Photo: Nigel Paine
Learn to Fly

What does it cost to get a PPL(A)?

It’s a dream for many people: learn to fly an aeroplane and become a private pilot. We all know it’s not a cheap activity but what does it actually cost – and what can you do to reduce those costs?

Prices correct in April 2024

A year ago, we examined the cost of getting your Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL), first with a straightforward aeroplane, then a helicopter, followed by gyrocopter and microlight. One year later, what’s happened to those costs? After all, we’ve just been through a period of rapid inflation with substantial cost of living increases.

Well, getting your PPL has become more expensive – probably no surprise there. Although most flying club membership fees haven’t risen, it seems almost everything else has. From landing fees and the average cost of a theoretical exam (which was £35 and now is £40) to the CAA fees for the initial issue of a PPL (£202 in 2023 and now £220), it’s all gone up in price.

Increases of one-time purchases, such as flying equipment, won’t make much of a difference to the total sum of your PPL. It’s the recurring costs, such as flight training, which make up the bulk of your expenses. Money will flow out of your wallet or purse even faster thanks to many flying schools increasing their rates in the last year. Some by just £5 an hour, but at other flight schools the price of an hour of training has gone up £25 per hour. Which, if you need 57 hours of flight training like the average PPL student, means getting your licence just got £1,425 more expensive…

Can I still get a PPL for under £10,000?

The good news: if you’re a super-fast learner and manage to beg, borrow, or steal all your flying equipment and textbooks, you might be able to get your PPL(A) for just under £10,000. The bad news: the chances of this happening are close to zero. This number just isn’t realistic anymore. Nowadays, the average PPL-student in the UK will spend between £12,500 and £17,000.

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

  • Flight training
  • Ground exams
  • Class 2 medical
  • FRTOL (radio licence)
  • Skill Test
  • Licence application
  • Equipment
That relieved but happy look: Tayla just after flying her first solo at Full Sutton airfield
That relieved but happy look: Tayla just after flying her first solo at Full Sutton Airfield

Flight training costs

This is where most of your money goes. You’ll need 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.

However, is 45 hours a realistic amount? Not really…

It 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 said: “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? Two factors affect the cost: type of aeroplane you’ll be flying and the location. This can range anywhere from £180 per hour in a Piper PA-38 at Liverpool’s Ravenair flight school to £299 per hour in a similar 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 two-seat Cessna 152 will be cheaper than a four-seat Piper PA-28 or a Robin R3000. Differences soon add up: a Cessna 152 (or the earlier 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, just 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 starts 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 airplane rental and a price for instruction.

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 & 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 & go fees vary depending on the airport and the aircraft’s max weight.

At some airports you’ll pay the same whether it’s a landing or a touch & go, others have different fees, and discounts for subsequent landings. 

Some examples: at Solent Airport you’ll pay £13 per landing and £6.50 per circuit. At Cambridge Airport, the landing fee is £22.27 and the touch & go £11.13. At Brighton City Airport (Shoreham), it’s £23.40 per landing and £12 per circuit. 

More extravagant landing fees include those at Liverpool John Lennon Airport (£45.90) and London Biggin Hill Airport (£55 per landing). Seeing as you’ll easily do around 50 landings and 100 touch & go’s in your PPL training, these fees add up rather quickly. Do realise that even if all landing fees are included at your chosen airfield, you’ll still have to land away for your cross-country flying.

Fuel surcharges

Because of rising fuel prices, some flight schools add a separate fuel surcharge to their rates. This depends on the school and aircraft and is usually done per hour. For example, Almat Flying Academy, currently has a fuel surcharge of £25.55 per hour.

Since they depend on fluctuating fuel prices, fuel surcharges are subjected to change – make sure to check the most recent surcharge with your flight school. Instead of adding a fuel surcharge, some flight schools have just increased their hourly rates to make the numbers work.

PPL theory can be achieved through self-study or groundschool
PPL theory can be achieved through self-study or groundschool

Membership fees

Most flying schools require you to become a member to train there. A 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 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.

Check what’s included

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 exams known as the Theoretical Knowledge. The nine subjects are: Air Law, Aircraft General Knowledge, Communications, Flight Performance and Planning, Human Performance and Limitations, Meteorology, Navigation, Operational Procedures, and Principles of Flight. You’ll need to pass each exam with at least a 75% score. 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

There are various ways to learn what’s needed, ranging from self-study text books to computer-based or iPad training.

How much does it cost? 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 preparing for the exams, ranging from e-books 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 zero (if you can borrow all the material you need) to more than £400 for fancy distance learning packages.


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: Perranporth Flying Club at £30, Andrews Aviation at £40, and ANT at £50 per hour. Others offer a multi-day course such as ACS Flight Training with a five-day course including all exams for £695).

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

Learning the radio

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

When the FROTL exam isn’t part of a package, prices range from £120 at Perranporth Flying Club to £200 at ANT Flight Training and even £240 at Almat Flying Academy. Usually though, it’s around £150.

 Make sure you apply for your FROTL at the same time as your PPL. If not, the CAA will charge you £86 for the initial issue of the FRTOL.

And Then… The Skill Test

The Skill Test is what you have to pass at the end of your training. It’s the flying equivalent of the driving test. You have to pass all the Theoretical Knowledge exams before you take the Skill Test, which will be set by and flown with a CAA examiner.

The cost of the Skill Test is made up by the examiner’s fee and the aircraft hire. The examiner’s fee varies but is usually somewhere in the range of £250. The aircraft hire depends on the hourly rental rate of your flying school and the time you need the aircraft for.

The Skill Test is in two parts: navigation and general airwork manouevres and it’s intended to be flown as one flight which can take up to four and a half hours including two hours for pre test briefing and planning. However, the student and examiner can agree to do it in two parts.

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 £200 and £250.

Licence application 

The fee the CAA charges for the initial issue of a pilot licence is £220. 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 £86 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, nautical mile scale map ruler, flight computer (the ‘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 £1000 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 ground school, 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 flying 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.

Back in 2023, Alan Rayson, CFI and owner at Carlisle Flight Training, explained why getting your PPL is expensive: “There are multiple drivers for this, such as insurance (ours has almost doubled in the last five years), fuel prices increasing again (up 24 pence per litre 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.

How’s this situation now? Rayson: “Most of those increases are still there, but things aren’t rising at that rate anymore. Nothing has gone down again though, other than avgas, which seems to have stabilised at the new normal of around £2 per litre.”

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, said, “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 got a click with. More important than the price, is that you enjoy your flight training.

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

What does a PPL cost for real? Six examples

Let’s assume you need 55 hours for your entire PPL course, including your Skill Test. During this training, you do 50 landings and 100 touch & go’s at the airfield where 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 £250 for a Class 2 medical and the examiner fee is £250 (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

Full Sutton Flying Centre, York

Flight training   
55 x £205 per hour in a PA28: £11,275
1 year membership:  £120
Landing fees: 0
Touch & go fees: 0
Fuel surcharge: 0
Away landings: £100
Learning materials:  £200
Ground exams: £405
FRTOL: £150
Skill Test examiner fee:  £190
Class 2 medical:  £250
Licence application: £220
Equipment: £300

Total cost:   £13,210

Freedom Aviation, Cotswold Airport

Flight training
55 x £245 per hour in a Piper Warrior/Citabria: £13,475
1 year membership: £90
1 landing included per lesson:  0 
Touch & go’s 100 x £8:  £800
Fuel surcharge: 0                                           
Away landings:  £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £405
FRTOL: £160
Skill Test examiner fee: £200
Class 2 medical:  £100
Licence application: £220
Equipment:  £300

Total cost: £16,050

Perranporth Flying Club, Cornwall

Flight training
55 x £216 per hour in a PA-28:  £11,880
1 year membership: £180
Landing fees:  0
Touch & go fees:  0
Fuel surcharge: 0  
Away landings:  £100
Learning materials:  £200
Ground exams: £315
FRTOL:  £120                                                  
Skill Test examiner fee: £150
Class 2 medical:  £250
Licence application: £220
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £13,715

ACS Aviation, Scotland

Flight training
Course of 45 hours in a Cessna 152:  £10,800
10 x £260 per hour in a Cessna 152:   £2,600
1 year membership: £230
Landing fees:  included in course price
Touch & go fees:  included in course price
Fuel surcharge:   0                                                     
Away landings: £100
Learning materials:  £200
Ground exams: included in course price
FRTOL:  £150
Skill Test examiner fee: £324
Class 2 medical:  £250
Licence application:  £220
Equipment: £300

Total cost:  £15,174

Carlisle Flight Training, Cumbria

Flight training
Course of 45 hours in a Robin HR200:  £10,500
10 x £233 per hour in a Robin HR200:   £2,330
1 year membership:  £120
Landing fees, 50 x £13:  £650              
Touch & go fees, 100 x £13:   £1,300
Fuel surcharge:  0
Away landings: £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £405                          
FRTOL:   £150
Skill Test examiner fee:  £250
Class 2 medical:  £150
Licence application:  £220
Equipment:  £300

Total cost:  £16,675

ANT, Blackpool

Flight training
1 x 5 hour starter pack in a Cessna 150: £877
5 x 10 hours block in a Cessna 150: £7995
No membership fees  
Landing fees, 50 x £14.50:  £725
Touch & go fees, 100 x £14.50: £1,450
Fuel surcharge:  0
Away landings:  £100
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £360
FRTOL: £200
Skill Test examiner fee: £200
Class 2 medical: £250
Licence application:  £220
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £12,877

One of the advantages of joining a flying club, like Freedom Aviation, is flying with friends
One of the advantages of joining a flying club, like Freedom Aviation, is flying with friends

What’s learning to fly like abroad? 

The UK isn’t the only place to get your PPL. It’s also not the cheapest. Apart from the financial advantage, getting your licence in sunny Florida or Spain means fewer flight lessons cancelled because of bad weather, so better continuity of training. 

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 €14,000. Countries such as Poland and Czech Republic tend to be cheaper than the UK, whereas the costs in Switzerland will probably be higher.

Example: One Air in Spain

One Air offers a PPL-package for €10,500 (which is about £8,980, depending on 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), 5 hours in an FNPT II certified Alsim ALX Simulator and 6 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. £10,855). 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 6 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.”

Good weather can really help succeed in getting your PPL. This is One Air in Spain
Good weather can really help succeed in getting your PPL. This is One Air in Spain

Want to do it on the cheap? 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. However, we don’t advise paying for an entire course upfront. Unfortunately, there have been a few cases of flight schools going bust, still owing training to students. 

However, many flying schools offer discounts if you buy training hours in bulk, ie ten or 20 hours. Ask for package deals and block hours pricing.

Whatever you choose, it’s common sense to fly and train with the flying school for a few hours before committing your future – and large sums of money – to them.

3 Choose a 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. There are quite of few sources of scholarships and bursaries.  

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 to get a scholarship from the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA).


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