How A Flight Simulator Will Pay Itself Off

Flying is not like riding a bike, there are far too many things that must be kept fresh in a pilot's mind, and if they do not fly often, they will be lost and have to be re-learned. Like anything in life, especially flying, consistent actions create consistent results, which applies to both seasoned and student pilots. 

As a pilot, being current doesn’t necessarily mean being proficient. So how do pilots stay proficient in their procedures and confident in their flying? Well, it’s really about flying as often as possible, but plane convenience dictates the frequency of flights, and budgetary constraints also play a role. It’s the same issue with student pilots; finances often curtail the frequency of those training sessions. Also, student pilots have relied on self-study, videos, and online training courses to learn their fundamentals, but coursework and guides only go so far. 

You shouldn’t sacrifice your weekly proficiency because of budgetary concerns from aircraft rentals or paying a CFI. That’s where a Home Flight Simulator comes into play. Flight simulation training is a valuable tool for pilots to build flight time, improve technique, and learn valuable lessons. Every iteration of training performed on a flight simulator leads to reduced iterations of practice required in real-world aircraft. This reduction in iterations leads to compressing training time while also reducing training costs. While the benefits of using a home flight simulator are apparent, for some people, the hesitancy in buying one stems from the price.

Home Flight Simulator

The Cost of Buying A Flight Simulator

The number one question we hear on social media is How Much is A Flight Simulator? 

That is a loaded question because a home flight simulator can vary from a single component like the GFC500 Autopilot to practice coms for $349 to a full Cessna 172 BATD Simulator for $15,000. However, the direct value is in the reduced cost that one pays for the simulator hours compared to real-aircraft hours. The indirect value is even more critical. Every hour spent on a simulator brings about learning in some form and eventually reduces the amount of real-aircraft time needed to complete training. 

Learning to fly an airplane requires processing a great deal of information and putting it into action. It demands a lot of concentration and practicing procedures. Repeating those procedures on a simulator just builds knowledge and, more importantly, muscle memory, so you are prepared when you hop in the cockpit. A great starter setup with a few components can be great for honing your skills in a particular area. Don’t worry about starting small; you can always build upon your sim in the future. 

Renting A Flight Simulator 

Pilots have embraced the benefits of a flight simulator, so many flight schools have adopted this training equipment and rented it out for pilots and student pilots. A study found that over 40% of respondents used some type of flight sim software during their private training and that 85% now use it to help maintain their proficiency. These findings indicate that student and private pilots have benefited from flight simulators as practical training and proficiency aid. 

Most flight schools offer flight simulator rentals designed to supplement flight training and practice emergency manoeuvres in a safe environment. You can fly a simulator right before a flight lesson for a quick refresher and sharpen your skills to maximize paid flight time with a CFI. 

There is a broad spectrum of flight simulators to rent, and the hourly price is just as wide. For instance, the full motion simulators are being rented out anywhere between $500-$1,000 an hour to smaller (no motion) simulators in flight schools are being rented out for $50 an hour. For this comparison, we’ll use $50 an hour because that was the typical price we’ve seen locally. 

The benefit of owning a home flight simulator is that you can practice more frequently and build confidence. For example, suppose you purchased a RealSimGear G1000 Suite for $2,199. In that case, that’s equivalent to 18.3 flight hours ($2,199 / $120 an hour), so if you were flying around 12 hrs per month, it’s going to pay for itself pretty quickly in time saved learning things specific to the avionics that could be better practiced on the ground.

Renting A Plane 

Flying an airplane is expensive; from the fuel, maintenance, insurance, and storage, those costs can add up, and the more you fly, the more frequent those charges are. For pilots without the financial means to buy their plane, many rent a plane to log hours and stay proficient. Then you add the flight instructor fees, and the costs start to add up when you fly an actual airplane. 

On the other hand, using a flight simulator cuts out these overhead costs, easing some of the financial pressure of learning to fly. You’re likely to see significant savings compared to the cost of learning everything in the sky. For student pilots, having a simulator at home will allow you to practice what you can at home, like programming your GPS for the various approaches, tuning radio frequencies, and talking with ATC while flying the aircraft. You can even fly your simulator right before a flight lesson for a quick refresher and sharpen your skills to maximize paid flight time with an instructor. Every hour spent on the simulator reduces your real-world aircraft time and your costs.

Depending on the aircraft you are renting, the rates will vary. Standard single-engine pistons such as Piper Cherokees and Cessna 172s will run about $120 to $150/hr wet. If you are planning to rent a multiengine aircraft, expect to pay more than $200 an hour. We took the average of those and used $120 an hour in this equation below. 

G1000 Suite costs $2,199 / ($120 an hour x 12 hours of plane rentals a month) = 1.5 months 
* This is based on renting a plane with gas for $120 an hour twice per week (12 hours a month) and comparing it to using a flight simulator for 4 hours per week (16 hours a month) 

As you can see in the example above, in the context of real-world flying, a RealSimGear G1000 Suite is a fraction of the cost when renting an aircraft. It might seem costly initially, but it will pay itself off in a few months, and you'll have it for years afterward. 

Flight Schools

Flight Schools Can Pay Off Their Aviation Training Devices In 4-6 Months 

As you can see, there is a considerable benefit and Importance of Flight Schools Using Simulators. From emergencies to complex scenarios, there is no surprise that simulators and aviation training devices (ATD's) are an excellent resource for student and veteran pilots. While this is a benefit for the pilots, this can also be a huge asset to the FBO or flight school. Having a simulator or ATD at your business will allow you to keep pilots engaged, run lessons during poor weather, build upon customer retention, and allow for a new revenue channel. See the table below, which breaks down the pay-back period for our BATD products

As you can see below, the payback period for any RealSimGear Basic Training Device is only a few months. From that day on, the RealSimGear BATD will generate 100% profit.

Flight School Rental Example - Based on an average of 60 hours rented a month
BATD Model Flight Control Option Purchase Price Rental Rate Example Payback Period
Cessna 172/182 Piper Archer Basic $13,099 $50/hr 4 months
Cessna 172/182 Piper Archer Advanced $15,099 $60/hr 4 months
Cirrus SR20/SR22 Advanced $18,099 $60/hr 5 months
Cirrus SR20/SR23 Cirrus Cockpit $28,099 $80/hr 6 months

Financing A Flight Simulator 

We understand that the price for some people is still high, which is why we rolled out – Fly Now, Pay Later. RealSimGear and AFFIRM have teamed up to offer you Financing on your next order. Simply pick the flight sim components or packages you want and add them to your shopping cart. Then, choose the payment option that works for you and your budget—from 4 interest-free payments every two weeks to monthly instalments. Lastly, you’ll be able to manage your payments with the Affirm app or online, and set up AutoPay, so you don’t miss a payment. 

*10-30% APR Subject to credit check and approval. Online only, offer not available in-store. Rates vary 10%-30% Based on credit rating. Down payment may be required. For purchases under $100, limited payment options are available. The estimated payment amount excludes taxes and shipping fees. Affirm loans are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey-chartered bank, Member FDIC. See for details.

a home flight simulator