If you’re working on your private or commercial certificate, or your instrument rating, you can save money by logging flying time without ever leaving the ground.
The FAA allows pilots seeking certain ratings and certificates to log a specific amount of time spent with a flight instructor using an approved training device (ATD) or simulator. You need to log a minimum of 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time to receive your rating, but you can log as much as half of that on the ground under FAR 61.65(e)(2).
Just how much money can you save by taking this approach? Expect to pay your flight instructor the same rate for a simulator lesson as you would pay for an equal amount of time in the air. But the rate you pay to rent the training device can be half that of renting an airplane, or even less when you take into account the price of fuel. And that can really boost your training budget.
Even better, the time spent on the ground can be spent far more efficiently than time in the air. When you practice approaches in the airplane, you can spend a lot of time getting from the end of an approach sequence back to where you started to try it again. Using the simulator, a few keystrokes can take you back to any point along the way. And your instructor can easily limit your view, fail instruments, or create a whole range of weather scenarios you might never have a chance to experience during airborne training.
While this method probably offers the most benefits for instrument students, private and commercial students can benefit, too. FAR 61.109(k)(1) says that a candidate for the private pilot certificate can log up to 2.5 of the 40 required hours in a simulator. That number jumps to 50 of the needed 250 hours for a commercial pilot certificate per FAR 61.129(i)(1).
To learn more about how you can save money on your training or take advantage of ground-based training opportunities, check out the AOPA Pilot Information Center’s subject report on flight training devices, or call the experts at (800/USA-AOPA).