a pilot: you don’t always need the full amount at the one time.
Intensive, integrated programs – which admittedly have historically been favored by the bigger airlines in terms of recruitment – can cost a lot either in one big chunk, or several smaller, but still not inconsiderable chunks. Modular training, where it’s available, helps make the overall pot of money you need to be a pilot seem smaller, by helping you break it up into much smaller bites over a longer period of time.
Why is it so expensive to become a pilot?
Almost nothing about becoming or being a pilot is cheap or easy.
That’s because, for instance, small plane ownership is the mark of economic status in society, so where for instance, it’s relatively cheap and easy to learn to drive a car, if you want to learn to fly a plane, you have to pay for access to the plane or planes in which you learn.
You also have to pay for the expertise of the person or people who can train you. You’re essentially hiring your own professor, one hour at a time. That’s never going to be cheap.
Examination costs are necessarily high, because they’re the gateway through which people pass to get permission to control a potentially dangerous vehicle, and the FAA wants people who get that access to be dedicated, competent, and safe.