I Spent $11,000 On A Pilot License While I Was Still In Debt (And I’d Do It Again)

is it worth getting a pilot license

 

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I can hear the anti-debt crusaders charging in my direction already.

How dare you!

Everybody knows that spending money on anything other than the bare essentials of utter foolishness until you’re completely out of debt right? Extreme frugality is the only way to financial independence right?

Easy guys – I’m still with you. Just hear me out.

It was early 2010 when I decided to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.

The dream was actually two generations old. My dad always wanted to learn how to fly, but for a variety of reasons, he didn’t ever get his license. I decided when I was young that I was going to be a pilot. It would be a few years before I got around to it however.

I’ve mentioned before that when Mrs. NB and I were married in 2009, we were deep in the red. I had financed a new vehicle, and we both had student loans and credit card debt totaling more than 40k.

I hated being in debt and vowed to pay it all off asap.

Things Don’t Always Go The Way You Think They Will

Early in 2010, we were having dinner with my in-laws when the topic of flying came up. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to do it and was thinking about signing up for ground school. Unexpectedly, my father in-law said: “I’ll do it with you, let’s sign up this week.”

And that was how it all started.

Thankfully, I was able to get rid of the truck, which was more than half of my debt at that time. We were steadily paying down the balance of our debt when I signed up for ground school.

The funny thing about flight school is that it’s not really an all-up-front cost like most colleges or courses. You don’t have to pay for a whole semester at once. Ground school was $500 at that time, and from that point forward I just paid for lessons as I took them..

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How Much Money Did My Private Pilot Licence Cost?

Where I’m from, there isn’t really a fixed cost to learn how to fly. How much it costs depends on how quickly a student learns. In Canada, you must have a minimum of 45 flight hours before you can take your test.. Most students however require closer to 60 hours be be competent.

There is a rental rate for the aircraft, and a separate rate for the instructor. The two together were around $150 per hour (this was in 2010 – it’s more expensive now).

A typical lesson lasted between 1 and 2.5 hours. You can see how this starts to add up fast.

For a time, I was taking a lesson every week. When money got tight, I cut back to one lesson every two to three weeks and at times, only one per month.

As with pretty much everything I do, I found myself to be statistically average. I took my flight test right around 60 hours earning myself a ‘Partial Pass’. I completed most of the maneuvers correctly but I failed the recovery of the spin stall. Luckily, with a partial pass I was able to go up with the examiner and demonstrate just that one maneuver again. Just like that I was a licensed pilot.

In the end, after I had passed my test the whole process including licensing and testing fees was just over $11,000.

Is a pilot license worth it

Was It Worth Getting A Pilot License?

In a word: Abso-friggen-lutely.

Have you ever been up in a small plane? There’s nothing like it. The view of the landscape from 3000 feet is breathtaking. The feeling that you can go absolutely anywhere (except maybe across international borders…I live about 30 kilometers from the USA) and do anything is so freeing. There simply isn’t anything else like it.

At the time, I was still in debt and slowly paying it off. Would it technically have been wiser for me to have waited a few years until our debt was clear to do my license? Certainly.

Here’s the thing though – I don’t believe that everything in life is that simple. Not everything can be measured in dollars and cents. I believe that in some situations, the best thing a person can do is pursue a dream, even if it’s not in line with conventional wisdom.

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Flying was something I had wanted to learn my entire life. If I had waited until after our first child was born to start flying, I probably never would have. I would have put it off for months, and then years telling myself that it’s not the responsible thing to do.

One day, I might have woken up and found myself not healthy enough to pass the medical and have to live with an unfulfilled dream.

For better or for worse, that’s just not how I roll. Life is meant to be lived. I don’t believe in throwing caution or common sense to the wind to chase after dreams, but sometimes it’s worth taking a bit of a risk to do something that really matters to you.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Question For You:

What Strange Financial Decision Have You Made That You Stand Behind?

7 thoughts on “I Spent $11,000 On A Pilot License While I Was Still In Debt (And I’d Do It Again)

  1. I agree totally with the sentiment – The problem I know I had was that I was spending too much and on the wrong things. Also, I was living my life according to somebody else’s script, or what was “expected”.

    Glad to see somebody out there shunning convention and chasing joy 🙂

    • Thanks CJ! I really appreciate that. I feel like there’s almost a universal focus on frugality and minimalism in the PF space right now. Though I think both of those things are worthwhile, I always like to present a different perspective 🙂

  2. I agree, at a certain point you’ve got to let go of what makes sense and pursue something worthwhile.

    One of my dreams is to play golf with my dad at some top courses in the country. If the opportunity came up like yours did, I’d have a hard time saying no.

    Congrats on the pilot license and fulfilling a meaningful dream!

  3. Great post about spending on something that makes you happy. I’ve driven cross country four times. Each time it cost me about $1,000 in gas and hotels, but I wouldn’t take it back. I stopped a lot along the way and really enjoyed the experience.

    • Thanks for reading!

      That’s actually a long-term of mine. I want to drive across the USA and back to the West Coast through Canada. Someday…

  4. I agree! You only live once and I’d rather enjoy my life. That’s actually my entire reason for pursuing FI… to do the things I want to do in my life instead of being stuck at a job

    • Thanks for the comment Melanie! I thought I was alone with this sentiment in the PF community but people are generally agreeing with me. I’ll have to find another more controversial article to write 😀

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