So You Want to FLY...
It would be hard for me to get excited about
bowling, curling or playing poker. They’re all activities that
are “way out there” and in which I have absolutely no interest.
Yet if you flip through the TV channels on a Saturday afternoon,
there’s a good chance you’ll find any one, or even all of these
going on somewhere. They’re apparently quite popular, but I’d
have to pass on watching.
However, if on that same Saturday afternoon
there was something on the television about aviation, that’s
where I’d be. Being excited about flying isn’t the same as with
bowling or poker. Any pilot or someone who aspires to be a
pilot, was probably born with that bug. And it stays with us
for life. For many, the process starts at a young age, then
finally comes to term years later when the financial resources
allow. I suspect that’s still the case, and many of the
students learning to fly today will not see their license for
another ten or twenty years. It’s the huge cost that holds them
It didn’t take too much searching to put
together what seems to be an average or typical cash outlay for
learning to fly. In Canada, and this is very close to what you
would pay in the U.S., the estimated minimum cost to earn a
PRIVATE PILOT license is around $10,000. And don’t forget the
taxes added on by the government. In most jurisdictions, the
tax rates are between 10 and 15%, which jacks up the price of
that license around another $1,200 or $1,300. These costs will
apply to pilots who can complete the training in the minimum
required hours. Most can’t.
For those who intend to make a career of
flying, they’ll go on to the commercial license. In that case,
the costs really start to climb. Today in 2011, a commercial
pilots license will involve a financial commitment of another
$20,000 plus. Add on the tax, and it will total about $23,000.
How does a nineteen or twenty year old
student come up with that kind of cash? To get from zero
flying through to a commercial license, the bottom line will be
between $35,000 and $40,000. That can be spread out over time,
and realistically, the student is possibly looking at years to
Not to discourage you, but I will state that
at the end of this training, you will have just around 250 hours
in your logbook, no IFR or multi engine rating, which would be
the minimum qualifications for landing a job in a right seat.
Add on approximately another $15,000.
There is some good news, and that would be
the time commitment. With the financial backing in hand, a
student could conceivably put together the commercial license
with the multi-IFR ratings in a year. That can’t be done to
earn a university degree.
Costs and time involved are literally all
over the map for different pilots. Some will get it on and get
it done, while others take years. Many fly on a PPL while
continuing other careers, then one day decide they should
upgrade to a commercial license in order to open up some work
There are people of all ages who would like
to fly but who know they will never fly for a living. Some
realize they’re just too old to get started in an aviation
career. For them, the costs just discussed may be
prohibitive. However, there is an option of going the
Recreational Pilot Permit route. The next best thing to earning
a PPL, this RPP qualifies a pilot to fly certified aircraft
carrying a passenger during daylight hours within Canada.
A pilot with the RPP is also eligible to
obtain a float rating. When you think about it, most pilots who
have a PPL fly with only one other person on board anyway. And
for their perceived security risks, the regulations and
procedures to fly across the U.S. border are just not worth the
trouble for the recreational private pilot. That makes the RPP
a logical alternative. The best part is the cost can be as low
as $7,000. It’s not a bad way to get flying.
If that still doesn’t fit your needs or
pocketbook, then consider the Ultralight Pilot Permit. For as
little as near $5,000, you could be in the air flying a basic or
advanced ultralight aircraft. The plane is restricted to a
maximum take-off weight of 1,200 pounds, and you will not be
allowed without further endorsements and conditions to carry
All the numbers in this article can vary
considerably, depending on where you go to sign up for lessons
and who you talk to. They represent approximate costs. There
is no shortage of easily accessed information on the internet on
the subject of pilot licensing. What you’re reading here is
what I hope will spark your interest in learning to fly. There
are several choices out there, one of which might just be your
ticket the sky.