How much does it cost to learn to fly

How much does it cost to learn to fly?

This article takes about 6 minutes to read

If you asked a 100 random people this question " how much do you think it costs the learn to fly a plane" you will get answers falling into two distinct groups, one group wildly over estimates what it costs £15K to £20K, the other under estimates the cost £2K to £5k. Just two people in a hundred will be somewhere on the money, we hope that you are one of those two special people?

Hello, Special person!

You will find that there is quite a lot of jargon in flying but you will become fluent very quickly,  to help get you started we have done our best to use layman's terms, but there are some areas that you just can't get around without it. 

Addressing the Bull S**t

Sadly there is still a lot of bull s**t in our industry. It is not difficult to learn to fly a plane and almost anyone can do it, its not as technical as most people think and Ladies make great pilots. I hope that this article will give you a better understanding of what the real costs are for learning to fly in the UK. You will see as you read through this article that there are a number of variables which makes it difficult to give a quick answer to what you would think was a simple question. What is it going to cost me to learn to fly?

One of the challenges that you may have is that there are many different forms of flying and they all have different costs.

Almost all of these different forms of flying training allow you to become a pilot and there are also different types of licences that allow you to fly.

What our random hundred might be thinking is “the little planes we have buzzing over us, you know those Pipers and Cessna's”

Let’s look at the licences.....jargon alert*

The Private Pilots licence PPL (A) aircraft, (we are not talking about helicopters in this article),  is the one that most people think of as the “traditional” licence, the one your Mum, Dad, Aunt, Uncle or Grandparent had, if they had flown a small plane. *The PPL licence allows the holder to fly a single engine piston aircraft, up to 5600Kgs in daylight under visual flight rules. 3000ft clear of cloud and in sight of the ground with 5000m of visibility

Valid worldwide.

It takes a minimum of 45 hours of flying to gain a PPL(A)

There is the Light Aircraft Pilots Licence LAPL, formally the National Pilots licence NPPL it has now morphed into the LAPL for the present. It allows the holder to fly a *single engine piston aircraft up to 2000 kgs in daylight under visual flight rules 3000ft clear of cloud and in sight of the ground with 5000m of visibility and is valid throughout Europe only (at present)

It takes a minimum of 30 hours, plus a further 10 hours until you can take passengers to gain a LAPL

Both the PPL and LAPL allow you to fly fully complex piston powered aircraft that is, a retractable undercarriage and variable pitch propeller.

You can also gain a LAPL licence by learning to fly in a Motorglider or a Microlight. Both these types are two seats only, meaning you can only ever take one friend or family member; however, you can convert to an aircraft with more seats after you have completed to extra 15 hours solo and a conversion course to a bigger plane.

Take your Time

You can take your time,  any of the above licences can be completed in your time scale, we have had students complete in 6 weeks and others over several years.

Are you thinking that this is a bit complicated and all I want to do is learn to fly a "bloody plane"!

Unfortunately, they are all “bloody planes” but what makes the real difference to you is the costs, with each " plane " having  different operating costs, there are different prices for each type!

The costs of a small plane like a Cessna 152

A typical flying school Cessna 152 might have a cost per hour including instructor and VAT if applicable of from around £200 per hour. 

A Piper Warrior, is a larger plane and uses more fuel would have an cost per hour of just over £240 including instructor and VAT if applicable

A typical Motorglider might have a cost per hour of between £126 to £150 including instructor and VAT if applicable

A fixed wing Microlight might have a cost per hour of between £132 to £150 including instructor and VAT if applicable. Whereas a Flexwing microlight might cost from £110 to £130 including instructor and VAT if applicable.


G-BODO Cessna 152 at Enstone Flying Club

         Cessna 152 G-BODO at Enstone Flying Club

When is an Hour not an Hour?

Do you want to know how you will be charged for the use of your training aircraft, there are 3 principal ways, some are fairer than others! the method that is used will have great bearing on whether you are charged more of less to gain your pilots licence

Datcom, this is a small digital timer and starts either when you switch the power on or when you start the engine. You will need always need to switch the power on to carry out the pre-flight checks, you maybe being charged based on when the Datcom started running. 

Tacho, this looks like the mileometer on your car and is part of the Engine RPM instrument but records time only when the engine is running, interestingly it runs slower when the engine is below 1800Rpm, because of this most schools will add 0.2 of an hour (12mins) to the final reading to cover the fuel costs used up to the take off and landing

Engine start to engine stop or real time, this system is used when there is no mechanical or electrical means of recording time. You might see this in some of the microlight or vintage aircraft that are used for training.

Which method of charging is fair and reasonable, well that depends on what happens up to the point of take-off, lets look at a typical student scenario?

Perhaps you take a long time doing a walk round and have left the master switch on and then you get held up in queue waiting to take off.

Datcom would have cost you the most in this scenario

Tacho would have cost you only 12mins whatever the time it took once the engine is running

Real time, once the engine is running you are being fully charged what ever happens up to the point of take-off.

Slot or lesson times

A normal flying lesson is made up of three parts. Some schools have an hour and a half others have 2 hour slots. The reason I have put this item in the article is the let you see how you may be charged, most schools only charge for the actual time in the aircraft based on their charging method (see above) this is where there can be major differences on the actual flying time you gain in each lesson. If you get stuck at the runway hold for 15/20 minutes your actual flight time will be reduced but the charge will be for the total time in the aircraft.

1. The Preflight briefing, where you will cover what you are going to do in the lesson for this time.

2. In the air or the flying bit, most lessons are an hour long ( there are some particularly the Navigation lessons are generally  longer) the first 45 minutes will be a new exercise with the last 15 minutes revising a previous exercise.

3. Post flight debrief covering what went well and areas that will need working on next time and the setting of homework for the next lesson.

Still with us, wait there is more to delight your brain cells!

Membership, most but not all flying schools charge a membership fee, this will cover your use of the club facilities, some clubs are very basic, others are very grand but the majority are somewhere in between.

Are you reasonable at remembering things?

As well as the practical side of learning to fly, you are going to need to do some studying for the theoretical sides of all these different disciplines of flight, the good news is they are all roughly the same and on average take around 100 hours of studying……sometimes!

The best flying schools will stock all the study material you need to help you pass the theoretical tests, some will point you to one of the supplier’s website and you can purchase what you need directly.

Some flying schools offer theoretical courses in groups or one to one. Computer-based training is also available. You can even attend schools that only offer courses on all the theoretical subjects they generally last a week; you can find them advertising their services in the flying magazines like Flyer or Pilot.

None of the theoretical training is free! 

You will at least need to have the study books on the nine subjects, these are often combined as a pack in a flight bag which includes the navigational tools you will also need. A typical pack is around the £250.


BEWARE! you will find masses of videos on Youtube about learing to fly and help on the theorectcal subjects, some are fabulous and really helpful BUT, and its a very big BUT many are from our American cousins and they have a very different theorectical system across the pond. There is a great UK based theorectcal online theory course provider, you pay a monthly fee for each subject and the mock tests are very realistic.

If you self-study at home then you will only need to pay extra for the test fee for each of the nine subjects average cost is £40 per subject. 

Nearly there!


Pre Covid most schools provided a headset as part of the flying fee, we like like all responsible training schools can no longer offer this  and you will need to purchase your own headset, you can get a life time guaranteed headset for under £200 and you can pay upwards of £900 for a top of the range. There are a myriad of choices and your school should offer advice on the best for your head shape. We will be publishing the best student headset guide shortly, join our mailing list and you will get notification when we publish new articles.

Medical….yes you are going to need an aviation medical of some sort and this will depend on the type of licence you choose. At the time of writing a PPL or LAPL medical might set you back between £120 and £150.

Landing Fees, yup you have to pay to land…taking off is free!

Some schools include these in the hourly flying cost, but some you might have to pay per landing and the cost will very much depend on where you learn to fly. Small airfields might charge £6 per landing, commercial airports it can be as high as £30 per landing but some offer training packages, but it is a significant cost over your course.

Wherever you learn to fly there will be landing fees payable when you land at other airfields when you are doing your navigation training, you can expect to pay between £10 and £30 per landing, but this is only payable when you carry out these exercises and land as part of them.

Examiners fees, your instructor cannot examine you and you will pay a fee to the examiner directly, the fee will depend on the licence you choose but be prepared for anything between £180 and £220.

You have done all the flying, passed the theoretical tests, had the medical,  paid your landing fees and you have your course completion certificate…( this is not your licence by the way). How do you get your licence……of course by paying a fee to the controlling body of the licence you have chosen?

Keeping you licence into the future

Your licence maybe valid for life BUT, your rating to fly a single engine piston powered aircraft (SEP)  is valid for 2 years from licence issue. To keep your (SEP rating) for either  LAPL or PPL you need to complete, in the last 12 moths of the two year period.

12 take off and landings

12 hours flying 

1 hour with an instructor to revalidate by experience, if you are unable to complete the above you can revalidate by test.

This article is not exhaustive but is meant to give you an idea of the likely costs involved in gaining your wings, if I have not answered your questions please feel free to drop me an e-mail and I will do my best to answer in a timely fashion. If you would like to join us on one of our free learn to fly seminars, just click here.

I hope you take to the skies one day and enjoy flying as much as I have done over the last 47 years, and to all of you not yet convinced, take it from my good friend Ian Dall when asked what it was like to fly?

“It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on”


Paul Fowler

01608 678204

Updated 9/5/24

Gill McNeil (instructor) and Student brothers at  Enstone Flying Club

         Gill McNeil (instructor) and Student brothers at  Enstone Flying Club