Inflight Student Pilot Blog (Debriefing the Experience)
My checkride has come and gone. I’m a private pilot but still waiting on my official license to arrive in the mail. I wanted to put together a debrief post of my experience, reviewing the time commitment, costs, and some of my highs and lows from the training with the hopes it will give more visibility to current or prospective private pilots. Keep in mind this is my experience only, and every pilot will have a different experience.
The Time Commitment
From start to finish my training took right around 5 months. I started in June and wrapped up in November and generally tried to fit in 2 lessons a week when possible, although some weeks I got weathered out and some weeks I got in an extra lesson or two. I thought June to November was a great time to learn to fly for my schedule as the days were long, and the weather generally good. If there was a downside to this timeline, it was that it is a very popular time to fly so plane and instructor availability was tight at times, but with some advanced planning it wasn’t much of an issue. My final flight time when I sat for my checkride was 53 hours, which I’m told is a typical time for Inflight and generally within the national average that gets thrown around of 55-65 hours.
My Training Stats:
- Training Plane: Cessna 172N (100%)
- Timeline: June 2021-November 2021 (~5 months)
- Total Flight Hours: 54.6 (including checkride)
- Flight Instruction Hours: 42.9
- Number of Flying Lessons: 34
- Average Flight Hours/Lesson: 1.6 hours (Hobbs)
The Cost of Training
Cost is always a top consideration for almost every student pilot, as it should be. I was primarily concerned with “value” as opposed to just pure “cost” when I was choosing a flight school. To me, value represented a combination of cost, efficiency of training, convenience, quality of training, safety, and just as important, enjoyment. No matter how or where you do it, pilot training is not a cheap endeavor. I have not price compared every option for flight training, but I am sure there are places that I could have trained for less money. However, I felt like I got great value from my training and absolutely viewed it as a quality investment in a passion of mine. With that in mind, here was my final cost tally by category, tracking every one of my direct flying expenses:
My total cost of $17,681 includes all my training, flight instruction, ground instruction, exam costs, equipment (headset, kneeboard, etc), flying club dues, medical, and every other miscellaneous expense I incurred (even the sales tax on each item). This is a 100% COMPLETE picture of all the costs related to my training, not just what I paid to the flight school. Now, the caveat here is that there are many ways in which I could have brought down the cost of getting my PPL. An easy cost savings would have been to do some or all of my training in a Cessna 152, which runs $30/hr cheaper at Inflight. This alone could have saved me over $1,600, or nearly 10% of my total training cost. I just wanted a plane with a little more room (I’m 6’2” so do not fit well in a 152) and a little more performance to train in and was happy to pay more for that experience. I also splurged for the Bose A20 headset, and could have easily saved several hundred dollars with a less expensive alternative. Shortening my training timeline also would have reduced my costs by eliminating a couple of the monthly club dues fees, and likely a few flight hours as I probably would have been more efficient in my training by shortening the time between lessons. So bottom line, my number might be higher (or lower!) than what you have been reading from other sources, but just keep in mind there are absolutely ways to bring that cost down lower than my number if working on a tighter budget. If I had one tip, just make sure cost isn’t your only consideration when thinking about where and how to complete your training.
The Final Word
Overall, my entire experience at Inflight during my training was top notch. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and accomplished my goal of becoming a private pilot. I feel like a competent and prepared pilot, and know that I have a strong foundation on which to build in my journey to make aviation a passion pursuit of mine. I have so much more to learn, but I feel well prepared to be a safe pilot and know that I continue to have Inflight as a resource for any additional questions or training.
There were many highlights along the way. Things that especially stand out to me were the first solo, completing my cross country solos, night flying, and of course the day I passed my checkride. I also can’t speak highly enough of my primary instructors, Drew and Matt. Matt got me started on the right foot, and Drew took me almost the rest of the way there. Both of them were good instructors that made the process fun, but also built competency. CFI Drew was tough on me at times, which was appreciated as it helped push me to higher standards. I wish both Drew & Matt the best of luck in their careers at the airlines, maybe one day I’ll even end up on one of their flights and will get to critique their landings! I can only hope they set the plane down just a little bit hard so I can give them a bit of hard time after, just like they would do if I put down a not-so-good landing during my training. All in good fun.
I can’t say I had too many low points in my training, and the ones I did have were not all that bad. Losing CFI Drew to the airlines two weeks before my checkride made me a little nervous as it meant new instructors getting me over the finish line. That said, I can’t blame him for leaving and knew that was a risk when I chose him to be my instructor after Matt left, so there are no hard feelings on my end. In fact, Drew and I got together to celebrate me passing the checkride a couple weeks after and I took him out for a steak dinner to say thanks for all his help. The training was fun, but that doesn’t mean there were no moments of frustration. The early landing lessons left me feeling somewhat dejected and left me wondering how long it would take me to get landings figured out. Sticking with it for just a couple more lessons though quickly made that frustration ease as it was replaced by the happiness of getting landings figured out.
What will I do now? I have been asked countless times since getting my PPL about what I plan to do with it. I have some ideas, although probably don’t have the answer 100% refined at this point. I know I want to enjoy it by using it to take some weekend trips to new places, use it to see family in neighboring states, and continue to fly on a regular basis to keep my skills sharp. I also really hope to meet people in the general aviation community and make new friends to fly with or just talk planes with. I have set a few goals for myself as well, both long-term and short-term:
- Fly a MINIMUM of 75 hours annually (short term goal)
- Fly to 10 new airports in 2022 (short term goal)
- Get my Instrument Rating (2-5 year goal)
- Own an airplane (2-5 year goal)
- Fly to all 50 states (lifetime goal)
All of these could change at any time, but I wanted to put out some tangible goals to keep me motivated to keep flying and having fun with it. I hope you got some value out of my student pilot blog and enjoyed hearing about the process, whether you are a seasoned pilot or someone just considering taking the leap to start your training. I do not think anyone with a passion for aviation will be disappointed with pursuing their license, and I can’t speak highly enough of Inflight Pilot Training and would recommend them to anyone and everyone for their training. So if you are on the fence, try it out. I promise you won’t regret it and will wish you had started years ago!
This does it for post #11, the final post for the student blog series. Maybe I’ll continue writing about or documenting my flying experiences in other ways in the future, but for now I have set down the virtual pen. Until next time, live life in the left seat!
Disclaimer: This is a student pilot blog. While I strive for accuracy when communicating concepts or elements from my training, this blog should never be relied on as being 100% accurate. My experience as a student pilot may also differ from what others experience. Opinions expressed are my own, and do not reflect opinions of Inflight Pilot Training.