Frugal Flying

Do you have any tips on how to save money while flying? We are collecting them from our readers for an upcoming special issue. What have you learned that will be helpful to other pilots about how to save money — on anything from training to buying an aircraft (or renting) to operations, maintenance, upgrades, hangars…the list goes on. Share your money-saving tips so we all can fly more often for less!

You can add your comments below or send them to Feel free to send along photos of your and your plane, as well. Who knows? You may be featured in our July 5 print issue!


  1. Ron Reynolds says

    First off, we bought planes because they are fun and get us places fast. Fun and fast has never been cheap with any endeavor. Whether it be fast cars, motorcycles or boats. That being said, my advice is to stay in the air as long as possible. Throttle to the firewall! don’t ever land. Saves on tires, landing gear, tie down fees, hanger fees, inspections, the drive to and from the airport, excuses why you can’t fly. Most of all you won’t be on the ground to check the mailbox for bills or see the cost of flying. Trying to save money flying is like spending three dollars in gas trying to find a station that will only save you a dollar. Just fly! As much and often as you can, we only live once. No fun going slow, planes weren’t invented for that. Stay up as long as you can because you never you when you will be grounded and then you’ll wish you had flown more. Don’t ever land. That’s my advice.

  2. Tim says

    If flying is just your hobby then
    #1 Never ever buy an airplane. Rent! When money is available then you can fly if there is no money left then you just stay on the ground. If you rent you are not financially responsible for maintenance and other ownership expenses.
    #2 Do not get instrument rating. Fly only VFR. IFR training is very expensive and it requires better equipped (read expensive) airplanes. Currency requirements also add to the cost. IFR rating is just not worth it.
    General aviation is dying anyway so I would recommend to prepare for inevitable end without spending too much money. In 20 years we would have very few GA airports left with even fewer FBOs, mostly 60 year old airplanes, absolutely unaffordable new airplanes (if any) and user fees. US is the last country in the world where GA is still alive but it would not last for long. Greed, NIMBYs and Playstations will finish this industry off.

  3. Dietrich Fecht says

    Buy a complete new small plane which flys with usual autogas from a street pump. New planes have a warranty and normally not very much to fix in the first years. Like this one for EUR 37.875,00 ex works Germany or this one (more than 1,200 sold, very popular at clubs) which flys with usual autogas too and is sold for EUR 48,750 ex Germany from Moselflug see their ad at . And that with the high wages what they have in Germany. It`s a shame that the US industry don`t offer comparable planes for a lower price and “Made in the US” . Two seat small new planes under US$ 40,000 should be possible.

  4. Jim Klick says

    About 15 years ago, (so the numbers may vary), two friends told me they wanted to learn to fly.
    I recommended, and they did it. I helped them find a good C-150, pointed them to an Instructor,
    And they did the rest.
    One of them earned his Private in 50 days, and 45 hours. The other one was married, so it
    took him 180 days and 51 hours.
    They sold the C-150 for what they paid for it. Their cost, other than fuel and oil, were 2 sets
    of tires and a $600 radio repair. ( antenna connector failed).
    One now owns a C-210, the other a Mooney in which they have added Commercial and Instrument.
    I think it can still be done. It requires the right airplane, and the right partner.

    • says

      And your “commentary” is EXACTLY why the near bankrupt smaller FBO/flight school will become an “endangered species”! NEXT: Owner assisted flight instruction – just think of it – you can sign yourself off! But will the FAA allow it – a lot of examiners and DPE’s will be out of work!

  5. Ted says

    I disagree with Chuck. I have enjoyed my Tri-Pacer every day I have owned it. The best $17,000 I have ever spent. I save money by doing as much of the maintenance as I can.
    Sec. 43.3
    (g) Except for holders of a sport pilot certificate, the holder of a pilot certificate issued under part 61 may perform preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by that pilot which is not used under part 121, 129, or 135 of this chapter. The holder of a sport pilot certificate may perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft owned or operated by that pilot and issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category. “

  6. says

    I wrote an eBook on this subject specifically. It’s called the “Low-cost Pilot’s License.” I wrote it two years ago, and everyone who’s read it found it really helpful.

    When it comes to saving money on flight trading (or just flying in general) there are several places to cut costs:

    1. Like a few folks have already alluded to, the biggest portion of the costs associated with flying come from the airplane itself. Your options for access to an airplane include renting, buying (either wholly or in part), or joining a flying club. The advantages and disadvantages of each option depend on several factors, but primarily concern how often you fly (the more often you fly the better “buying” is when considering the per-hour cost). Other options include buying an aircraft and leasing it to a flight school for rental use when you’re not using it. That will potentially generate some passive income (depending on the deal you make with the flight school), but you’re airplane is probably going to get beat up quite a bit. If you get clever enough you may be able to form a legal entity (like an LLC) to own the aircraft and either 1. Lease it to a flight school, 2. Form your own flying club, or 3. Have the LLC ownership divided by a group of commercial pilots and work to get a Part 135 Operation approved (this is fairly complicated). The point with any of these three options is that you could potentially have a tax write-off for a lot of the flying/maintenance/other expenses, because you would be operating as a business instead of just an individual. Obviously, you’d need to do more research before you dived into any of the more complicated arrangements, but there is certainly an opportunity to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the cost of an airplane.

    2. If you’re in the flight traing side of things, the cost cutting opportunities are tremendous. For one, a lot of folks spend TONS of money buying learning materials/information products. In reality you can get all the information you need from free government publications (Airplane Flying Handbook, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, PTS, etc.) from In fact, that’s where all those three hundred dollar “Private Pilot Knowledge Course” DVD packs get the info anyways. Not necessary to buy one, just go to the source yourself. It’s free and in many instances better than the expensive products out there. Also, another really important aspect of saving costs (with respect to flight training) comes from an efficient training schedule. In other words if you fly two or three times a week, instead of once a month, you are likely to retain a lot more information. As a result you will DRAMATICALLY reduce the total amount of flight time/flight instruction (and money) it takes to complete your training.

    I hope that helps. If you’re interested in my eBook you can find it on (just search “Low-cost Pilot’s License” and it will be the first result).

  7. says

    Fly for the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
    You can get yourself and your plane approved to fly under orders, get some valuable training and flight time and serve alongside fellow auxiliary and active duty Coast Guardsmen. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the only branch of the services where you can turn down orders and you cannot be ‘called up’ into service away from home. The downside, it’s unpaid except for getting reimbursed for fuel, maintenance and a few other things. For me it’s been a great experience and a great way to get some stick time for free. I got such good training I was able to get a better job in ‘real’ life.

  8. Rich says

    The best way to keep the costs low is to find 3 or 4 GOOD partners to share the fixed costs.
    Even if you fly religiously once a week or more you are paying insurance and hangar rent and maintenance fixed expenses 24/7.
    We had 7 people in an Aeronca Champ.
    Cheapest flying I ever did.


    • says

      Very good math and “right one” about fixed costs! Why not get another 7, 14, 28 guys/gals and reduce the fixed costs further – since each “shareholder” probably flys only 10-25 hrs/year, conflict in scheduling/booking shouldn’t be a problem. One more thing; don’t fly at all – just taxi around all day – very low fuel burn – 1gph – AND if it’s auto fuel – think of even MORE saving!

  9. Gary Soucy says

    Do your own oil changes, keep your plane clean and waxed, lean the engine and pull back on the throttle a little, you dont need to be at the red line all the time. also have it fixed now before it causes more problems.

    • Ray Steinmeyer says

      Right on for what Gary Soucy says. Be careful about the leaning part though. Unless you fly hundreds of hours a year this item won’t save you much in relation to your total investment in your love for flying. However if done incorrectly it can end up costing you a bundle.

  10. says

    Owning an airplane is very similar to owning a boat. There are only two days of tangible pleasure. The day of purchase and the day you sell. So . . . rental is the most economical way to fly.

    • Rich says

      If you like riding around in some one else’s trash can renting is ok.
      And when the sun pops out on a Sunday afternoon after a rainy weekend, don’t be surprised to find all the rental aircraft gone and yourself standing on the ramp watching other people doing touch and gos.
      If you’re gonna fly once a week or more the economics start to trend towards owning.

      I built my own hangar, bought my own plane and enjoyed the pride of ownership and enjoyed being on the inside looking out instead of the outside looking in.
      There is a lot of fellowship to be had at the airport that the people that toss the keys on the desk on the way out. just don’t get to participate in.

      And you aren’t gonna learn much about the internal workins of an airplane that your rent.
      When it’s your own you can do a lot of the worked allow by par 43 and even deeper work under the supervision of your A&P or IA.

      At least that’s my experience.

  11. Matt says

    Here is a thought….training other pilots at a loss. Short term share the loss amongst other more profitable aspects of GA business. Long term-more pilots expanded pilot base, lower per pilot costs to some degree. Granted it would take a while to start to impact the pilot and GA community, but later is better than never, particularly when you consider the trajectory of cost currently.

  12. says

    I suppose this falls under the category of shameless self-promotion, but managed, shared ownership is a way to cut the costs and hassles of aircraft ownership dramatically. Sharing means reduced costs, and professionally managed means all the tasks associated with ownership are taken care of. “We manage, you fly, that’s it!”

  13. Douglas Manuel says

    Donate your flight time to a 501C3 charitable organization (there are many but a couple are Angel Flight & Pilot-N-Paws). It is good for them , your soul and takes some of the sting away from your wallet.

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