Learn To Fly Guide

How much for a Private Pilot's Licence?

How much does it cost to get a Private Pilot’s Licence these days? In a four-part series covering aeroplanes, helicopters, microlights and gyrocopters, we examine the costs. Part 1: The PPL(A)

Note: Prices correct Spring 2023

How much does it cost to obtain your private pilot licence? Let’s put it this way: how long is a piece of string? The amount of money you need to pay until you’re able to call yourself a pilot depends on lots of things, making it nearly impossible to give an average sum. 

The good news: yes, it’s still possible to get your PPL(A) in the UK for under £10,000. The bad news: unless you’re a very quick learner, it’s unlikely you’ll actually stay below £10,000; budgeting around £15,000 seems more realistic.

Let’s break it down step by step. Costs of a PPL(A) can be divided into:

  • Flight training
  • Ground exams
  • Skills test
  • Class 2 Medical
  • Licence application
  • Equipment

Flight training

This is where most of your money goes. You’ll need at least 45 hours of flight training, including at least 25 hours of dual time and at least 10 hours of supervised solo time. Those are the minimum requirements set by the CAA.

Is 45 hours realistic? Not really… So, budget for 45, times what flight training costs per hour and you’ve got the cost of your flight training? No, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. 

Turns out that very few pilots obtain their licence in only 45 hours; the UK national average is somewhere between 55 and 60 hours. 

Malcolm Montgomerie, Head of Operations at MAK Aviation states: “Total time is impossible to forecast as everyone learns at a different rate. All I can say is that no-one does it in 45 hours.”

That indeed means that those attractively priced PPL-packages, which are always based on only 45 hours of flight training, aren’t what you’ll be paying if you need 10, 20 or perhaps even 30 hours more than the minimum until you’re ready for your skills test… That’s the reason why, even when choosing such a package, you should also look at the flight school’s hourly rate.

What does an hour of flight training cost?

What’s the price of an hour of flight training? This ranges anywhere from £154 (in a PA-38 at Ravenair flight school) to £279 (in a PA-28 at GoFlyOxford). It all depends on the flying school as well as on the type, age, and fuel use of the aircraft you’re training in. Obviously, training in a Cessna 152 will be cheaper than a Piper PA-28 or a Robin R3000. 

Differences soon add up: a two-seater Cessna 150 might ‘only’ be £20 an hour cheaper than a four-seater Cessna 172, but with 50 hours of PPL training that’s £1,000 you’re saving, simply by choosing a different aircraft.

Don’t forget to double-check what exactly is included in the hourly training rate – and when the clock starts ticking. Is it when the prop is spinning? Or at take-off? Is it an hour from brakes off to brakes on? Are you charged on tacho time? Do you pay for taxi time? What about the pre- and post-flight briefing? This is especially worth checking with schools that divide their flight training into a price for aeroplane rental and a price for instruction.

Training can take place on even the dullest of days…

Add on: landing and touch-go fees

Got your hourly rate all clear? Then let’s see what else you might need to pay during training. Such as landing and/or touch-and-go fees. At some flight schools, these fees are already included in the costs of flight training or in the club membership. However, in other cases they’re charged separately.

Landing and touch-and-go fees vary depending on the airport.

At Humberside (£8.80), Carlisle (£10), and Blackpool (£14,50), for example, you’ll pay the same whether it’s a landing or a touch-and-go. At Cambridge Airport, the landing fee is £21.22 and the touch-and-go £10.61.

At Shoreham, it’s £26.50 per landing (£29.50 in a PA28) and £12 per circuit. At Liverpool John Lennon Airport, it’s £31.30 per landing and £14.40 per touch-and-go, and prices at London Biggin Hill airport are £48 (landing) and £40 (circuit).

Seeing as you’ll easily do around 50 landings and 100 touch-and-goes in your PPL training, these fees add up rather quickly. Do realise that even if all landings are included at your chosen airfield, you’ll still have to do some land aways for your cross-country flying that might have a fee.

Fuel surcharges

Because of the rise of fuel prices in the last few years, some flight schools are adding a separate fuel surcharge to their rates. This depends on the school and aircraft and is usually done per hour. Clacton Aero Club, for example, offers instruction in a Cessna 152 for £169 plus a fuel surcharge of £9.60 and lessons in a Cessna 172 for £185, plus a fuel surcharge of £14.40.

Since they depend on the fuel prices, fuel surcharges are subjected to change. Instead of adding a fuel surcharge, some flight schools have just increased their hourly rates to make the numbers work.

Flying training can take in all sorts of airfields. Photo: Freedom Aviation

Membership fees

Most flying schools require you to become a member to train there. Membership fee is usually charged per annum and varies greatly, ranging from £99 per year at Yorkshire Aero Club to £380 at Leicestershire Aero Club. Sometimes you pay per month, for example at Flyers Flying School, £16 per month, and at Fenland Flying School, where membership is £60 per month.

Most memberships include access to club facilities and insurance. Some flying clubs have cheaper aircraft rental or reduced training rates for their members. Sometimes membership gets you pilot equipment; at Freedom Aviation, for example, membership includes a current UK southern England chart.

Long story short: when asking for the price of flight training, check exactly what is and what isn’t included in the hourly price you’re quoted. 

In the UK, rates for flight training are almost always including VAT and so-called ‘wet rates’ (including fuel), but once you’ve got your PPL and are renting an aircraft, don’t forget to check if the rental rate is indeed a wet one, and not a ‘dry rate’ (excluding fuel).

Ground exams

To obtain your PPL, you’ll need to pass nine theoretical exams (Air Law, Aircraft General Knowledge, Communications, Flight Performance and Planning, Human Performance and Limitations, Meteorology, Navigation, Operational Procedures, and Principles of Flight) with at least a 75% pass mark. These are official CAA exams. However, this doesn’t mean each flight school charges the same.

In some flight schools these exams are part of their PPL-package, while others charge them separately, with prices usually ranging between £25 at Ulster Flying Club, and £49 at Fenland Flying School per exam. When the ground exams are part of the PPL-package, this means only the first attempt at each exam is included. 

Study materials

How much does it cost getting ready for these exams? That depends on how you learn the PPL theory – be it through self-study or groundschool. Self-studying at home is the cheapest option, especially if you learn from textbooks you’ve managed to buy second-hand or borrow from your flight school.

There’s also a lot of material available online to help you prepare for the exams, ranging from eBooks to training software with question banks and mock exams. Some self-directed study courses charge a one-time fee, others work with monthly online subscriptions.

Costs of getting exam-ready by yourself range from absolutely £0 (if you can borrow all the material you need) to more than £400 for fancy distance learning packages.

PPL theory can be achieved through self-study or groundschool


Many flight schools offer in-person groundschool tuition where you study in a classroom-like environment with an instructor. This is either included in the PPL-package or charged separately.

Prices of groundschool vary greatly. Some schools charge per hour for one-on-one tuition, for example ANT at £30 per hour, others offer a multi-day course, such as ACS Flight Training, with a five-day course including all exams for £695).


For a PPL(A) you’ll need a Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) to show you know your way around radio communication. In some flying schools, this will be part of the PPL-package. In others, the FRTOL exam is charged separately.

When the FRTOL exam isn’t part of a package, prices range from £100, for members of the Perranporth Flying Club, to £180 at ANT Flight Training, and even £240 at Almat Flying Academy. Usually though, it’s around £150.

Make sure you apply for your FRTOL at the same time as your PPL. If not, the CAA will charge you £79 for the initial issue of the FRTOL (see also: Licence application).

Skill Test

The cost of the Skill Test is made up by the examiners fee and the aircraft hire. The examiners fee varies from CAA examiner to CAA examiner, but is usually somewhere in the range of £200.

The aircraft hire depends on the hourly rental rate of your flying school and the time you need the aircraft for. Usually, the flying part of the skills test takes around 90 minutes.

Medical examination

For a PPL(A), you’ll need a Class 2 Medical certificate issued by a CAA Aero Medical Examiner (AME). Each AME sets their own fee, so the cost of this depends on the doctor you choose. Usually, it’s between £150 and £250.

Licence application

The fee the CAA charges for the initial issue of a pilot licence is £202. Make sure you apply for your FRTOL at the same time as your PPL because in that case, the FRTOL application is free. If you don’t, CAA will charge another £79 for the initial issue of the FRTOL.

The cost of equipment can vary. You can buy starter packs – and some flight schools may let you borrow some of what is needed during training


What supplies do you need during your PPL training? A logbook, headset, timepiece, iPad, knee pad, sunglasses, flight bag, high vis jacket, protractor, NM scale map ruler, Flight Computer (aka Whizz Wheel), an up-to-date chart, some apps and pilot log pads. That’s about the basics for a private pilot.

How much does this equipment cost? That depends. You can buy a decent headset for £150, but you can also splurge and spend £1,000 – or even more – on a superb one. Same goes for the rest of the gear.

There are special pilot starter packs including all, or most of the above-mentioned things. Sometimes, club membership will include a logbook, and if you book groundschool, this usually includes all the materials you’ll need for navigation.

To save money on equipment, buy only the supplies that are necessary for your flight training and/or buy second-hand. Some flight schools will let you borrow (part of) their equipment for the duration of your training.

Why is it so expensive?

Obtaining your PPL is a significant financial investment wherever you do it. But some flying schools are more expensive than others. This depends on a lot of things, including the type of aircraft they have and the landing fees that are charged at the airport.

Alan Rayson, CFI and owner at Carlisle Flight Training, explains why getting your PPL is expensive nowadays: “There are multiple drivers for this, such as insurance (ours has almost doubled in the last five years), fuel prices increasing again (up 24ppl this month), maintenance, checks and repairs 20% increase this year, CAA fees up 40%, cost of parts, general utilities etc.” Higher operating costs of course mean higher tuition fees.

Some of the cheaper training options are offered by not-for-profit flying clubs. With these clubs, all profits they make, go back to their members – which includes you when you train there. 

Ben Ellis, Head of Training at Perranporth Flying Club: “We’re a not-for-profit flying club and we offer flying training for what it actually costs.”

Is it worth comparing the options at different flying schools to save money? Definitely! But don’t let £50 difference in the grand total decide where you’re going – instead, aim for the school that feels right for you and the instructor you’ve clicked with. More important than the price, is that you enjoy your flight training.


Cirrus aircraft
The newest aircraft may have an Electronic Flight Information System – aka a 'glass cockpit' – such as this Cirrus SR

What does a PPL cost for real? Six examples…

Let’s assume you need 55 hours for your entire PPL course, including your skills test. During this training, you do 50 landings and 100 touch-and-goes at the airfield your flying school is located and spend £100 on away landings.

You choose to self-study and pay £200 for learning materials. You pass all exams on the first attempt. You want to have your own headset and manage to get some decent flying equipment together for £300.

The AME charges you £200 for a Class 2 Medical and the examiner fee is £200 (unless these things are priced differently at the flight school). It takes you a year until you ask the CAA to issue your PPL and FRTOL.

What does this cost at different flying schools?

Full Sutton Flying Centre (York):

Flight training
55 x £170 per hour in a Cessna 150: £9,350
1 year membership: £120
landing fees:                                        –
touch-and-go fees:                            –
fuel surcharge:                                    –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £36
FRTOL: £150
Skills test examiner fee: £200
Class 2 Medical: £200
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £11,191


Claire Hatherall achieves her PPL with Freedom Aviation – well done, Claire!

Freedom Aviation (Cotswolds)

Flight training
55 x £235 per hour in a Piper Warrior/Citabria: £12,925
1 year membership: £80
1 landing included per lesson:              –
touch-and-goes 100 x £ 8: £800
fuel surcharge :                        –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £360
FRTOL: £150
Skills test examiner fee: £180
Class 2 Medical: £100
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300
Total cost:  £15,397

Perranporth Flying Club (Cornwall)
Flight training
55 x £198 per hour in a PA-28: £10,890
1 year membership: £144
landing fees:                              –
touch-and-go fees:                  –
fuel surcharge:                          –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £270
FRTOL: £100
Skills test examiner fee: £150
Class 2 Medical: £200
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300
Total cost:                                 £12,556

ACS Aviation (Scotland)

Flight training
course of 45 hours in a Cessna 152: £9,900
10 x £235 per hour in a Cessna 152: £2,350
1 year membership: £230
landing fees: included in course price
touch-and-go fees: included in course price
fuel surcharge:                            –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: included in course price
FRTOL: £170
Skills test examiner fee: £200
Class 2 Medical: £200
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300
Total cost: £13,852

Carlisle Flight Training (Cumbria)

Flight training

Course of 45 hours in a Robin HR200 £10,000
10 x £225 per hour in a Robin HR200 £2,250
1 year membership: £120
landing fees, 50 x £10: £500
touch-and-go fees, 100 x £10: £1,000
fuel surcharge:                            –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £360
FRTOL: £150
Skills test examiner fee: £200
Class 2 Medical: £150
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300
Total cost: £15,532

ANT (Blackpool)

Flight training   
55 x £167 per hour in a Cessna 150 £9,185
no membership fees                       
landing fees, 50 x £14.50: £725
touch-and-go fees, 100 x £14.50: £1,450
fuel surcharge:                            –
away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £333
FRTOL: £180
Skills test examiner fee: £180
Class 2 Medical: £200
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300
Total cost: £13,055


A Cambridge Aero Club student deep in conversation with an instructor

What’s it like abroad?

The UK isn’t the only place to get your PPL. It’s also not the cheapest. The USA used to be the ‘go-to’ place for Brits to get their PPL, thanks to lower costs and better weather. However, we’ve made repeated enquiries to US flying schools and it seems they are just not interested anymore.

However, despite Brexit, there are a number of flying schools in Europe which are.

Doing your PPL abroad means you’ll need to pay for your travel and accommodation, so make sure to factor these costs in – and check the exchange rate to see if it’s still good value.

In Europe, a typical PPL(A) costs between €10,000 and €13,000. Countries such as Poland and Czech Republic tend to be cheaper than the UK, whereas the costs in Switzerland will probably be higher.

In Spain, One Air offers a PPL-package for €10,500 (which is about £9,250, depending on the exchange rate). This includes all the materials (theory course, aviation kit, etc.), landing fees and processing fees, as well as 40 flight hours (35 in a Diamond DA20, 5 in a Diamond DA40), five hours in an FNPT II certified Alsim ALX Simulator and six hours in other sims).

Extra flying hours in the DA20 cost €220 per hour. This means that in the ‘real life’ example described above (with 55 training hours needed), the total cost would be €12,700 (approx. £11,190). 

However, Cian Wigham of Grupo One Air claims: “It’s actually quite common for our students to finish in 45 hours as we have an additional six hours simulator training as part of the course, as well as having unlimited use simulators here in the school. I’d say that maybe on average about 50 hours are required, but our objective is to complete it within the 45 hours by adding in the extra simulator training.”

grass runway
On approach to an airfield with a grass runway

Five tips to reduce the cost of your PPL(A)

1. Fly regularly so you don’t need to repeat lessons

Newly learned skills fade quickly, and since flight training makes for a huge part of the total cost of your PPL, this is where you can save some serious money. Do you only fly once a month? In that case, every month you’ll need to repeat at least part of the previous lesson. Flying several times a week? Not so much.

You’ll spend less if you can do all your PPL training in a short time. How? By setting enough time aside (also check the instructor’s availability) and choosing the right season so lessons aren’t cancelled because of bad weather.

2. Buy smart

Pay-as-you-go or package deal? That depends on your situation and personal preference. If you have the money and know for sure you want to obtain your PPL at that particular flying school, paying the entire course upfront can save you loads.

Many flying schools offer discounts if you buy training hours in bulk; ask for package deals, block hours pricing or advanced payment schemes. While some people love this option, others either don’t have the savings or don’t like the idea of paying upfront for flight training.

Already this year (2023) two leading flight schools have gone bust with some student pilots losing money. Both schools were for commercial pilot training but you get the point.  Be careful paying upfront and, if possible, pay by credit card which will give you some sort of protection. See here for more details.

Paying after each lesson leaves you the option to switch flying schools if things don’t work out.

3. Choose a more basic aircraft

Some flight schools offer a choice of aircraft. The smaller, lighter, and less advanced the aircraft, the less you’ll be paying for flight training.

Don’t have much money but want some experience in a four-seater since you’re planning to take friends flying once you’ve obtained your PPL? It might be possible to do most of your training in the cheaper two-seater, but also do a few hours in the four-seater to get used to it.

4. Go somewhere else

Is your local flying school very expensive? Check if it’s cheaper to do your PPL in another place. Before booking the entire course elsewhere though, add up all your expenses.

The flying club at the other end of the country might be £50 cheaper per lesson, but is it still better value when you take all the travel time and petrol and/or accommodation costs into account? Or perhaps you can take a few months off and do the entire course abroad?

5. Get a scholarship

Don’t see any way at all of paying for your PPL after reading this article? Don’t give up just yet.

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots usually has several full PPL scholarships a year (meaning you’ll only have to pay for your Class 2 Medical, all other costs are covered). 

The Air League has 3- 5- and 12-hours flying scholarships. 

The Royal Aeroclub Trust has several bursaries for those aged 14-24. For women, there’s the possibility of getting a scholarship from the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA).



  • webdevduck says:

    Nicely in-depth and detailed article, however, it does miss a frequently overlooked way of saving money training for a full-fat, Part-FCL PPL(A).

    A PPL(A) comes with a class rating. Normally people train on and get an SEP (Land), but it is perfectly allowable to do some or all of it on a TMG for as little as £115 per hour. If the whole PPL(A) is completed on a TMG, once you have your licence, a few hours training and a skills test is all that is needed to add the SEP (Land) rating. Not only is money saved, the holder now has a few more hours flying experience and two class ratings for less than the price of one!

  • Andrew Jones says:

    It is definitely worth a wide look around, if you are planning on an intensive course. However, the access factor needs to be stirred into the pot for people expecting to conduct their training over a year or two, possibly. In this case it is only realistic to compare airfields that are perhaps within an hour or so’s drive of where they work or live. Weather often interferes with student bookings, so the further out of your way you go, the more no-fly days you might experience. Spending time at an airfield is no bad thing; you can learn a lot while there, but it might consume half a day with no Tacho time.
    Embarrasingly, one time, I was working in a converted hangar, with no daylight, and rang the flying club next door to check we were on for a session at 4pm, only to have them chuckle and say that there was a “bit of Cu-Nim at the moment” followed by a thunderclap. I stepped out to a seriously dark grey scene when I had expected June sunshine…Weather forecasting has improved since the 1980’s

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