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Redbird’s New Flight School Survey Digs Up Fascinating Data, Including… How Much Does It Cost?

How are flight schools faring? Thanks to Redbird Flight Simulations’ new annual survey of flight training organizations, for the first time we might really know.

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Redbird Flight Simulations has released the results of its survey of more than 2,400 flight training organizations on how things went in 2020, and how they expect things to go in 2021, and there’s some fascinating stuff to be found in the survey, the results of which can be found here.

If there’s a biggest takeaway, it’s that in this pandemic year, flight schools were busy training students, spending money and presumably making money, too, despite the challenges. Those obstacles to smooth sailing, by the way, are identified, too. They are (from one to five): pandemic restrictions, the high cost of insurance, issues surrounding designated pilot examiners (who administer check rides to flight schools’ customers), finding new students and, lastly, aircraft maintenance (we presume, including the high cost of said maintenance).

The surveyed organizations rated their 2020 experiences on a Yelp-like five-star scale. They gave 2020 a rating of 3 1/2 stars, not great but not all that bad, either. Their hopes for this year are even better with them rating their expectations at a very solid 4 stars. If this sounds a little low, remember that 4 stars would be a pretty good ranking in any year, never mind one in which we are dragging ourselves out of the throes of a global pandemic. So, that’s a really positive note. Independent CFIs, on the other hand, had a worse 2020, rated at around 2.5 stars, and their hopes for 2021 are slightly better, at around 3.5 stars.

Because, like everyone else who’s not Jeff Bezos, we are curious about how much stuff costs, the survey found that the vast majority of flight instructors get between $40 and $80 an hour, with most of those occupying the middle ground, between $50 and $60. Another big takeaway is that as the rates go up, the amount of money the CFI gets to pocket doesn’t. As rates go up, the percentage share of that rate the CFI gets to keep plummets. So be kind to your CFIs.

 There is so much to see in this excellent survey by Redbird and its many partners, including NAFI, SAFE, FSANA, CloudAhoy, ForeFlight and Flight Schedule Pro, but perhaps the most encouraging and surprising is that in 2020 57% of them purchased or leased an additional airplane (12.37% new ones, 44.62% used ones). They expect to drive that spending even higher in 2021, with around two-thirds of them expecting to buy or lease additional aircraft in the coming year.

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