Jetron blog

Earning a pilot licence vs hiring a pilot

Frequent fliers aboard private jets might have even fantasized about flying the planes themselves to their favorite destinations. Well, we’re going to look at what it takes to become a pilot.

February 15, 2024

Most passengers and travelers who have flown aboard a commercial airplane or private jet have probably considered the question “How hard can it be to become a pilot?” at least once. Frequent fliers aboard private jets might have even fantasized about flying the planes themselves to their favorite destinations. Well, today we’re going to look at what it takes to become a pilot and earn your wings and whether hiring a pilot to fly your private jet is cheaper.

Earning a pilot licence

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about flying a jet at least once? Well, some of your favorite celebritieshave thought about it too. And not just thought about it, some of them transitioned their silver screen skills to real life. Tom Cruise who plays flying ace Maverick in Top Gun, is actually a licensed pilot and he is able to command both vintage planes and private jets. John Travolta is such a proficient pilot that he has a licence to fly commercial airplanes like the Boeing 747, 707, and 737. And Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson flew their chartered Boeing airplanes (dubbed Ed Force One) during several of the band’s world Tours.

But let’s not get side-tracked, so, how hard and expensive is it to earn a pilot licence? Well, the difficulty and expenses associated with earning your wings depend on the type of aircraft you’re seeking to get licensed or certified for.  The  European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) divides pilot licences into 4 basic categories:

●      Light Aircraft Pilot Licence

●      Private Pilot Licence

●      Commercial Pilot Licence

●      Airline Transport Pilot Licence

Unless you’d like to make a profession out of flying, you’ll probably be interested in the first two categories, so let’s take a brief look at them. The Light Aircraft Pilot Licence is designed for pilots who want to fly small aircrafts, however, the holder of the licence is limited to only using it in EU airspace and only on non-commercial flights. A Private Pilot Licence allows the holder to fly outside the EU’s airspace, however, they have to fly only in good weather conditions unless they have a instrument rating. Furthermore they are again restricted to non-commercial flights.

The EASA addresses the basic limitations of the LAPL on its website: “The most basic pilot licence is the light aircraft pilot licence (LAPL). It is available for aeroplanes, helicopters, sailplanes and balloons and can be used only in Europe on non-commercial flights. For example, the privileges of an LAPL for aeroplanes are limited to single-engine piston aeroplanes up to 2,000kg, carrying up to 4 persons on board (including yourself– the pilot). You can only fly in good weather conditions (visual flight rules (VFR)). To get this licence you will need around 100 hours of theory lessons and 30 hours of flight instruction.”

How long does it take and how much does it cost?

Well, if you’re looking to earn your private pilot licence that depends on several variables, like if you’re earning your licence in the US or Europe. In the EU the licence is issued by the national aviation authority of each EU member state based on the standards set out by the applicable European regulations. According to EASA to earn a private pilot licence for aeroplanes (PPL(A)) you can expect to put in around 100 hours of theoretical lessons and 45 hours of flight instruction. Meanwhile, the FAA requirement to earn a private licence is approximately 75 flight hours. Of course, in both cases, you also have other requirements that you need to meet such as passing a medical exam.

Now what are the costs? Well, when it comes to the PPL(A) you’re looking at prices starting at around 8,000 EUR and topping up at around 11,000 EUR. That of course depends on the pilot school you’ll be attending and the intensity of your curriculum. But usually, the costs entail theoretical instruction consisting of classroom instruction and exams, your practical flight training which includes landing and air traffic fees as well as your learning materials. In the US you’ll probably be looking at a price range of US$ 15,000 up to US$ 20,000 to earn your licence.

How much does it cost to hire a private pilot?

Now that you have a pretty good idea of the time and financial costs associated with earning a pilot’s licence. Let’s take a look at how much it costs to hire a private pilot on a per-flight basis. When hiring a pilot their price range for their services will also differ depending on their experience and the type of planes they are licensed to fly. Logically you can expect to pay a higher rate for a veteran pilot’s services compared to a pilotthat hasn’t racked up as many flight hours.

An experienced pilot will probably charge you anywhere from US$300 to US$500 per day. However, that will vary depending on the jet they will be piloting, the demands of the flight, and how far the destination is.

Marian Jancarik - Jetron’s Managing Director.

Marian Jancarik

JETRON’s Managing director
Marian is more than 20 years in aviation. You can read about his career path here. In his free time, Marian loves to play golf, ski and spend some quality time with family and friends.

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