This article is from the Aviation FAQ, by Geoffrey G. Peck firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
Learning to fly a single-engine airplane is usually accomplished by
visiting an FBO (see acronym list below) or two and selecting one for
your instruction. Costs vary widely, not only by geographic area, but
also because different individuals take different amounts of time to
learn to fly. You should expect that learning to fly in the U.S. will
cost you between US$3,000 and US$5,000, and it will take about 60-80
hours of flying of which about 20-30 hours will be solo (on your own) and
the rest with an instructor, spread out over a period of 3-6 months.
For further information, send e-mail to email@example.com (ask for the
private pilot handout), and you can receive a helpful and comprehensive
handout. [Note: sometimes, due to mail system problems, you may not get
a copy of this handout when you ask for one -- if you ask and don't get a
response within a week, or if you've asked before and didn't receive it,
send me e-mail again, preferably containing some "alternate" e-mail
If your goal is to fly a glider or a helicopter, you need not start out
by learning to fly a single-engine airplane. Learning to fly in a
helicopter will cost about twice as much as learning to fly in an
airplane. (In U.S. metropolitan areas, a typical trainer helicopter
rents for about US$100/hour; a typical trainer-class airplane for
US$30-50/hour.) Learning to fly in a glider will vary in cost from
significantly less than the cost to learn in an airplane to about the
same as learning to fly in an airplane. If you plan to learn to fly
airplanes as well as gliders or helicopters, it is typically less
expensive to do the airplane first and then the other aircraft type.
If you're interested in flying gliders (soaring), in the U.S., contact
the Soaring Society of America (SSA -- see below) for information on
glider sites around the country.