FAQs

Frequently asked questions

How much does flight training cost?


The overall costs vary depending on the aircraft you fly and the hours that you need. In flight training you are paying by the hour for an aircraft and an instructor. On board every airplane is a meter (Hobbs Meter) that begins from start up to shut down. Pilots log their flight time based on the Hobbs Meter because, even if they are not airborne, they are operating the aircraft from start up to shut down. If you were to complete the Private Pilot Course in the FAA minimum of 40 hours (in a Piper Archer or Cessna 172) with 30 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of additional ground instruction, the cost would be about $8000. Then there is the cost of the check ride examiner ($750), and additional pilot supplies (headset, charts, kneeboard, fuel tester; approximately $250). So even though it is possible to complete the Private for about $9000, it is recommended to have a budget available of at least $10,000 to allow for sufficient extra practice time to gain the proficiency and confidence to pass the check ride. You can "pay as you go" and you are not required to place funds on account prior to your training. Beware of schools that "guarantee" a license for a set amount. All they can really guarantee is a rate per hour. But you still must achieve the proficiency to pass a check ride with an objective pilot examiner designated by the FAA and not the school. Unfortunately some schools believe that once you have spent a great deal of money, and you finally figure out that it is going to cost a lot more than what you were led to believe at the beginning, that you will still continue with them just to finish. And if you get frustrated and leave;... well they already have the money you've spent, and now they do not have to take a chance that you may fail and have another failure on their school record. Many schools are operated by "businessmen" who are not pilots and have little enthusiasm for flying. They often quote low prices based on an inexpensive, slow, and small Cessna 152 that nobody really ever flies (because it is uncomfortable and less capable than the Cessna 172 or Piper Archer). And they will conveniently leave out many of the additional expenses as mentioned above. Many schools will even have an "enrollment fee," fuel surcharges, and just about any other fee they can dream up to take more of your money. Also beware of requirements to place large sums of money on account. Should you decide to leave they often have complicated, unfair, and arbitrary means to get a refund, if at all! But, of course, they will have your signature on a multitude of documents with fine print & legalese that you had to sign when you enrolled and had no idea what you were really signing. When researching schools or flying clubs, please ask yourself; "Is this where I really want to learn to fly?" Learn To Fly San Diego is owned and operated by pilots for pilots. We are motivated to get you through the training safely, competently, and as affordable as possible. We want you to fully enjoy the experience and we hope that you will want to continue training in the future for additional ratings, certificates, and currency. We want you to love flying! We hope you will want to take your friends and family out to experience the thrill of flying in Southern California and beyond!




Learn To Fly San Diego rates per hour:


Instruction: $75 Elite RC-1 FAA approved Enclosed Cockpit Simulator AATD: $45 Cessna 172: $125 Piper Archer: $125 Piper Archer with Garmin 430w GPS & advanced avionics $130 Piper Arrow Complex Single-Engine with Garmin 430w GPS: $140 Piper Seneca Multi-Engine with Garmin 430w GPS: $230 Prices include fuel (wet). There are no dues, enrollment fees, or fuel surcharges. You are not required to pay in advance, or maintain a minimum balance. You can "pay as you go." You are asked to pay at the end of every lesson. A typical lesson would last about 1.1 hours of flight with .5 of pre/post-flight ground-briefing and cost about $250. Some lessons will be longer or shorter. Some will have more ground instruction or no flight at all. Some will be solo flights with no instructor. If it is determined that for whatever reason (weather, maintenance, etc.) before takeoff to return to the parking ramp, there will be no charge for the airplane and there will be no flight time logged in the pilot logbook. However, once an aircraft becomes airborne, the flight is loggable and the student will pay for the flight regardless if the flight does not go as planned (weather deterioration, mechanical/instrument issues, etc.) which is all part of the flight training process. There are no discounts for any reason, not even military discounts. We have deep respect for the military, and we have many military personnel and instructors here at LTFSD. However, our philosophy is to be transparent and have the lowest possible rates for all pilots.




How much time does it take?


If possible we recommend flying 3 - 4 times per week. At that rate you could complete the training for a Private Pilot Certificate in about 3 - 4 months. We have had some students fly every day and complete the training in as little as 5 weeks, but you should only consider the accelerated option if you are dedicating yourself full-time. An instrument rating has about the same time frame. If you are considering a professional career the training can be completed in about 10-18 months from beginning to end. A multi-engine add-on can sometimes be completed in about 2 - 3 weeks. Please remember that time requirments are only part of the training. You must also demonstrate proficiency for all the required maneuvers, tasks, and knowledge required. Much like a musician, proficiency comes with practice. Furthermore, the examiners, who conduct the final "check ride" examination, are not affiliated with our flight school. They are Designated Pilot Examiners (DPE's) given authority by the FAA to conduct the check ride. They have their own schedules and availability and do not want to be contacted by the recommending instructor until the applicant has met ALL the requirements and demonstrated proficiency to the required standards.




How do I make a career as a pilot?


The first step is earning the Private Pilot Certificate, which makes you a pilot, but with limitations. (takes about 40 - 50 hours - Costs about $9-10K) In order to fly in the clouds and fully utilize the Air Traffic Control system, you then need an Instrument Rating. (another 40 hours - Costs about $9-10K) In order to be hired and paid as a professional pilot, you then need to earn the Commercial Pilot Certificate Single-Engine. (another 160 hours - Costs about $15-18K) In order to fly aircraft with more than one engine, you need a Multi-Engine Rating. (takes about 15 hours - Costs about $4,000) So, with our rates, the total cost for going from zero time to Commercial Pilot with a Multi-Engine Rating would cost approximately $35-40K and take about 8 - 12 months depending on how often you train and study. Being a Commercial Pilot allows you to be hired for charter operations, corporations, and private individuals or companies. However, if your goal is to ultimately fly for the airlines, you will need a minimum of 1,500 hours as required by law. Many pilots become instructors themselves in order to log the time they are giving instruction and build toward that minimum time. We also offer training to become a flight instructor. If you train with us to become an instructor we will allow you the opportunity to work at our school as well. There are no minimum time requirements to become an instructor. But there is a high standard of proficiency required. Fortunately, a lot of the work for becoming an instructor you can do on your own at no cost to you.




How do I enroll?


It's easy and takes about 10 - 15 minutes to read and sign some forms required by the FAA and our insurance company. Usually we take care of this at the time of your first lesson. We are required by the FAA and TSA to have on file a copy of EITHER a US Passport, or a US birth certificate with a government issued photo ID (Driver's License). Prior to your first solo, we will also need a copy of your Medical and Student Pilot Certificate. It is not required to begin training or any time you are with an instructor. Although a Medical Certificate is not required to begin training, it is recommended to get it sooner rather than later, just in case there is an issue that comes up that prevents you from getting one, and before you've already invested a lot of time and money in the training.




What is a Medical and Student Pilot Certificate and how do I get one?


The Medical Certificate can only be issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) after completing an examination that includes a vision test (yes, you can wear corrective lenses), a hearing test, blood pressure, and urine sample. There is no blood sample taken or anything invasive about the examination. You will be asked to list any medications you may be taking and if you have any medical condition that might preclude you from flying solo. You can just do an internet search for AME's in San Diego to find one convenient to your location. Prior to your appointment you will need to fill out the MedXpress application at: https://medxpress.faa.gov A Medical Certificate is not required to enroll or begin flight training. However, it is required prior to your first solo flight. Therefore, you are encouraged to get the Medical as soon as possible before you invest a lot of time and money in flight training just in case you may have a previously unknown condition that prevents you from solo flight. You only need a third class medical (or Class III) in order to fly solo for all flight training. Later on, if you decide to fly as a Commercial pilot, you will need a second class medical. And If you ever fly as an airline pilot you will need a first class medical. But for all flight training, a third class is sufficient. The Student Pilot Certificate will need to be obtained before your first solo as well. You can fill out the FAA application with the assistance of an instructor during your initial training.




What pilot supplies do I need?


We recommend the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook & FAA Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge which are often sold together for around $40 or you can download the pdf file for free from www.faa.gov. You will need a logbook to record your flight training ($13). You will also need an aviation headset. These can be very expensive but we suggest getting a relatively inexpensive one at first for about $95. After you gain experience in flying and you pass the check ride you may want to treat yourself to a more expensive headset and keep the less expensive one for your passengers. You will also need a kneeboard ($45) which literally rests on your knee and provides a flat solid surface on which to write information and store checklists & charts. You will need a fuel tester ($9) to sample and examine the fuel of your aircraft. You will need a Terminal Chart of the San Diego area ($7) and a Chart Supplement ($5). Eventually you will also need a Los Angeles Sectional Chart and you will need to have an appropriate flashlight for night flying.




Do I need a college degree?


No, but it looks good on a resume. Degrees are not required to be a professional pilot. But if you are looking to get an aviation degree, your pilot certificates and ratings can be used for college credit. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has an extended campus here at Montgomery Field San Diego and they will grant 33 credit hours towards a degree if you earn a Commercial Multi-Engine Certificate with an Instrument Rating. That would be the equivalent of almost two years tuition, which would save you that much time and money if you desire a degree (Bachelors or Masters). Some of us are Embry-Riddle Alumni and we can assist you with the process.




Do I need proficiency in math or science?


Nope. Any math required for pilots is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You are only required to understand and explain very basic principles of flight as it pertains to pilots, which is part of your training.




Do you offer financing or financial assistance?


Sallie Mae and Key Bank were the leading providers of financing for pilot training. Unfortunately, due to the last recession, at the end of 2009 they decided to stop financing pilots at all flight schools. There is a company "Pilot Finance, Inc." that will offer financing but with high interest rates and difficult credit approval. We do not recommend them at this time. Most student pilots use credit cards, borrow from friends or family, or get an educational loan from their bank. Remember that you can pay as you go, so some pilots will wait until they have saved enough for their next lesson. We will do our best to make sure you get the most out of each and every lesson.




Do you accept VA benefits?


No. Currently we operate under Part 61 of the FAA regulations. We are not able to process VA benefits. Only flight schools operating under Part 141 of the FAA regulations can be certified to process the VA paperwork. However, for military personnel who would like to use their VA benefits, understand that veterans can use those benefits for flight training at 60% reimbursement, but only after they have earned the Private Pilot Certificate entirely at their own expense. Our Part 61 training for the Private Pilot Certificate is considerably more affordable than 141 schools and leads to the exact same Private Pilot Certificate.




What is the difference between Part 61 and Part 141 schools and programs?


Both have FAA oversight and require the use of instructors certified by the FAA. When a school has been granted 141 approval, an FAA inspector annually inspects the school facilities, aircraft, structured syllabus, student records, and flies with the chief instructor who must subsequently fly with the instructors under his supervision. The school benefits by being able to accept VA benefits, issue I-20 forms for international students, and have the slightly less hour requirements for the pilot courses. Whether you study under 61 or 141 makes no difference to the end result of the pilot certificate you aspire to earn. It really depends on any prior experience that you may have as to whether you should enroll 61 or 141. Currently the only real benefit of 141 comes with the Instrument Rating requirement for 50 hours cross-country PIC under part 61. But if your intention is to eventually earn a Commercial Pilot Certificate you will need that cross-country time anyway.




What is the difference between a flight school and a flying club?


A flight school usually operates under a more structured environment with exclusive access to aircraft and instructors. A flying club is technically a "non-profit" organization. However the key officers of the organization often pay themselves a handsome salary. Flying clubs often claim to have lower rates than flight schools but they have membership fees and monthly dues. Often the aircraft in flying clubs may become unavailable when a member takes an aircraft for a long period (vacation, business travel, etc.). Instructors who work at flying clubs do not have any accountability to other instructors and have no official additional supervision or oversight from the FAA like flight schools have. Furthermore, most airplanes in flying clubs are owned by individuals who do not have 100 hour inspections conducted on their airplanes as flight schools are required to do. And therefore there may be much longer intervals between maintenance inspections that could detect issues before they become serious problems.




Why should I train at your school?


Because we are the best. Seriously. We would have it no other way. There is no other school with better experienced instructors, better quality aircraft, facilities, simulators, and prices. The reputations and results of our instructors are unmatched by anyone. Unlike other schools, our instructors are well-paid, while keeping the costs to you lower. Most other schools do not pay their instructors well. Those instructors, while many may be good-intentioned, have little motivation but to build hours and move on to the airlines as quickly as possible. We encourage you to research and compare other schools & flying clubs and decide for yourself.




How do I get started or schedule a lesson?


We recommend taking a first introductory lesson with our website special of $199 which you can pay afterwards with any major credit card. Contact us via email on our Contact page (so you have a written record of the reservation and correspondence) and let us know your preferred date and we will check for availability. The lesson takes two hours with over an hour in the airplane and counts towards an eventual pilot license. During the lesson the instructor will explain the flight training process and answer any questions you may have. If you decide to continue with us we would need to make a copy of either a US passport or birth certificate (as required by the TSA) and then we can give you access to our online scheduling system where you can then schedule your subsequent lessons at your convenience and as often as you like. TSA approval is not required for the first introductory lesson. We operate every day during daylight hours for these initial lessons. We always need at least a day notice, and weekends sometimes fill up several weeks in advance. And please understand we are always subject to weather conditions and maintenance that might require rescheduling. You will meet the instructor at our office located at: 8690 Aero Drive Suite 116 San Diego, CA 92123 It is in a small shopping center with the parking area entrance on Aero Drive. We are in the middle between Aero Mail and La Fuente Mexican Restaurant.




What makes a plane fly?


Magic.




Aircraft Rentals?


We are primarily a flight training operation. We are not an aircraft rental business. Our airplanes are often booked up weeks in advance, especially during the busy Summer months. Our insurance company only allows for rentals by enrolled students for a course of study (Instrument or Commercial) and only for time-building for minimum requirements for a specific certificate or rating and only after a thorough checkout by one of our instructors, the equivalent of which is a flight review (BFR), whether you need one or not. We can only reserve the the first checkout flight. And then, only after completing the checkout to the satisfaction of the instructor, are pilots allowed to reserve additional flights on their own to continue their time-building requirements. Most visitng pilots in the past were unable to book the flights they desired in a timely manner and became frustrated. We recommend just flying with one of our instructors and not pursuing a checkout for solo flights.




Groupon or Gift Certificates.


If you have a Groupon voucher or a Gift certificate we must know before making a reservation so that we can use the correct account. The lesson takes about two hours with about an hour in the airplane and can count towards an eventual pilot license. During that lesson the instructor will explain the flight training process and answer any questions you may have. If you decide to continue with us we would need to make a copy of either a US passport or birth certificate and then we can give you access to our online scheduling system where you can schedule your lessons at your convenience and as often as you like. *TSA approval is not required for the first introductory lesson. Contact us via email on our Contact page (so you have a written record of the reservation and correspondence) and let us know your preferred date and we will check for availability. We operate every day during daylight hours. We always need at least 24 hours advance notice. However, be advised that weekends, which are the most popular days to fly, sometimes fill up several weeks in advance. And please keep in mind that we are always subject to weather and aircraft maintenance issues that could result in last minute rescheduling. Once you have made a reservation, the instructor will contact you directly if a rescheduling issue arises. We provide everything needed for the flight lesson and there is no need to arrive early, as the instructors are often out on previous flights, but please be on time. You will meet the instructor at our office located at: 8690 Aero Drive Suite 116 San Diego, CA 92123 It is in a small shopping center with the parking area entrance on Aero Drive. We are in the middle between Aero Mail and La Fuente Mexican Restaurant.




What about the weather?


Fortunately we are located in San Diego which has some of the best weather in the world. However there are many factors that can affect your flight. Among them are winds, cloud levels, and visibility. These considerations are not often reported on regular weather broadcasts. But your instructor has access to official aviation sources and makes the final decision about whether to fly under the current and forecast conditions. Your instructor will contact you directly if it is determined the flight lesson should be rescheduled. We can never give any guarantees about the weather. Although rare, it is possible that a flight may be cancelled just before your scheduled time, just before takeoff, or shortened during the flight. It always depends upon the ever-changing weather. Although the sights in San Diego can be spectacular, please understand that we are a flight school and not a sight-seeing operation. The instructors are only certified by the FAA to teach you how to fly. And flying in various types of weather are all part of gaining valuable pilot experience. If your goal is to fly and see the sunset, or only fly on a clear day, then you would be better off booking a flight with a sight-seeing operation.




Where do we meet? Directions.


You will meet the instructor at our office located at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearney Mesa: 8690 Aero Drive Suite 116 San Diego, CA 92123 It is in a small shopping center with the parking area entrance on Aero Drive. We are in the middle between Aero Mail and La Fuente Mexican Restaurant.




Age Restrictions?


There are no age restrictions to engage in flight training and your logged flight times never expire. We do niot recommend it for the very young (< 9 years old) if they may not be able to see properly outside over the instrument panel or reach the rudder pedals on the floor. You must be at least 16 in order to solo and 17 in order to take the final test for your Private Pilot Certificate. Airline pilots have a forced retirement age of 65. All other pilots, including Commercial pilots (Charter, Private Hire, Flight Instructors, Sight-Seeing, etc.) can fly at any age as long as they have a current Medical Certificate.




Military Discounts?


While we have deep respect for the military, and many of our instructors and students have been former or active duty military personnel, we do not offer discounts to anyone. Our philosophy has always been to offer the lowest rates to all pilots and to be transparent about all costs in flight training with our school. If you compare our rates to other schools (which often do not even post them on their website because they are so high), you will see we are very competitive.





LOCATION

8690 Aero Drive Suite 116

San Diego, CA 92123 USA

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