Ways to Reduce the Cost of Being a Pilot
Being a pilot is expensive. There are many expenses that you—the student—will need to pay. These include charges for flight school, the rental of aircraft, and paying for an instructor. You will also have to pay for textbooks and tests needed to gain your license. Luckily, there are ways to cut the costs of flying.
Apply for Scholarships
This one is a no-brainer for student pilots, but don't discount the idea just because you already have a private pilot license. If you could consider yourself a flight student at all, then you should apply for scholarships. Want to get a seaplane rating? How about upset maneuver training? Want to participate in an air race? There are scholarships for all of those training opportunities. Just because you've achieved your original goal of a private or commercial license doesn't mean you can't keep flying for fun.
There's a trick, though: You have to seek out these scholarships. They won't come to you. To find scholarships, go directly to the websites of aviation organizations that you're involved in (or wouldn't mind becoming involved in.) Women in Aviation, International (WAI) has scholarships for every level of flight training imaginable for both men and women. AOPA, EAA, NBAA, OBAP and The 99s all offer scholarships on a regular basis for different phases of training. Perhaps someone in your area offers a scholarship to local students.
Buy or Share an Airplane
Yes, I said to buy an airplane. It's expensive, but if you fly a lot and rely on air travel for multiple reasons, it might be a better option than renting. And if you can mitigate the cost through partnerships or shared ownership, it could be worth it for you.
Share Flight Time
If you know anyone that has similar goals, flight routes or training schedules, share the work (and costs) with them. You can log hours in an airplane for half the cost in most cases. Offer to be a safety pilot or invite a friend on a flight with you on a training lesson. Observing other student's flights is a great learning experience, and can keep costs down since you'll be ahead of the game afterward.
Become a Flight Instructor
If you don't have many flight hours and want to fly more, this is the only logical answer. Once you earn a flight instructor certificate, you won't have to pay for another flight. In fact, you'll actually earn money doing it. It's an investment to get the training you need to pass the CFI exam, but once you do, you can get paid to fly, which is the best-case scenario.
Keeping up-to-date is important if you don't want to waste money re-learning what you already know just to prove yourself to an instructor over and over again. That's why it's important to stay instrument current, get your night landings in and practice at home or in a simulator. Losing this current knowledge can be costly.
Become a Sport Pilot
Sport pilots have access to light sport aircraft that are easy and inexpensive to fly (not to mention fun!). A sport pilot certificate costs less, takes less time and you may even save money by avoiding medical exam fees. The requirements to get and maintain a sport pilot certificate are less than a private pilot certificate, and the operating costs are lower, too.