How much does it cost to get a pilot’s license?

It seems like a pretty straightforward question. Unfortunately, there are a number of variables which makes the answer a bit complicated.  Let’ break it down so you can understand the costs and make an informed decision.

Tailwinds flight school Philadelphia

The costs for flight training can be divided into three categories:

1. Aircraft and Simulator Rental

This is likely that largest piece of the cost of flight training.


Typically, aircraft are rented “wet” – meaning with fuel included in the hourly rate.  Aviation fuel (AvGas) is more expensive than auto fuel and aircraft engines use more of it per hour than cars do.  Our Cessna 172 burns about 9-10 gallons per hour. Aircraft rentals are charged in increments of 1/10 hour.

Our Cessna 172 rents for $160/hour.  If you train at least two times per week, you should be able to complete your training in ~65 hours, which is the current, national average – or around $10,400.


Our FlyThisSim touch trainer VM is an outstanding training aide that will make your flight training much more efficient.  Expect to spend around 15 hours in the SIM at $50/hour, or ~$750

2. Instructor

Instructors get paid whenever they are giving your instruction – whether it’s in a classroom setting, using the SIM or flying the airplane. For budgeting purposes figure 75 hours at $60 per hour, or ~$4500

3. Miscellaneous Expenses

  • Books and supplies ~$200
  • Knowledge Test Fee $150
  • Practical Test Fee ~$500 (paid to Designated Pilot Examiner; fees vary)
  • Renter’s Insurance ~ 300 (for solo flights)
  • Medical Certificate Exam $100

Total Misc Expense ~$1250


$16,900 is based on the per hour cost of aircraft and simulator rental and instructor rates.  Keep in mind that these costs will vary from school to school.  You may find higher or lower rates for airplane and simulator rentals as well as instructor fees.

Some schools offer what appears to be a lower “package” rate.  They get there by assuming you’ll finish with a minimum number of hours.  There is generally an asterisk (*) indicating that the cost is based on a minimum number of hours and if it takes you longer, you’ll be billed at the standard rate.

The best approach is to plan for more hours.  If you are able to train faster – that’s great, and you can use that extra money for aircraft rental after you have your pilot’s license or to start training for your instrument rating.

We are a pay-as-you-go company.  Credit Card or Check.  We do not sell discounted blocks of time for flight training. 


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