How to Rent an Aircraft


With a pilot's license, you're not at the mercy of the major airlines' timetables; you can rent yourself a plane at many airports across the country. Even if you don't have a license, fleet operators and charter groups can get you where you need to go.

Visit a fixed base operator (FBO), which manages and rents aircraft at an airport for training, charters and pleasure flights.

Go through the checkout with a certified flight instructor (CFI) to judge whether you can safely operate the aircraft. Unlike car rental companies, FBOs don't assume you know how to operate the plane just because you have a license. The checkout typically takes two to five hours or more, and includes basic flight maneuvers, emergency procedures, landings and stalls. For a singleengine, fixed-gear aircraft, the checkout is straightforward. Requiring a longer checkout are complex planes, which have retractable landing gear and variable pitch propellers, and include high-performance planes of 200 horsepower and above. Multiengine aircraft have a different rating and require even more time.

Check into renters insurance, which determines the rules by which a visiting pilot can rent planes. Your experience and your rating will determine the type of plane you can fly.

Fly away. Rules vary by FBO, but once you're signed off by the CFI, you can fly aircraft in the same category as the one in which the test was conducted. The checkout is valid for 90 days to six months, but only at that FBO.

Join a local flying club, which you can find in the phone book under "Aircraft Charter, Leasing and Rental," or check for a flying club directory. These clubs may charge a membership fee plus regular dues and per-flight costs.

Go through the club's checkout to join. Once again, your experience will determine the type of plane you're allowed to fly.

Look in the phone book under "Aircraft Charter, Leasing and Rental" for planning companies that make the arrangements, much like a concierge. The group will find you an appropriatesize plane, cater the in-flight meal when needed, and take care of any necessary fleet liaison. It contracts with a number of fleet operators to try to match its customers' requirements.

Charter a plane with a fleet operator. Choice and availability of planes may be limited, but the concierge services are comparable.

Tips & Warnings

  • The fastest way to board a plane (outside of commercial flying) is to hire a planning company to charter a plane for you.
  • Plane rental prices vary: Wet prices include gas and oil used; Hobbs billing charges are only for when the engine is running; Air Hobbs bills only for time when the plane is moving at flying speed.

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