Dwindling Pilot Population – The Costs

In the last post in this series I discussed some inspirational methods to help inspire people to become interested in flying and hopefully to become pilots. Now we will look at another deterrent, the costs associated with flying.

Many people do not give flying as a hobby a second thought because they are afraid of how expensive it is. I’m not going to mislead you by saying flying is not expensive because it is, but so what? Yes flying is expensive, but so are other hobbies.

Avid golfers can easily drop over $50 a week golfing. Where I fly $50 will get you half an hour in a Cessna 172. Golfers also shell out big bucks on expensive golf clubs, club memberships, golf balls, and golf clothing. By the time you add up all of those extra costs, your weekly golfing costs will just about rent that Cessna 172 for an hour.

Many people will gladly sign up to pay $300 a month or more on a loan for a Harley Davidson motorcycle that they can only ride in good weather. While VFR pilots can only fly in good weather, they can at least fly year round. In most parts of the U.S., motorcycles sit idle for nearly half the year. That same $300 a month they are paying for that loan will buy me 3 hours in a Cessna 172, and I can use those hours any time of the year. In addition buying the Harley is only the first expense. Once you have it, there are many accessories to purchase, and those costs add up quickly.

Fishing is another hobby where the expense doesn’t deter people. Many fisherman spend big bucks for boats. It isn’t uncommon for people to have at least a $300 a month payment on their fishing boat. They are more than happy to spend an arm and a leg for the latest fishing gear. Some of them even joke about the fish costing $50 or even $100 a pound. I could get a lot of flying time for what many fishermen shell out every year on their hobby.

As I said, flying is expensive, but once you have the license you can help cut the costs. You can share the costs of owning an airplane. Partnerships, flying clubs, and fractional shares are a few of the ways you can reduce your hourly cost. You can also carry passengers and split the costs with them. In my example of the Cessna 172, if I bring just one passenger, my cost is down to $50 an hour.

So if other hobbies are expensive as well, why do people not hesitate to enjoy them like they do flying? That my friend is the million dollar question. One answer is that while the costs are similar they work out differently. To get a pilot license you will need around $5,000 over the course of a few months. To get a bass boat, you will need $15,000 over the course of a few years. While it is more overall, the up front costs are less.

It is easy to get loans that help pay for motorcycles, boats, muscle cars, etc. It isn’t so easy to get a loan to get a pilot license you intend to use only as a hobby. Perhaps we need some creative financing options for flight schools, FBO’s and independent instructors.

How do you feel the costs of flying compares to other hobbies?

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