Hey everyone. I have been meaning to post this but wanted to wait until after I pass my Private Pilot Checkride so as to not jinx myself and as of yesterday 07 OCT, I am officially a licensed pilot, albeit a pilot with only private pilot privileges (so far). When starting my research, one of the things I really wanted to know was the time commitment and real world TOTAL costs associated with obtaining a PPL from a mom and pop school. And while many of you will go to ATP’s Zero to Hero program, many are looking to do a local flight school for their PPL and transferring to ATP or doing their entire training at other Part 61 or Part 141 schools. Where here is my experience and costs associated with my own training with a breakdown of what I paid and how long it took me. I will break down the costs into 3 main categories, actual Instruction and Flying time, costs associated with my Checkride, and Other
Instruction from my Flight School: $11,245.64
Includes: A total of 51.9 logged hours, dual instruction from my CFI, pre- and post-instruction, plus a couple of hours of ground school. Cost included plane rentals of my PA-28-151 at $145/hour wet and $55 an hour for my instructor.
DPE: $600.00 (Cash)
Flight to the DPE’s home airport (2.0 hours), Wait time for my instructor during my exam, and flight time during my Checkride (1.6 hours): $746.59
Other Costs: $2,662.66
Bose A20 Headset: $1,095.95
King School Courses: $975.00 (this includes not only the Written and Checkride prep for my PPL but also Written and Checkride courses for Instrument, Commercial, CFI, and Multi Engine. Just the PPL courses are under $300 so that could save you some extra money.)
1st Class Medical: $130.00
Pilot Logbook: $$11.83
PPL Checkride Study Book: $12.69
PPL Kit: 118.57 (Books like FAR?AIM, test prep, syllabus, ACS etc., paper E6B, plotter and Flight bag)
Chart Supplement (Southeast): $10.40
Sectional Chart (ATL): 8.25
Various apps on my phone: 79.98 (simple apps like FAR/AIM, METARS/TAF, E6B etc)
Total: $15,254.89 to get my PPL. In addition to my PPL, with those costs, I now have a nice pair of Bose A20, a first class medical, some good books, apps and a total of 55.5 hours of flight time once you add in my checkride flight times.
I started on May 24, 2020 and completed my Checkride on October 7, 2020 about 4.5 months after I started, again with 51.9 hours. I soloed on August 12 with 25.8 hours, a little high yes, but I had trouble with my landings. So it took about 2.5 months from starting to solo and another 2 months from solo to checkride. While it took 4.5 calendar months to complete my training, there were 2 weeks where I could not train since my CFI came down with COVID-19 and another couple weeks during that time that the weather was not cooperating, so I could have definitely completed the training in about 3-4 months, all while holding my current full time job as an active duty Army officer. Except for those weeks where health or weather were bad, I would say I flew about 2-4 times a week, each for 1 hour lessons except for my cross country and night trainings, which needed to be longer, again, not impossible for those with full time jobs but it takes a lot of dedication and studying outside of your actual flying and day job so be prepared for that.
The checkride was overall a good experience. At least with my DPE (and I’ve heard horror stories of some DPEs) he was a VERY fair DPE bordering on generous or perhaps I’m just being hard on myself. His main concern was basically, is this pilot safe and can he generally do the maneuvers? I was told many time, NO ONE has a perfect checkride. The worst part is there is just so much to know and you never really know what the DPE will ask, even if you have the ACS memorized. I think good DPEs know if you generally know the material but might be a bit stressed or anxious. I was personally running on 2 hours of sleep in anticipation the night before so I was not on my A-Game unlike my mock checkride but I generally did a good job reacting to his scenarios and eventually passed. I stayed with the same CFI throughout my training and he is a CFI Lifer, is in his 50s and has no intention of going to the airlines. I heard that Lifer CFIs are the best at choosing the best DPEs since they have probably seen them all and can tell who would be good for which student.
Finally I would like to talk about Foreflight. My CFI did not use it so while I got the 1 month free subscription the second day into my training, I unfortunately never used it and went my whole PPL training without any advanced flight apps like Foreflight or Garmin. While it’s definitely good to have, I don’t really think one needs it to get your PPL, though from here on out, I will certainly get it when I begin my instrument training. Hope this helps some of you struggling to budget time and money moving forward with your local Part 61 school. Your experiences may vary but these are at least my real world cost and time commitments during my Private Pilot Journey.