Flying on a budget

Flying will never truly be inexpensive, but there are ways to curb the costs. Here are some suggestions:

– Operate at a lower power setting in cruise flight when safely able. It will take longer to get where you are going, but you will save fuel — and money — getting there. It will also help add to your logbook if building hours is a goal.

– If you are pursuing a new rating, buy used textbooks. Many online stores, such as, have used book sections. Or try putting up a sign at your local FBO. Someone may have old books to sell.

– Save up the money for an accelerated Part 141 program. Having to start and stop lessons because of financial issues adds to the cost of learning to fly. It is much more cost effective if you can power through to a certificate, then focus on honing your skills past the level necessary for passing the check ride.

– Study the required ground material and practice the air work before your next Biennial Flight Review. The FARs require the BFR to consist of at least one hour of ground and one hour of flight. However, if you are performing below practical test standards for a private pilot candidate, no instructor is going to sign you off after the minimum one and one. Expect a longer review — and a larger bill.

– Share hangar space. There are several companies that offer solutions to store multiple aircraft in hangars safely, without fear of hangar rash, in what would otherwise be wasted space. Some offer a stacking arrangement (, others are carousel designs (

– Take part in the FAA Wings program. Many insurance companies offer a break to pilots who are committed to keeping their skills sharp. The program is also a good way to network. You may find another pilot who is willing to share time, fuel costs and hangar space.

– Keep flying. Nothing adds to the cost of aviation more than taking an extended amount of time off from flying. Getting the rust off a ticket can be more expensive than going out to the airport once every few weeks to practice. This is especially true if you are a student pilot who is just past solo. Make a commitment to finishing the training and staying current.

– Barter for instruction and/or maintenance. If you have a marketable skill or provide a service, suggest bartering in lieu of payment. For example, say you are a dentist and need a biennial flight review. Since many instructor pilots do not have health insurance, they may agree to swap a few hours of instruction for a check up. Or perhaps you are a Certified Public Accountant. If you take some time to help your mechanic with his tax return, he might lower the bill at your next annual.

– Don’t forget to network. You can spend a lot of money going from one instructor to another or from one mechanic to another until you are satisfied with services. By maintaining a network, you will quickly learn who is recommended in your part of the world.

– Keep your hangar in good repair. There is no such thing as “a little leak.” Small structural problems have a way of growing exponentially when bad weather hits.

– Buy in bulk. Many flight schools and clubs offer discounts if you buy a large block of time.

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