2024 Flight School Fees: How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

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Career Pilot Program

Whether you want to become a become a private pilot or to become an airline pilot you'll need to understand the cost of flight training. The journey from student pilot to obtaining a commercial pilot certificate has FAA mandated hours of flight time, but those hours are not the total cost of flight training. 


Cost of Flight Training to Become an Airline Pilot

Based on the information from some of  the largest from flight training programs, here's a comparative analysis of the costs associated with becoming a pilot across different flight schools. Beware of "average cost to become a commercial pilot" and be sure to check what is included.

Zero to full commercial pilot flight training programs

Flight School Cost Comparison

All flight training costs retrieved April 10, 2024 and rounded to nearest whole dollar.


Flex Air Flight School

Career Pilot Academy


  • PPL - CFI-I
  • Multi-Engine Addon (AMEL)
  • All FAA exams and fees
  • $2000 for headset, iPad, ForeFlight, etc 
  • $4400 for housing

L3Harris Airline Academy

Accelerated Airline Pilot Track


  • PPL - CFI-I

Does Not Include:

  • Multi-Engine Addon (AMEL)
  • Gear: headset, iPad, ForeFlight, etc
  • Housing


  • FAA exams and fees

Epic Flight Academy

Full Professional Pilot Program


  • PPL - CFI-I
  • Multi-Engine Addon (AMEL)
  • All FAA exams and fees
  • Some additional non tuition expenses

Does Not Include:

  • Gear: headset, iPad, ForeFlight, etc 
  • Housing

ATP Flight School

Airline Career Pilot Program


  • PPL - CFI-I
  • Multi-Engine Addon (AMEL)

Does Not Include:

  • FAA exams and fees (Additional $9,200)
  • Gear: headset, iPad, ForeFlight, etc 
  • Housing

The Basics of Pilot Training Costs: How much Does it cost?

First Flight Lessons with a Student Pilot License

Initiating pilot training begins with getting a free FAA student pilot license, essential for legal flight training participation. While the license is free, to get it you must have a valid FAA medical certificate which will cost $120- $200. 

What factors influence the cost to become a pilot?

Several variables impact your overall cost of ground and flight training including the flight school's location, aircraft type, instructor fees, and the actual hours of flight training you require, which are generally more than the FAA minimums.

Opting for newer aircraft or "prestigious" schools can elevate expenses and significantly affect the cost of becoming a pilot, depending on the school. 

Breaking down pilot training cost: Flight school vs. Independent Flight Instructors

Choosing between flight school and independent instructors affects the pilot training cost, with schools offering structured programs but at potentially higher expenses. Independent instructors might reduce costs but require careful management of training consistency and aircraft rental costs. This can be a way to earn your private pilot license, but for a pilot career, if you want to become an airline transport pilot, virtually everyone opts for a flight school.

The difference in training cost between a commercial pilot and a private pilot certificate

You must earn a private pilot certificate before any additional flight instruction. Transitioning from a private to a commercial pilot increases flight training costs due to higher flight hours, advanced courses, and additional exams. These higher costs reflects the increased responsibilities and opportunities of a commercial pilot license, justifying the higher investment in pilot training.


Flex Air Career Pilot Academy

The Flex Air Career Pilot Academy will help you launch your aviation career with a combination of academic instruction, simulator lessons, and aircraft training. Our program delivers every certification and rating you’ll need to get hired as a professional pilot. You'll learn more than just the skills you need to safely and confidently pilot an aircraft. You’ll receive training on how to network in the industry and build a top-notch resume that will get you noticed.

Comparing Flight School and Pilot License Expenses

How much can you expect to pay for flight school in 2024?

Anticipating flight school costs in 2024 involves recognizing potential inflation and technological advancements, with comprehensive programs potentially requiring significant investment. Scholarships and financial aid can alleviate some costs, framing flight training as a strategic career investment.

Private Pilot License Cost vs Sport Pilot License Cost

A sport pilot certificate is a more affordable entry point, it will generally cost 30-50% less than a private pilot certificate. The difference in costs between the two licenses comes from greater training requirements for a private pilot license, including more flight hours and the necessity of an FAA medical certificate. Sport pilots are limited to piloting two-seater light sport aircraft with a maximum certified gross weight of 1,320 lbs. They are restricted from operating aircraft equipped with retractable landing gear and may only have one passenger. Additionally, night flying is off-limits for sport pilots. The choice between a private pilot license and a sport pilot license depends on aviation aspirations and financial capability. However, a private pilot license provides broader flight privileges and a stepping stone to commercial opportunities.

Career Flight Training: Commercial Pilot License Cost

Aiming for a commercial pilot license necessitates a greater financial and time commitment, reflecting the extensive training and experience required. Throughout your flight training, additional ratings and qualifications further increase the commercial pilot license cost, but are essential to earn an airline transport pilot certificate. Earning your flight instructor certificate is not required, but most students do it to earn money and build hours, and many airlines require or prefer pilots with a CFII.

The Role of Flight Time and Flight Instructor in Your Budget

Understanding the cost of flight hours and its impact on pilot training cost

Accruing required flight hours directly impacts pilot training costs, with commercial pilot aspirations necessitating a substantial investment compared to a private pilot certificate. Efficient scheduling and leveraging flight simulators can reduce some of these costs.

How to effectively manage flight time to minimize training costs

Maximizing learning while minimizing costs requires strategic flight hour management, with simulators serving as cost-effective supplementary training tools. This strategy enhances skill development, reducing the need for additional in-flight time. Good flight schools like Flex Air, will help you manage this, minimizing the flight hours to become an airline transport pilot. 

Navigating Additional Costs: From Ground School to Equipment

The hidden expenses: Ground school and flight gear

Ground school and flight gear represent significant additional costs, essential for theoretical knowledge and practical training. Budgeting for quality equipment and educational resources is crucial for safety and comfort during training.

How much should you budget for pilot supplies and materials?

Allocating a budget for pilot supplies and materials is essential. What you need will vary in cost depending on course requirements and equipment quality, but $2000 is a reasonable budget for everything you need to get from your private pilot license to your first airline job. Using digital resources and purchasing used gear can offer financial savings without compromising training quality.

Flex Air is Your Airline Pilot Career Guide

An airline pilot career is both challenging and rewarding, offering the opportunity to travel the world and assume responsibility for the safety and comfort of passengers. Flex Air won't just help you get your training as quickly and cost effectively as possible...

  • Flex Air will help you launch your career as an airline pilot.
  • Flex Air will match you up with your first job after graduation.
  • Flex Air gives hiring preference to our own students as CFIs.
  • We’ll support you as a Flex Air alumni by providing job search and counseling services throughout your career.

Financing Your Dream: Ways to Pay for Pilot Training

Exploring scholarships, loans, and financial aid options for aspiring pilots

Scholarships, loans, and financial aid provide pathways to manage pilot training costs, with research and strategic planning essential for accessing these resources. Balancing funding needs with potential debt implications is crucial for financial sustainability.

Tips on saving and budgeting for your pilot training journey

Creating a detailed budget, exploring employment within aviation, and researching all potential costs are fundamental steps towards financing pilot training. Discipline and informed financial management pave the way to achieving pilot aspirations.

Working to cover the cost of becoming a pilot

Part-time employment, particularly in aviation-related roles, offers a strategy to cover training costs, providing financial benefits and valuable industry exposure. Balancing work and training demands strategic planning but can significantly ease the financial journey towards a pilot license. At Flex Air we giving hiring preferences to our students to work as flight instructors.

Certified flight instructor certificate cost: The cost to become a flight instructor

Becoming a certified flight instructor involves additional costs but opens career opportunities and the chance to offset further training expenses. This role allows for skill improvement and significant contributions to the aviation community.

Certificated Flight Instructor Academy

The fastest way to become an airline pilot

Have you already completed one or more ratings at another school? Has your training stalled out after months of delays and waiting lists? Transfer to Flex Air and finish in our accelerated program, where our career placement rate is 100% and our training outcomes are 340% better than the average flight school. The fastest way to become an airline pilot is as a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). We hold quarterly CFI Academy courses that will teach you everything you need to become a flight instructor. But more importantly, we'll teach you how to stand out and get hired at the best flight schools, where you'll build 1,000 or more flight hours in just a year.

What about Airline Sponsored Training Programs

The pros and cons of airline transport pilot license programs

Airline transport pilot license programs offer structured paths towards becoming a commercial pilot, albeit with substantial investment and commitment. The benefits of streamlined training and financial support from airlines contrast with the challenges of limited early career flexibility.

Flex Air students now fly major airlines, see what they are saying about us…


Ryan has worked as a safety advocate, pilot recruiter, captain, line check airman, and even an Assistant Chief Pilot for National Air Cargo recently. He now flies the 757/767 for United as a First Officer.

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