Real Answers from Real Pilots

My Mom-and-Pop Part 61 Expereince with Costs and Time

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

Costs:

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.

Checkride: $1,346.59

Includes:
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

Includes:
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.)
Kneeboard: $59.99
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.

Time Commitment:

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.

Other thoughts:

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.

Sam

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Sam,

Interesting break down. Keep in mind though that your costs are only for 55 hours. If you are planning on going to ATP, you will need 78 hours, which is what ATP’s program includes for the $17k. While true, you can go fly on your own now, that extra time at ATP will be spent with an instructor either perfecting your private skills, or getting a head start on your instrument. When you adjust for the difference in flight time, the program costs are almost identical to that you just did. I am not trying to rain on your parade, just letting you know that there really is no cost savings here.

Congratulations on obtaining your PPL, that is a huge accomplishment! Welcome to the friendly skies.

Chris

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Chris,

Thanks, and no offense taken. I wasn’t really trying to compare the costs / savings with ATP’s $17k, but merely a guide for those who’s circumstances can’t or won’t be able to do ATP’s program for situations like location, finances (ie obtaining a loan for $84k), family or work situations etc. I agree with you that net savings is basically zero. Once you subtract the DPE fee, the headset and few miscellaneous things that ATP won’t provide that leaves a cost of about $13k or $4k to use to pick up another 22.5 hours which is basically breaking even. On the plus side, if my goal was to go to ATP with the PPL credit, I can use the $4k to get those 22.5 hours by flying joyrides with friends or family, and not the stress of “training” and while perhaps not as great learning opportunities as with a CFI, joyrides can still foster great learning.

I have always been a fan of ATP’s accelerated model and think their overall costs are competitive to many schools out there, but as I work full time, I was unable to sign up with ATP. With that said, I only have a couple more months active duty, and while I could join ATP by next FEB, I would unfortunately not be able to take advantage of the GI Bill benefits which is why I am choosing a Part 141 to have the VA pay for my training.

With regards to time, I think finishing in 4.5 months given the whole COVID and weather delays plus my job was not too bad at about 50% longer than ATPs timeline, though I know ATP trains to 78 hours before the PPL ckeckride. I hope to fully devote my time once I’m out and starting my instrument rating to finish in 9 months; within 50% of ATPs 6 month program, and that’s without a job anymore.

Sam

Sam,

I’m glad your route worked out well for you and we’ve never said you can’t go the local route and be successful. That said unfortunately that’s not often the case (as I know from personal experience) and people more times than not don’t do a well.

Adam

Adam,

I hope I didn’t give the impression that the mentors on here did give that expression, you all have been an invaluable resource on all your insights and experiences. I have just heard/read things, and not just here, about the issues with mom and pop schools as well as life in general getting in the way and just wanted to give my input that I had some reservations before starting my training but I somehow made it work, perhaps I’m a lucky exception.

I would like to add I did have to have a talk with my CFI regarding what I wanted. It revolved around a day where the flight was cancelled due to weather early in my training. We decided to do ground school but it was over an hour of me in the office watching some YouTube videos on his laptop I could have watch at my house while he sat in a chair in the the corner. I paid his full $55/hour fee (and it irked me) but asked him to just let me know what the next lesson is about so I can just study at home. Mind you I already passed the written exam before I started training. The only other time we did ground school was right before my long XC and I actually found that helpful since he actually did the hands on teaching. I tell this story because sometimes people need to take a more active roll in their training to get what they want out of it, which is probably what many people in Part 61 schools fail to do, and their training and fiances suffer. It worked for me and the CFI was professional enough to realize I was independent enough to do things on my own outside of the flight training and I was able to save some money but still learn and get what I want out of my training.

Sam

Sam,

Congrats on passing your checkride. Precheckride anxiety is real. I had it. Got better after each pass.

Interesting comment about being proactive. Can’t stress that enough to people who receive training from local part 61 schools for the exact reason you stated. Good for you for speaking up.

Also thanks for the price breakdown. Will be helpful for those considering this route.

Enjoy instrument training. Totally different world, but also a beautifully choreographed experience.

Tory

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Hi Sam,

Thank you for sharing this ive started my PPL last week and this post was really informative! I just have a question about your headset. Since im modular too budget is definitely a concern, so im wondering how did you feel about the a20 currently. Ive done a ton of research and im committed to continue my study for becoming a airline pilot. Please share your thoughts about it, would be really appreciated.

Thank you so much.
Zachary

Zachary,

I love my A20s, no complaints and would not go back. With that said, while the noise canceling function is great, there were a few times I was so ready to fly that I didn’t even remember to turn on the noise cancelling function and I didn’t even notice until after my flight. I got the one with the Bluetooth function and, not sure you know since I ddin’t, it automatically cuts off when you or someone over your frequency speaks and stays off for a second or two after the last transmission so no worries about having it on and missing or not hearing a transmission.

As others on this site say, you will have your headset for a long time, most likely even when you head to the regional so you might as well pay some money upfront and have yourself a good pair, especially for the noisy GA planes one flies in as a student. Also, when you are already spending about $100k once all is said and done, what’s another few hundred for something tangible you can hold? I have not used other headsets so perhaps others are almost or as good for far less money, but I can say I do love mine.

Sam

Sam

Thank you for the quick response. Im glad you liked them. Honestly i needed a last little push from someone since the price is a high blow to the wallet. But from your response im sure to like them. Anyway I will test the one the school offer for free, but with covid its better to have mine personally. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

Zachary

Zachary,

What school do you go to?

Tory

Hi Tory,

Actually im in Canada (Montreal). So im currently to a school named Cargair. If someone see this post and is also studying or instructing in this school let me know i would love to get to know you :smiley:

Zachary