Becoming a commercial pilot in Canada comes with a hefty price tag – but some students are benefitting from a head start.
“I’ve been flying since I was sixteen and it’s the best feeling in the world to have such control in the sky,” said Matthew Tucci, 20, an aviation student at Seneca College.
Tucci is an exception to the rule: as a student, he found ways of reducing the steep costs of flight school. Tucci is learning to fly through Seneca’s Aviation Technology degree program, but unlike others in the program, he first received his pilot’s license while being in the Air Cadets. This means that Tucci doesn’t need to rack up the 500 hours of expensive flight time to get his certificate – even though he’s doing it anyway, for the love of it.
Flying is not cheap. At CYPQ Peterborough airport it costs an average of $133 an hour to rent a Cessna 172 S with a full tank of gas. The price of renting a plane can cause a lot of stress for the students.
“The Air Cadets allowed me to get my license through a flight school but what I learn at Seneca is more of the ins and outs of flying while getting practice in the air,” said Tucci.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 18, the Air Cadets provides free flight training. Tucci originally wanted to fly for the military, but did not pass the physical requirements. This led him to apply for a degree in aviation.
“Seneca’s FPR program is the best route for civilian or military flying since Seneca and the Royal Canadian Air Force have a joint program to allow Canadian forces members to achieve their wings alongside getting the Aviation Technology degree from Seneca,” says Andrew McKechnie, an aeronautics professor in the program.
The Seneca program only supplies planes for in-class sessions. In class flight sessions only cover 250 of the 500 required hours needed to get a license. The cost of those 250 hours, if choosing to fly solo, is about 33 thousand dollars. If flying with a partner, it is half that.
Ricardo Palacios, 18, who is also studying at Seneca, has to work as a sales associate at Sportchek to help pay for renting the plane to fulfill practice hours.
“I came right out of high school into this program. I had no flying experience. So unlike Matt, who has his licence already, I have to work to rent the plane to make my hours, but the program is great and I’m having a lot of fun while learning how to fly,” says Palacios.