Posted by: Brian | January 6, 2010

Intricacies of Learning to Fly, Part I

Since I am waiting for the weather to stick it’s proverbial tail between its legs and run, I decided that I will post a ‘quick (yeah right) blog on some of the background issues to think about when deciding if flying is for you.

GI Bill: First and foremost, being a veteran of our Armed Forces, I immediately thought that I’d be able to use my Montgomery G.I. Bill towards paying for the training.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  The Department of Veteran’s Affairs will only pay for training that directly leads to becoming an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) or receiving your instrument or commercial ratings.  And even then, they will only reimburse 60% of the costs.  Source: VA Website.  It’s a bit disappointing that I cannot use the remaining balance of my G.I. Bill on this training, but won’t deter me from continuing.  So just know, if you are going for your PPL (Private Pilots License), it’s out of pocket.

Cost: Another question I get a lot revolves around the cost.  This varies by location, aircraft type used during training, required hours of airtime before being endorsed to take the FAA Flight Exam, and any special flight club or school specials or deals.  For instance, my flight school offers a 10% discount on aircraft rentals if you set up a block account of $1,000.  As you close in on $1,000, you ‘recharge’ the block account back to the full amount.  By the way, paying for flight school is sort of a ‘pay-as-you-go’ deal.  I guess that you could pay for it up front, but I would imagine that the final amount wouldn’t be very accurate, as you will never know from the very beginning exactly how many hours you will require.  The FAA minimum is 35-40, depending on whether your schooling Part 61 or 141.  However, the student pilot average prior to taking the FAA exam is anywhere between 60-80 hours.

Additionally, ground school is not required for your PPL (depending on 61 or 141).  Note: A pilot is certified to fly under authority of Parts 61 and 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), not to be confused with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) :).  So, Part 141 is more structured than a Part 61 is.  There is a lot more to it than that, but that is the cliff-note version.  Anyhow, the training you receive on the ground would reduce the amount of hours you would need in the air.  The costs would be reduced because the ground school (which the prices would differ from place to place) is much cheaper than airtime.  As an example, the ground school I will be attending costs $249 (a 7-week course), plus another $350 for the ground school kit.  The kit includes everything you will need for the training.  The $600 you spend on ground school is a drop in the bucket compared to what it would cost an instructor to teach you much of the same material in the air.  Not to mention, it will make you a better pilot in the end, as much more information is covered in ground school than is covered one-on-one with your instructor.

How long does it take: I don’t know.  I am not done.  🙂  But what I can tell you is what they told me: it depends.  It can take as little as 4-6 months (which is what I am shooting for) to complete or much longer.  It boils down to how often [per week] you can fly.  As an example, if I can average 2-4 sessions a week, I am looking at 4-6 months.  With my schedule, that will entail flying double sessions on the weekends when my weekdays become hectic.  However, at this rate with the wind, I am looking at 4-6 years.  My CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) told me that they have a student who has been working on his for 3-4 years now.  It will also depend on your funds available to spend on the training.  Obviously, if you can’t pay for it, that will put a damper on things as well.  I think many flight school have financing options available if you cannot afford to pay for it up front.  So, as with everything else pertaining to flight, there are many variables.  But if you love it as much as I do, you will find a way!

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Unknown



  1. Hey Brian, as usual I am totally impressed…why don’t you shoot for an ATP…..who knows? maybe you want to become a commercial pilot and get 60% of your cost back?

  2. Well, I would have to get my PPL first, followed by my instrument and commercial ratings. Then, I could go for my ATP. Some ATP programs actually just require the PPL, then you get the rest during the ATP training. But Laura would kill me if I quit my job to train to be an ATP at this stage. Maybe down the road…I won’t exclude anything. 😉

  3. I have _always_ been curious how the costs work and why! Thanks for filling me in on the details!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: