How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

Becoming a pilot is a dream for many, but how much does it cost to make it a reality? From flight training to certifications, find out the estimated cost of becoming a pilot.

Tobias Holm

Table of Contents

Getting a pilot’s license for several different options on the job is a very exciting goal! What could be better than learning to literally fly? As bold and thrilling as the goal may be, not even soaring through the sky is free. So how much does it cost to become a pilot?

According to ATP Flight, the average cost for getting a pilot’s license is around $97,000 if the potential pilot has no existing experience flying. However, if a pilot does already have a private pilot’s certificate, the cost is cut down to around $75,000. These costs come from flight training as well as certification for flying commercial flights.

In this article, we’ll cover the complete answer to how much it costs to become a pilot. We’ll also go over some other frequently asked questions on the topic, as well as what some additional costs may be and which licenses cost which amounts to obtain. With so much information to go over, let’s get started right away.

How Much It Costs to Become a Pilot

When it comes to earning any type of job qualification, there are many milestones that have to be completed first. Each of these milestones usually comes with a pretty significant price tag, and in general, the more important the job is considered, the higher these price tags tend to be in cost.

Becoming a pilot is a goal that is no exception to those rules. It is pricey but worthwhile. In order to understand all the ins and outs of how much it costs to become a pilot, the following things it takes to become a pilot must be considered:

  1. What Type of Pilot Do You Want to Be?
  2. What Country Will You Earn Your License From?
  3. What Additional Training Will You Need?

Each of these three categories of decisions on the path to becoming a pilot comes with its own cost. In order to understand the final cost of becoming a pilot, each of these decisions will be examined in more detail in the overviews below.

No. 1 - What Type of Pilot Do You Want to Be?

There is more than one type of pilot under the sun! Each one comes with a different kind of license necessary to legally operate an aircraft, and each license is expensive to qualify for. 

Some of the pilot types one can expect to be trained for include the following:

  • Commercial Pilot – This kind of pilot is responsible for flying airline aircraft. They must log a requirement of 250 hours of flying in addition to 100 hours of flight time as the pilot-in-command. Finally, 50 hours of flight time cross-country must be accomplished, along with 10 hours of training in instruments. It typically costs over $96,000.
  • Private Pilot – A private pilot simply has a license that gives them the legal right to fly an aircraft. They still receive strenuous flight training in aircraft maneuvers, operation of small aircraft, and navigation, as well as emergency procedures. It can cost up to $20,000 to get a private pilot certificate through this training.
  • Sport Pilot – A sport pilot is a pilot who is legally authorized to operate what is known as a light-sport aircraft. They can fly an airline aircraft if it has a single engine or a “lighter than air” craft such as a balloon or powered parachute. It typically costs between $4,000 and $6,000 to get a sport pilot license.

As you can see, no matter what kind of pilot you want to be, you’ll need to undergo some level of training to earn the legal ability to fly, as well as the skills necessary to make it all worthwhile. Each type of training is particularly expensive, for reasons we’ll go over later in this article.

No. 2 - What Country Will You Earn Your License From? 

Each country has different laws and regulations for what it takes to become a pilot and earn legal licenses and certifications in their skies. This can affect cost. Although aircraft and aircraft instructors will still be highly expensive, there is some price difference from country to country.

For example, in Europe, it costs anywhere between sixteen thousand and twenty-five thousand euros. On the other hand, in America, it costs roughly $97,000 if the student has never achieved their private pilot certificate. 

When comparing euros to American dollars, this means that it is actually cheaper to earn a commercial pilot’s license in Europe than it is in the United States. This is an important factor to consider for students dreaming of taking to the skies as their career.

No. 3 - What Additional Training Will You Need?

Unfortunately, costs don’t stop at gaining a certificate or even a pilot’s license in order to work for different aviation companies. Many airlines require their pilots in training to take even more classes and receive additional instruction before they’re allowed to fly a large, commercial aircraft for their source of income.

There are two very common types of training required after getting a pilot’s license. The first is called Type Rating. Type Rating means that pilots are trained to operate very specific models of aircraft. 

The other is called Base Training, It covers almost all of the same types of aircraft as Type Rating, with the notable exception of ATR 72. These are, unfortunately, additional costs to a student pilot.

The Reason Behind Pilot Costs

With such a large amount of money on the table in order to become a pilot, it can be easy for students with a dream of flying to balk and wonder why it costs so much. The answer to that question can be found in the reasons below:

  • Aircraft Fuel – The aircraft that a flying student would need to use in order to log the large amount of flight hours for their pilot’s certification needs fuel to continue operating. That fuel, in and of itself, is expensive, and the cost of becoming a pilot helps to cut through it for the instructors.
  • Wages of Instructor – Because flying is such a huge part of the modern world’s business models, flight instructors are in very high demand. The higher the demand and the greater the skill needed for these instructors, the higher the subsequent cost of their services. Luckily, certified pilots can move on to becoming well-paid professionals.
  • Insurance and Maintenance For Training Aircraft – No matter which aircraft is used in training a new pilot, it will need to be well taken care of and insured highly against accidents or damages. The owner of the aircraft needs plenty o money to secure these funds, contributing to the overall cost of becoming a pilot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dying to know more about how much it costs to become a pilot? Luckily, we’ve got you covered with the answers to some frequently asked questions below.

How hard is it to become a pilot?

Becoming a pilot is a very challenging goal, but most who manage to accomplish it consider the reward well worth the training. Because getting something wrong in a flying job is such a danger to life and limb, the training can be very strenuous. It requires around 75 hours for a trainee to earn a private pilot certification, for example.

Do any airlines pay for you to become a pilot?

In the quest to become a pilot, especially after learning how much each of the training factors mentioned above costs, you can be grateful for all the potential help you can get financially! Luckily, some airlines do offer to help pay for flight training. 

That being said, most of them will not pay for the entirety of the training, and those that come close do so with strings attached via a contractual condition. For example, an airline may pay for part of the training while requiring the pilot to remain in their service for several years after the training.

Do pilots have a good salary?

Technically, pilots do have a pretty good salary. Commercial pilots, for example, have a salary of $99,640 each year. When it comes to median annual wages for copilots, airline pilots, and even flight engineers, you’re looking at about $202,180.

In Conclusion

To sum it all up, the answer to the question “How Much does it cost to become a pilot?” can take many forms depending on which pilot license is being earned. Once a potential pilot decides whether or not they’d like to be a commercial pilot or simply earn a private pilot’s license, then they must consider where they’d like to use it. 

The country a pilot earns their license in may have different requirements, and each of those requirements, like additional training, comes with a new cost. All of these factors a student must carefully consider before investing in the process itself.

 In general, if you are starting your training to become a commercial pilot without any experience previously, it costs around $97,000. However, if a student already has a private pilot certificate, they may only pay $76,000. Though the training is difficult and the price is high, most pilots find that the reward of being able to fly is well worth it.

Also read:

How Often Do Pilots Work? - Planenerd
How often do pilots work and do they get holidays off? Do pilots have a lot of free time? Here’s what you need to know.
Commercial Aviation

Tobias Holm Twitter

Founder of Planenerd, based in Denmark. Got a LEGO plane as a kid. Obsessed with aviation since. None of my friends want to talk about airplanes.