Don Pablo Edronkin

Aeronautical Common Sense: Why Pay More For Flying?

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Does it make any sense to pay more for the same thing? Of course not, and if this problem arises just when you have decided to learn the art of flying, it becomes more important than ever because aviation licenses and courses are quite expensive.

Said in another way: Why pay around six thousand Euros to get your Private Pilot's License (PPL) when you can get the same thing for about one third of that?

'Progress' is not always related to 'Efficiency', and that's exactly the problem with European pilot's licenses, for the most part; they are terribly expensive and compared with flight schools found elsewhere, those in the Old World seem frankly uncompetitive.

In countries like Argentina, your average PPL costs around twho thousand Euros - at most - while the curricular activities, the aircraft, instructors, air and gravity remain the same. It is a fact of life that things sometimes get more expensive without improving.

An example of this - which is not aeronautical 'per se' - is that of MS Windows operating system versus Linux, another OS for home computers; the first one costs around ten times more, but the second one is widely recognised as much better, by far.

Aircraft used in Argentina are the same as those deployed by schools in the United States or European countries and maintenance costs are similar due to the fact that fees for flying machines are calculated in U.S. Dollars and nothing else. PPLs are internationally acknowledged due to international conventions and thus, it follows that the quality of training should be similar too.

This means, all in all, that neither safety nor educational quality are inferior, but so are costs, and when you start digging as to find why, you will see that for the most part it has to do with marketing: in Argentina, due to economic restrictions, aircraft equipment is more rational as to what you could expect to find in most European or North American schools.

Take avionics as an example: basic trainers in Argentina carry just the bare minimum for VFR flight, but in the European Union and even the United States in order to grab the attention of prospective students, schools just tend to equip their planes with fancy GPS systems, IFR-rated instrumental and so on.

Of course, all that looks indeed impressive, but it is a fact of life that a PPL student will absolutely make no use of those gadgets during basic training; believe me: even if you could while still being a rookie, you will have your hands already full, and will forget about those nifty screens as soon as you start accelerating for take off.

More instruments in a cockpit add costs to the fees calculated per each flight hour of a given aircraft because those things need periodical checks, revisions and work done by well-paid mechanics; so, the more you have in there, the higher the cost, and the less you use, the less you need. For the basics, you need the basics, period.

It is also not necessary to use something like a 230HP engine or a high-performance aircraft for basic training. Piper Cubs and Cessnas C-152 are still the norm for PPL courses; they are more stable, trustworthy and much less expensive to operate.

Argentinean flight schools and air clubs generally have low-cost, simple machines for basic training which are even more economic to use because they are configured to operate more efficiently by not taking with them what is not really needed.

So if you are really interested in getting a pilot's license, consider visiting Argentina: you will spend about two months in another country, practice your Spanish and for the same money, you would be able to fly three times longer than at home, and that really does make some sense.

LV-YMI, a Piper PA-11 belonging to the Malvinas Argentinas Air Club
A Piper PA-11 belonging to the Malvinas Argentinas Flying Club.

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