Introduction to Flight Training Hacking

flight hacking

I can remember it fondly, I was 15 and at the county fair when my mom called me and said she passed a trade booth advertising flight training at the local airport. I ran to the trade show barn right away, and the next thing I knew I was taking a discovery flight a few weeks later.

It’s no secret I love flying, and for a good portion of my teenage years I dreamed of heading to the airlines to be a commercial pilot. But dreams change, yah feel me?

If you’re new to my blog or my Youtube stuff, you’re reading the perfect article to become “un-new” with me. Today I have an exciting announcement that relates to that younger self of me that had a drive to knock out my flight training.  This article piggy backs off of some things I referenced in a previous article I wrote a while back about getting back into instrument flight training.

For the longest time I have always wanted to become a commercially licensed pilot. What I do with that commercial license is a total mystery and a fluid opportunity at best. However, I want the ability to utilize what I love as a source of income if I ever needed or wanted to.

There are a few reason why I have yet to accomplish this goal at the age of 23 (I started flying at 15)…

Reasons typically fall within three categories:

  1. Access to the capital ($the dollar signs$)
  2. Access to the right flight training regimen
  3. Access to enough time in the day to train

If you’re like me and most likely you are, you can resonate with at least two of the three (you choose).

Dollars and cents are a HUGE factor for me. As a small business owner, I’m still working my ass off to create a living for myself that doesn’t include re-investing all my money back into my ventures. The flight training capital just isn’t as bountiful as it would be if I would have became a pharmacist or doctor. Ha, who am I kidding, I practically failed Chemistry in high school and if I graduated that program I would have mounds of debt.

But that got me thinking

What if I had a scenario where I only had a limited amount of funds set aside to go from my measly 91 hours to 250 hours of flight time which included my instrument rating, commercial license AND CFI rating in my wallet. Would it force me to succeed once and for all?

What if that capital restriction was a maximum sum of $13,000 or less? 

What if I forced myself to do the most unconventional flight training in order to hack the cheapest utterly possible flight training for my budget?

Could this work?

Well I have news for you, that’s exactly what I AM committing to doing.

But wait, there’s more…

I figured there’s only one thing better than me fulfilling my dreams for a reasonable price.

That would include being able to share this journey with you. My hope is that you too can utilize this same creative hacker mentality when it comes to using the flying regulations, the hour requirements, and all the other things in flight training to your advantage to save loads of cash and time on training.

Could I go bust?

Oh definitely.

But if I don’t try to hack the system, who else will?

Answer: I hope you all try.

This is just me declaring to the world my challenge and I will have a budget and accountability to boot.


  1. Spend no more than $13,000 in final flight costs (I already spent about that on my Private Pilot License eeek)
  2. Achieve the following fixed wing pilot licenses/ratings:
    1. Instrument Rating
    2. Commercial License
    3. CFI Rating
  3. Be transparent about my flight costs with step by step documentation on this blog, YouTube, etc.
  4. Go against conventional training, wisdom, and ways when at all possible (within the confines of safety and regulations)
  5. Share all pitfalls and failings
  6. I will not consider my personal time put into finding ways to save as a cost, as should anyone else working at something worth working at.
  7. Have a bit of fun in the process.

For you nerds out there, when you break down the budget with the remaining hours I need to achieve all those licenses and ratings, it works out to be about $81.76 per flight hour.

FYI, the nearest quality flight school rents their Cessna 172R for $139 per hour. I can’t forget to add another $42/hour for an instructor which totals to be about $181 per flight hour.

That is more than double my budgeted amount for this challenge.

Crazy I know. This could be more difficult than I imagined.

What if I did it the easy and quick way?

When I think of quick training, I think of ATP Flight School. I know some friends who went through their program, and trust me I have been tempted. I want to give you a little spectrum as to what I would be looking at investment wise if I went the traditional route like ATP.

atp flight school costs
Screenshot as of September 2016 of ATP’s rates

If I were to train at ATP I would fall under the “already certified Private Pilot 100 Day Fast Track 40 hours of multi” track. Now I must caveat this by saying yes, they include multi-engine rating and I was unable to see how much they charge for that thus making it difficult to subtract that cost for comparison sake. In addition, there is a premium to getting everything done in as little as 100 days.

But regardless, I’m looking at just under $51,000 to finish my pilot training through a very traditional program like that. Woah. That’s $38,000 more than my budget. That’s like buying a Lexus kind of difference. And boy would I like to have Lexus.

You Think I’m Crazy, I understand…

That’s fine, you may think this is impossible.

A part of me does too. However, the difference between the doers and the skeptics in life falls within that portion of me that doesn’t doubt this adventure one bit. I do believe I can do it with a little, okay a lot of creative thinking. And you can too.

To be completely honest, I’m not the first to try to hack my way into my personal dreams or goals. Take my friend Blake at 90DaysToMoma or even epic Matt from MoneyLab for example, and you will see that others are taking the establishment and flipping them the bird.

It’s time aviation gets a little spice of the Pilot Ian “bird”.

What if I fail?

As I write this, I stare at a sourdough loaf on my kitchen table that I completely failed at baking. It was my first try, I believe my sourdough starter is a piece of shit, and the dough was super runny and didn’t rise. Total mess guys, total mess…

But failure happens. Sure I wanted a nice loaf of sourdough sitting in the kitchen to gawk and gawd at, but I just failed.

sourdough bread fail
sourdough bread fail

So what. I’ll try again tomorrow.

This doesn’t give me an out, I never expect to fail, EVER. But sometimes it happens. We’re humans.

ps… if you actually look into those two dudes mentioned above you will see they both have had success and major fails.

If you are on the verge of wanting to pursue flight training this is meant to serve as a “what do you have to lose” type moment.

… think about it… ponder a bit more… annnnnd let’s move on.

What can you expect to see, and when?

Another thing I do really poorly is keeping posting promises. However, I am going to make one that I intend to keep this time around.

You can expect to see at the very least a full report monthly at the beginning of the month about the progress made and the expense report of my flight training adventures from the previous month. Kind of like Pat Flynn’s monthly income reports, just way less sexy and cool. I’m an under promise over deliver kind of guy. If I have the time, I will certainly be hitting you with more frequent updates as I see fit.

I’m holding nothing back here. You will get a very long, weekends worth of reading type blog article filled with every dime I spent and every tactic I tried, failed at, or succeeded in an effort at saving myself money in my training. Additionally, I will set the stage for the upcoming month and what I intend to try out for the next 30 days.

Be warned, I’m not above shaving my head for a free flight hour.

You want to save money, right? Let me be your guinea pig experiment for how to get it done.

Let’s get started right now

I’m not one to beat around the bush.

Want to help make this flight hacking thing rock and roll? All I ask is for you to share this post to your favorite social media vice. Let your friends troll my ideas and then let me troll them later. The more people that check out my content, the more opportunity I have at adding to my flight hacking fund from these efforts. Meta, I know.

If you don’t want to share, then get out of here. You hate my content obviously. Jk…

But really…

No really jk…


Anyway, I’m super pumped about this new project. I attempted to set the stage decently for you to get a grip on what the hell I am trying to accomplish here. October is coming up fast, and I plan to include all the nitty gritty in that post about how I will work on hacking October and putting in the hours. To be notified about that article, I’d suggest subscribing to my newsletter below to get notified first.

Thanks for going on this journey with me, I hope we can change the way flight training happens for the penny pinching public.

If you have already gone through the spending on flight training, first I’m sorry. Second, care to share your total investment spent in flight training? Comment below, lets see the debt our aviation community is building!