Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning To Fly: All About Priorities

There’s a practical solution to every barrier in aviation

The other factor—time investment—can't be overlooked. Seventy hours of flight training represents about three times that amount in pre- and post-study time and exam preparation, according to most instructors.

Private pilot students can accordingly expect over 200 hours of hitting the books. That adds up to 300-400 total hours of your life that you'll need to set aside to devote to earning the private certificate.

Here comes the sport-pilot certificate to the rescue. It requires a total of only 20 hours of flight time. Light-sport aircraft are miserly on fuel due to their smaller engines, so they're cheaper for flight schools to operate, and thus rent to you.

The knowledge requirements are lower, too, because they're less complex, so training and study times are reduced by comparison. According to the FAA, national training times average 30 hours for the sport-pilot certificate.

The biggest boon to would-be pilots is the medical requirement; there's no formal medical certificate required for sport pilots. As long as you have a valid driver's license and the DMV says you can drive, you can also fly.

In what many people call the sport-pilot "Catch-22," the driver's license can be used as proof of medical competence provided the prospective pilot wasn't rejected for their last airman medical certificate. In other words, if you ever flunk your medical exam for a higher rating, you can't fly under sport-pilot rules, but otherwise, you're good to go.

Let's do the sport-pilot financial picture:
Aircraft rental @$105/hour (30 hours) = $3,150
Instructor @$40/hour (about 15 hour = $600
Ground time with instructor @$40/hour (10 hours pre and post-lesson instruction) = $400
Ground school, computerized course, or self-study materials = $250
Books, accessories, charts, headset, other materials = $200
Written exam fee = $125
Designated examiner's fee for checkride = $300
TOTAL = $5,025

These costs are approximations based on major metropolitan areas, and prospective pilots can save money in many ways. For example, rental and instructor rates in rural areas are typically lower than in coastal cities.

Older, more basic aircraft (especially tailwheel trainers like Cubs, Champs, Cessna 140s and others) will rent for a lower rate than newer aircraft.


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