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FSANA survey finds regional price variations

Anecdotal evidence aside, how much do checkride costs vary around the country? That’s what the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) sought to determine in a recent survey of pilots. 

The findings indicate that checkride costs do vary—but not by much. And the price tag generally is tied to the geographic region of the United States, which shouldn’t surprise anybody who has priced goods or services in California or New York versus Missouri or Virginia.

FSANA based its findings on responses from 901 individuals, collected in January. Most respondents represented applicants (612), with the remainder represented by CFIs recommending students (169), designated pilot examiners (77), and business owner/managers (43). The findings were announced at FSANA’s annual conference in early February.

A slight majority of respondents (about 55 percent) said they paid a range of $351 to $550 for a private, instrument, or commercial pilot practical test in a single or multiengine airplane. On the opposite ends of the price spectrum, about 9 percent said they paid under $350, and less than 1 percent said they paid more than $950.

Fees were a little heftier for initial CFI practical tests, and spread across a broader range. The largest percentage of respondents (16 percent) said the cost was between $551 and $650, whereas nearly 15 percent said they paid between $751 and $850. Another 14 percent said they paid between $951 and $1,050. About 11 percent of respondents said they paid under $500, and 11 percent said they paid $651 to $750.

For pilots who fail a private, instrument, or commercial checkride, not all DPEs charge the full fee. In fact, 11 percent of respondents said there was no charge for a retest, while about 14 percent said the full test fee was charged again. Meanwhile, about 28 percent of respondents said retests ranged from $201 to $300, and about 19 percent said the price ranged from $301 to $400.

How do prices for rotorcraft practical tests compare? The majority of respondents (about 47 percent) paid between $451 and $650. At the opposite ends of the price spectrum, about 8 percent said they paid under $350, and another 8 percent said they paid between $851 to $950.

Cash remains the preferred form of payment, according to 93 percent of respondents, whereas 51 percent said checks were accepted. Just about 12 percent of respondents said credit or debit cards were accepted, while about 3 percent said the examiner accepted PayPal.

Where are the lower-cost checkrides? The Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), where about 65 percent of respondents said prices ranged from $351 to $450. The highest percentage of checkrides priced between $651 and $750 were found in the Southwest (California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico).

What do you do with this information? It does seem to verify that there are variations in pricing throughout the United States, and it could also serve as a “don’t shoot the messenger” shield if a private pilot applicant screams at the prospect of paying hundreds of dollars for a checkride and paying it in cash.

The complete survey is available at the FSANA website.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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