Learning to fly is an investment in yourself. It may be for a future career, it may be to expand your current business or it may be for the pure excitement of freedom and fun. Whatever your reasons, it’s an investment.
Here is a list of 22 different ways to keep your training costs down.
Prepare for each lesson
The more you know about what’s going to happen at your next lesson the more you can affect your training. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a good meal. Have all the material you need for your flight. It’s amazing how difficult it is to learn when you don’t have the basic needs covered. If you have to repeat a lesson because you were too tired or hungry to focus you can add an exponential amount to your overall training costs.
Study your checklists
Know what procedure is done when. Know what task comes it what order. The more you fumble with your checklists because you don’t know them, the less confidence your instructor may have in your ability to solo. This means more repeat lessons.
Now, while you should study them, and memorize them if you can, we don’t mean don’t use them. Your memory is not a steel trap. You can forget things, and sometimes it can be a life or death step you missed. So, know your checklists, but use them to be sure you don’t miss a critical step.
Do your homework – study
There is a LOT of information you need to know to learn to fly safely. Most of it is learned on the ground. The more you study your books, the concepts, the maneuvers and the regulations the less time you spend with a flight instructor ‘teaching’ you.
Armchair flying – watch videos, fly in your mind, study your cockpit
“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head” – Jack Nicklaus (Golfer)
Armchair flying, or practice of visualization is a tool that many professional athletes, successful business people and actors use to become better at what they do. It saves them time and money because they can do it over and over and over again in their mind, perfecting as they go.
This isn’t limited to only doing it in your mind, though. Watch videos and learn from other people. Take a picture of your cockpit, put it on a poster board, sit at your desk and simulate flying. The more ways you can learn a concept, the more it solidifies in your very fiber.
Take caution though, as practicing something – even in your mind – is only effective if you practice it the right way. So, learn the fundamentals and learn them properly. Practice makes permanent – perfect practice makes perfect.
Record your flight lesson
Grab your GoPro or your Garmin Virb and an audio cable and record your flights. This will help you relive your flight when you aren’t so overwhelmed with flying the plane. You can see your mistakes and think about how to correct it next time. You can pause your flight and really solidify your sight-picture for a maneuver. You can practice your radio communications while you don’t have to focus on controlling the plane.
Another note of caution on this one as well. DON’T let the recording of your lesson compromise your safety of flight. It is better to not have this feature, than to be so worried about your recording that you forget to fly.
Talk with other pilots
Pilots love to share their stories. And most of them will have a lesson or two to learn. Some of our stories are when we had the smoothest touchdown ever, that one time we dealt with turbulence or even that time we forgot to remove the tail tie down. Regardless of it being a good story or a lesson learned, talking with other pilots can be an amazing way to increase your own confidence.
Also, the more you talk with pilots, the more chances you may have to go up in a plane with another pilot. The more you are around planes and pilots the more you learn. And it only costs you some time and an exercise in listening.
Share flight time
Similar to talking with other pilots and taking the offer to go up in their plane is the ability for you to share flight time with other pilots. If they are instructors they may let you fly the plane. If you find another pilot who isn’t an instructor then you can be their safety pilot. Or you can have the company of another pilot on your flight as you build your confidence.
As always, whether you’re flying the plane or just in the front passenger seat, you are learning.
Spend less time on the ground – fly often, stay current, train consistently
The more you fly, the more you retain. It’s like riding a bike. When you first started out learning to ride you didn’t get on the bike once ride for a bit and then put the bike away for a month and try again. You got on it a little bit every day. And practiced riding. And soon you picked it up.
It’s the same with learning everything, and flying is no exception. The more consistent you are with your lessons and the closer they are to each other, the more you will learn in less time.
Show up – even if the weather is bad
Following our last point, show up to your lessons. Regardless of the weather. You can still have a ground lesson with your instructor. You can talk about the weather and what makes it ‘bad for your flight’. You may even get a chance to fly anyways as the weather may clear up for you.
Use a simulator
If your flight school has one, use the simulator. It costs less than taking a plane up and you can build on your skill. You can even fly it in bad weather! It’s also a great way to get experience flying into an unfamiliar airport. And most importantly, you can work on a specific skill repeatedly without too much wasted time getting set up for your maneuver.
Communicate issues early
A simple way to ensure that you are not wasting money on your flight training is to talk with your instructor. Tell them what’s going well, tell them what you’re worried about. Tell them what you think you need to work on and any problems you may be facing.
If you keep your instructor informed to your struggles they may have new and creative ways to help you overcome them. Need to rearrange your flying schedule…let them know. Need creative ways to reduce your training costs…let them know. Need to build your confidence before a checkride…let them know.
Consider a recreational or sport pilot license
Many pilots only execute a fraction of their private pilot privileges. Most ‘weekend’ pilots could get by with a recreational or sport pilots license. Both licenses allow you to fly and both licenses can be upgraded to a full private pilot license in the future. Check out the regulations and what you can and can’t do with both licenses and see if it’s right for you.
Get a job at the airport
The more time you spend at the airport, the more chances you have of meeting interesting people, seeing interesting planes or picking up on opportunities to learn. If you can totally immerse yourself into aviation you may find other ways to reduce your training costs. And the paycheck doesn’t hurt either.
Reduce the amount of “stuff” you buy
We’ve talked about it before, but there are a lot of gadgets and gizmos out there to help you fly. But they all separate you from your money as well. The latest and greatest pilot jacket may help you look cool but it doesn’t help you fly better or save you any money. Some ‘stuff’ is needed to fly and your flight instructor will be able to tell you what you need and what you don’t.
Apply for scholarships
There are several scholarships out there, and some go un-awarded because no one applies for them. Scholarships are designed by their very nature to help you save money, reducing the cost of learning to fly. Take some of your time to research what scholarships are out there and apply. You never know, you may have a large portion of your flight training paid for.
Choose a flight school or flight instructor with a good reputation
In the world of online reviews, social media and the internet there is no reason to get yourself into a school that has a bad reputation. Do your due diligence and research your school and their instructors. Check out the good reviews and the bad. How the company responds to negative reviews is a great way to know how they may handle any situation you find yourself in.
Take advantage of discounts and freebies
Some schools offer block pricing, where you pay for a chunk of flight time up front but save a little in the long run. Some schools offer special gifts when you sign up for different classes. Or they may offer a free seminar. Take advantage of these. They are designed to help you learn at a reduced rate.
Join the civil air patrol
Again, this falls into the category of immersion into aviation. While you can fly a CAP plane, if you meet the requirements, for a reduced cost there are other aspects of being a member of CAP. Check out their website and talk to some members of the Civil Air Patrol and see how they may be able to help you.
Have a good credit score
Many students have a loan to help them pay for training. Having a good credit score doesn’t directly reduce your training costs but it can reduce the interest rate on your loan. And that can save you big time!
Become an instructor
This is last on our list for a reason. It requires you to have some pretty significant flight training already accomplished. But if you want to get paid to fly and build your flight time while teaching and inspiring future pilots, this isn’t a bad way to go.
There you have it. A nice list of 22 ways to keep your flight training costs down. How many of these have you done? Are there other ideas you’ve tried that we didn’t list? Feel free to let us know about it.