I'm currently in the process of becoming a pilot and the question I keep asking myself is why does it cost so much for just one hour?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are you referring to rental rates or instructor? $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Oct 27, 2015 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ Compare costs for running an aircraft with costs for running a car (insurance, fuel, parking, maintenance, vehicle's purchase,...). This is only a part of the answer why it cost more than one hour in a car (to obtain the driving licence). $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Oct 27, 2015 at 12:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What are the typical facets of ownership costs, for a single engine aircraft? $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Oct 27, 2015 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ It's valuable to remember that often times, you get what you pay for. You may shop around and find a cheaper school, but that could be because they're skimping on maintenance or have less experienced CFIs. Just something to bear in mind. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 27, 2015 at 16:07

3 Answers 3


You've not specified how much you consider "so much", however it's unlikely to matter too much to the answer. What you're paying for is (at least) twofold, and probably consists of

  1. The rental of somebody else's aircraft. Every hour you fly this aircraft takes it an hour closer to an expensive maintenance window. There are costs involved in running an aircraft much like there are costs associated with owning/maintaining any vehicle. Also, fuel isn't free - its is often rolled in to the cost of rental for aircraft.
  2. The time of an instructor, who himself has spent time/money learning his craft, and quite possibly does this as his job (as in, its his sole purpose to earn money from teaching you to fly). He has skill and experience, and like all jobs, the more his skill/experience the greater fees he can charge.

You may have missed the first rule of purchasing a service - shop around. Is your flight school/instructor of a comparable price to others in the locality? Is the instructor you're using a senior CFI, or a new CPL hour-building to get a job with an airline? You will potentially get a different level of service depending on price, but this may suit your wallet better while still giving you the skills you need to get your own pilots license.

Anectote: When I was training for my PPL (circa 2001-2002) in the UK I paid roughly £150/hr. This included the hire of a C152 and a pretty experienced instructor. From memory the instructor was £80/hr and the remainder was the aircraft. When I got sick of being cramped in a C152 with another 6'2" guy, I paid more to fly a C172 - probably added about £40/hr to the cost.


Here is a nice answer that covers the various costs of owning an aircraft and will give you a good idea of what goes into it. The only additional thing that a rental plane needs (here in the US under FAA regs) is a 100 hour inspection while private planes only need an annual. Generally speaking rental planes also tend to get fixed pretty quickly as the school does not want or cant afford to have them out of service for very long. Both the flight schools I have been at had their own maintenance hangers and mechanics.

However the costs are quite variable even in a given area. I used to fly out of KPNE and rent a warrior at 130(USD)/Hour wet, that flight school closed and I am now up at KDYL renting the same plane for 108(USD)/Hour wet. Both flight schools charge 40(USD)/Hour for the instructor. Compare this to the other airport in the area Wings Field which has a brand new fleet of Cirrsus' renting for around 300(USD)/Hour wet.

On any note the Flight schools usually have to cover the costs of owning the plane as well as make a profit. Its also wise to work in some flex to that since planes do break and are often costly to fix even the simple things. Flight schools typically also need to cover the costs of owning what ever building they operate out of as well as paying anyone that is not a flight instructor that works there.

  • $\begingroup$ I know its implicit that you're in the US, but could you qualify what unit your per hour costs were? Especially if that's 40{llamas} per hour! $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Oct 27, 2015 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ USD but ill add it, for some reason the $ makes the text do something funny $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Oct 27, 2015 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave Don't know if you've figured that out, but that's probably Mathjax. You can use \$ to override that and just include a plain old $ sign in the text. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 28, 2017 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling ahhh thats been a headache for me on a few questions ill use it from here on out though, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Oct 29, 2017 at 0:25
  • Depreciation cost of the aircraft
  • Planned and unplanned maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Organisation fixed and variable costs (offices, admin personnel, stationery etc)
  • Aircraft utilisation (hours you can sell vs hours available)
  • Fuel and oils
  • Instructor hourly rate
  • Service fees paid to the local airfield where the aircraft lives
  • Hangarage
  • Profit

It's amazing that I can do this locally for about $250 per hour.


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