The Best Online Ground Schools and How to Choose in 2024
27 September 2023 | Updated on December 05, 2023 | 15 comments
Learning to fly will change your life, there is no doubt about that. But getting started can seem daunting.
Before the actual flying lessons begin, there is a fair bit of ground training and theory you have to go through. Ground school is where your aviation education truly begins. It’s like the foundation of a house. You’ll learn the essential theory that every pilot needs to know.
Below, we’ll list a few of the best options you currently have when it comes to the theoretical part of flight training, which can all be completed from the comfort of your home, at your own schedule, using online e-learning. These have been picked based on their comprehensiveness, teaching approach, user feedback, and proven success.
In a hurry? Here’s a quick summary table of all the mentioned ground schools:
|Ground School||Price (USD)||Course Duration||Key Features|
|Rod Machado’s Private Pilot eLearning Ground School||$279||40+ hours||26 modules, highly animated, lifetime access||More info|
|Pilot Institute Online – Private Pilot Made Easy||$249 - $279||20+ hours||540 video lessons, 35 hours of content, lifetime access, study guide, community Facebook group||More info|
|FLY8MA Private Pilot Ground School Premium||$349 - $419||N/A||20 lessons, free extra course, subscription options for more courses||More info|
|Angle of Attack Online Ground School||$279||36+ hours||10 sections, lifetime access, downloadable courses||More info|
|Gold Seal Online Ground School||$229||N/A||6 modules, lifetime access, free content available||More info|
|Sporty’s Private Pilot Learn to Fly||$279||15+ hours||Self-paced, lifetime access, compatible with TV and phone apps||More info|
|Gleim Aviation Online Ground School||$124.95||35+ hours||Self-paced, 12-month access, multiple course options||More info|
|ASA Private Pilot Online Ground School||$179.85||2-4 weeks||Self-paced, 24-month access, extensive library||More info|
The 8 best online ground schools for private pilots
Now let’s dive in!
(We’ve had the chance to personally review some of the courses mentioned, we include a link to the in-depth review when applicable)
1. Rod Machado’s Private Pilot eLearning Ground School
Kicking off our list is a standout favorite: Rod Machado’s 40-hour+ private pilot eLearning ground school. This course has consistently been a top recommendation on Hangar.Flights, with a stream of positive reviews from satisfied students.
This dynamic and interactive eLearning course stands out as one of the most detailed private pilot ground training programs available today. With 26 engaging modules, it offers 40 hours of in-depth, entertaining, and interactive aviation education. It’s akin to what you’d experience in a semester-long college aviation course.
- 26 course modules, 40+ hours of content
- Highly animated and fun
- Lifetime access
- Price: $279
2. Pilot Institute Online – Private Pilot Made Easy
For those a tad apprehensive about their ground school choice, this course offers a reassuring safety net. They’re so confident in their program that if you don’t clear the written test, they’ll not only refund your course fee but also hand you $175 cash. But given their impressive 99.8% student pass rate, the odds are in your favor. The course is flexible, catering to different learning rhythms. Most students wrap it up in about 20 hours, but you can take it at your own speed. A standout feature? Their comprehensive 44-page study guide and a dedicated Facebook group. This online community fosters discussions and peer learning, adding an extra layer to your study experience.
- 540 video lessons, 35 hours of content
- Lifetime access
- 44-page study guide
- Community-based Facebook group
- Flashcard app
- Price: $279
3. FLY8MA Private Pilot Ground School Premium
Next up on our list is the stellar course from FLY8MA.
If you’re on the hunt for a comprehensive online private pilot ground school, FLY8MA’s offering might just be your perfect match. This course is meticulously designed to equip you with the foundational knowledge you’ll need to ace the Private Pilot Airplane written exam. Plus, it sets the stage for hands-on flight training with your instructor in an actual aircraft. With 20 straightforward lessons, the course is user-friendly and easy to digest. And as a cherry on top, they throw in an extra free course: the Private Pilot Written Prep BootCamp.
You can either purchase the course on its own or access it through one of FLY8MA’s monthly subscriptions, granting you unlimited entry to all their flight training courses. Learn more here
- 20 lessons
- Free extra course included
- Price: $279
4. Angle of Attack Online Ground School
For pilots always on the move or juggling tight schedules, the Angle of Attack Online Ground School emerges as a beacon of flexibility. Boasting over 36 hours of video content curated by Chris Palmer, a seasoned Certified Flight Instructor, this platform dives deep into real-world aviation scenarios from the get-go.
- 10 well-structured sections
- Lifetime access
- On-the-go downloadable courses
- Price: $279 (Bundle with the Checkride ACE for $349)
5. Gold Seal Online Ground School
For the tech enthusiasts and pilots eager for a refresher, Gold Seal Online Ground School shines bright. This platform is unique in its approach, offering a taste of its content for free, letting you dip your toes before taking the full plunge. And once you’re hooked, you get lifetime access to a treasure trove of materials, all thoughtfully put together by Instructor Russell Still.
- 6 comprehensive modules
- Lifetime access
- Free content to start
- Price: $229 for full access
6. Sporty’s Private Pilot Learn to Fly
Sporty’s Private Pilot Learn to Fly Course offers a structured approach suitable for self-paced learning. Designed to prepare students for the written test, the course encompasses approximately 15 hours of instructional content. It draws from the expertise of multiple Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) who cover essential topics, including maneuvers, FAA regulations, and weather patterns. An added feature is the course’s compatibility with TV and phone apps, facilitating access to videos and resources. The course provides lifetime access, ensuring that subscribers can benefit from any future updates.
- Self-paced, 15 hours of study
- Lifetime access
- TV and phone app
- Price: $279 (or four payments)
7. Gleim Aviation Online Ground School
Priced at a competitive $125, Gleim Aviation Online Ground School offers a broad spectrum of ground school courses. While Gleim is widely recognized for their test preparation materials, they’ve expanded their offerings to include a comprehensive private pilot ground school. Prospective students can sample the course online to determine its suitability.
What sets Gleim apart is its extensive range of courses. Beyond the standard private pilot ground school, they provide courses for sport pilots, potential instructors, airline transport pilots (ATP), flight engineers, and more, positioning it as a comprehensive hub for varied aviation educational requirements.
- Self-paced, average of 35 hours
- 12-month access
- Multiple ground school options
- Price: $125
8. ASA Private Pilot Online Ground School
Priced at an accessible $180, the ASA Private Pilot Online Ground School emerges as a valuable tool, particularly for those with aspirations in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). With a longstanding reputation for producing top-tier test prep materials, Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA) has channeled this expertise into a comprehensive app-based ground school. While the course leans towards being text-intensive, it balances this with informative graphics, videos, and a clear, methodical approach to the content. It’s agreat choice for those wanting a resource-rich library that extends beyond mere exam prep.
- 2-4 weeks self-paced study
- 24-month access
- Extensive library
- Price: $180
What is ground school and ground training?
Before you begin taking flying lessons, you’ll need to complete some ground training. Ground school is basically the theoretical part of your flight training, where a student pilot is introduced to the basics of flight and a variety of theoretical and practical subjects. This includes learning about things like weather patterns, aerodynamics, navigation and air law, so students are well-versed in the language of aviation when they begin their actual flying lessons.
Even though this article focuses on ground schools for private pilots, many students also take part in ground school for commercial and other pilot licenses.
Online vs. classroom courses
In general, ground schools may be classified depending on who is providing the course and where it is given.
On one hand, we have the traditional flight schools offering in-house ground instruction. These schools, while intensive and professional, are usually quite pricey, and may only offer the private pilot part of ground school as a first step for students enrolled in a professional/commercial pilot training program.
These live classes could also be taught in a flying club where private pilot instruction is given. These will usually be less expensive, but often lack the professional quality and student support of traditional flight schools.
Another option is taking an online private pilot ground school. This makes the course available to students who don’t live near a traditional training center, or simply already have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow for frequent in-class lectures.
These programs may be cheaper than traditional flight schools, but require self-discipline to work well so you can study on your own without instructor oversight.
It doesn’t really matter whether you go to an actual school or sign up for an online course when it comes to learning the material, but there can be some obvious advantages and disadvantages to each, as we will discuss below.
Ground school vs Test prep
Full ground school courses are akin to a virtual classroom, providing an extensive curriculum that covers all aspects of pilot training. These courses are thorough, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the necessary material. On the other hand, test prep courses are targeted at students who have completed ground school.
Choosing between an online test prep course and a comprehensive ground school for pilot training is similar to a student deciding whether to review course summaries the night before an exam or engage in in-depth study throughout the semester.
Test prep courses in pilot training are like reviewing summaries. They focus on key points and exam questions, offering a condensed version of what’s essential for passing the test. This approach is beneficial for recalling specific details and can be effective if the student already has a foundational understanding of the material. However, it lacks the depth and breadth of knowledge that comes from a more thorough study.
The drawback of relying solely on test prep courses is their limited scope. They prepare you for the written exam but may not equip you with the holistic knowledge required for safe flying and the practical aspects of piloting.
Importance of choosing the right course for pilot training
Choosing the right course is like picking the right co-pilot: You want it to be tailored to your learning style, suit your schedule, and be able to guide you effectively through this journey. The right course will not just prepare you for exams, but will instill a sense of confidence and competency, making you ready for any challenges in the cockpit.
The subjects range from understanding the principles of flight, learning about weather patterns, diving into navigation techniques, to decoding the language of aviation – yes, there’s such a thing. They prepare you for the written FAA exams and create a knowledge base that you’ll tap into every time you fly.
Different courses have different strengths. Some may excel at visual learning aids, others might have extraordinary instructors, and a few might offer unique tools for practicing your skills. It’s essential to pick the one that resonates with you and helps you understand and retain the necessary knowledge.
Don’t be surprised if the material feels tough at times. It’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re new to the world of aviation. But remember, every pilot has been where you are now. Keep pushing forward. It’s worth it.
How to choose a Private Pilot Ground School: 5 questions to ask yourself
When deciding which ground school to choose, there are many factors to consider. Here are some of the most important questions you should ask yourself when looking for a ground school:
1. What is your budget?
There are a few tradeoffs to consider though when it comes to attending a physical ground school vs online ground school. One is cost. In-person schools can be much more expensive than online courses, especially when you add the price of transportation, gas and lodging to the cost of tuition. That’s not a big deal if you live nearby or have some more money to spend on school, but if you’re on a tight student pilot budget, this could be prohibitive.
The cost for a private pilot ground school can vary greatly depending on which kind of training you want to do. For instance, following a physical in-class ground course can cost anywhere from $700 in a flying club, to a few $1000 in a professional flight school.
Depending on your budget, you may want to look at an online ground school course, which usually costs between $250 and $400. This will save you more dollars to use on Avgas!
2. How much time do you have?
Another consideration is the availability, schedule and convenience of ground schools. If you have special scheduling needs because of work or family commitments, attending a live class might not be an option for you. While there are some in-class ground schools that would allow following part of the course online (through distance learning, for example), these will be more expensive and less likely to offer a quality online platform that would match a good dedicated e-ground school.
If you’re used to learning independently and prefer a more flexible approach when it comes to scheduling and taking classes, an online ground school might be a good fit for you since this can take place at whatever time and location is most convenient for you.
3. Where do you live?
In addition to flexibility, another factor that will determine which ground school to choose is geographical location. For instance, if you live near a traditional flight school or flying club offering top-notch private pilot instruction and support, it may be more convenient for you to attend an in-person ground course there.
If you’re a commuter and live far from a traditional flight school, taking an online course might be your best option. Think this over carefully before choosing one method or the other because it determines what type of ground school to pick up.
4. What are your goals? What do you want to get out of your training?
Another factor that may influence your decision is the goal you have for your training. For instance, if you’re looking to become a professional pilot then choosing a ground school within a larger flying school may be a good option, as this could serve as a stepping stone to get you started on your professional pilot career. The people you meet during your ground school training could be instrumental in helping you get started and even provide recommendations for jobs or other opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to find.
When planning out a career in aviation as a pilot, you probably also have a considerably higher budget set apart for training.
On the other hand, if your goal is to simply get the training under your belt, but not necessarily turn it into a career, an online school will likely be more affordable and convenient for you. It allows you to go at your own pace and offers more flexible scheduling options when it comes to taking your exams or written test.
5. What is your learning style?
You also have to consider your learning style. Do you prefer to study with the help of visuals and audio or are you more of a book learner? Do you need to interact with other students and instructors or can you learn independently?
All of these factors come into play when choosing a ground school. If you’re very independent, can learn from visual material on your PC and don’t need a lot of instructor interaction, an online school might be the right choice for you.
On the other hand, if you prefer some more guidance and the ability to ask someone a question as you’re going along throughout your training, then a physical ground school might be more useful for you.
Some extra tips on choosing the right ground school course for your needs
If you’re still unsure about which ground school to choose, here are some additional tips that may be of help during your search and decision process:
- Talk to a lot of people: A good place to start is by asking around and looking for some personal recommendations from other pilots who have gone through the training recently. Don’t be afraid to ask around, this will give you a better sense of what their experience was like, and which ground school they’d recommend for your particular needs.
- Ask around and look for online reviews: You can also go online and read some customer reviews of various ground schools to get an idea of which ones are popular with students and might be a good match for you.
- Look around on social media: Another possibility is to see if any flying clubs or other organizations in your area use ground schools and whether you can get in touch with previous students who attended those classes.
- Ask questions: The course provider should be willing to offer you some basic information about what your training will look like, how many hours it will comprise, and any other relevant specifics you should know. The more course providers and potential instructors you talk to, the better equipped you’ll be to make a final decision.
- Teaching styles: Finally, make sure to pay attention to the teaching style of the instructors. Especially in online ground school courses, there is a big difference in teaching styles, which could make the material either sound boring, or full of fun and excitement. Again, try to go with a ground school where you can be sure the material and teaching style will match your personal preference.
FAQs about ground school
How much does a private pilot ground school cost?
The cost of a private pilot ground school can vary significantly based on several factors, such as the type of instruction (traditional classroom vs. online), the depth of the curriculum, and the reputation of the institution or instructor.
- Traditional Classroom Ground Schools: Traditional ground schools, usually held at local flight schools or colleges, involve in-person lectures and hands-on training. These courses might span several weeks or even months, often taking place on weekends or evenings, hence why they are usually more expensive. Costs for these physical courses generally range from $300 to $600, with some premium institutions charging more. This price often includes textbooks, charts, and other necessary materials.
- Online Ground Schools: With the advent of technology, online ground schools have surged in popularity due to their flexibility and, often, more affordable rates. Thanks to the increased efficiency of online learning materials, you can save a lot of money compared to physical instruction. In general, an online ground school course will cost you between $150 and $400, with some excellent options priced around $270.
How long does a private pilot ground school take to complete?
The duration varies based on the course structure and the student’s pace. While traditional ground schools might last several weeks with scheduled classes, online courses like the ones mentioned above are self-paced, allowing students to complete them as quickly or leisurely as they prefer.
It’s mandatory to complete at least 40 hours of ground school instruction before qualifying for the practical exam. This requirement can be fulfilled through in-person classes, online courses, or one-on-one sessions with a flight instructor.
Is attending ground school mandatory for taking the FAA written exam?
While the FAA doesn’t mandate attending a formal ground school, they require proof of knowledge before taking the written exam. This proof typically comes from an endorsement by an instructor, which you obtain after completing a ground school.
Attending a ground school is essential for this. It provides foundational knowledge required for the FAA written test. Completing a ground school and passing this exam are prerequisites for the FAA Private Pilot Practical Test.
Are online ground schools as effective as traditional classroom settings?
Online ground schools have gained popularity due to their flexibility and adaptability to individual learning paces. They can be as effective as traditional classroom settings, provided the student remains disciplined and the course content is comprehensive. Many online courses, such as Rod Machado’s eLearning Ground School, offer detailed content that rivals, if not exceeds, traditional classroom teachings.
What topics does a private pilot ground school cover?
A comprehensive ground school will delve into topics such as flight principles, aircraft mechanics, federal aviation regulations, navigation techniques, and meteorology, ensuring students are well-prepared for both the FAA written exam and real-life flying scenarios.
Picking the right ground school is an essential first step in every pilot’s aviation journey, whether it’s just for fun or as the first step in an exciting professional career.
Ultimately, this is an important decision that should not be made without taking into account all of the relevant factors involved, most of which we have touched upon above. If you’re still unsure about which ground school to pick, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d be happy to help any way we can.
Remember, it’s not a race. Learning is continuous in the world of aviation. You’re not just checking boxes to pass exams: you’re gathering knowledge and skills that will ensure your safety and the safety of others when you’re thousands of feet above the ground. So take your time, explore the options, and choose the course that will mold you into the best pilot you can be.
And finally, don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, you’re learning to do something that humans have dreamt of for thousands of years – to fly. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of taking off into the sky, and that’s a feeling you’ll get to experience over and over again.
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite ground school is! Have any questions? We’ll be happy to answer where we can.