Everything You Need To Know To Rent A Plane: (How To Guide)

How to Rent A Plane

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Plane rentals are an awesome benefit of being a pilot. Renting a plane can prove to be a cost-effective means of earning hours or having a fun-filled day with friends or family. Plane rentals allow you to bypass the costs associated with ownership such as storage and maintenance. It also allows you access to a variety of planes to learn on and become proficient on through practice.

If this sounds interesting to you, let us dive into what you need to know to rent your very own plane!

What Do I Need To Rent A Plane?

To rent an aircraft you will need a current and valid U.S. Pilot Certificate (Private Pilot License) and Pilot Medical Certificate both issued by the FAA.

Learn how to get a Private Pilot License Here

Foreign pilot certificates may be accepted at certain FBOs but will require a separate application process. This requires foreign certificate holders to get a letter of authenticity from the FAA saying that the certificate is valid. The FAA will then issue a U.S. pilot certificate.

This still requires that the foreign certificate and foreign medical be valid and current during the rental periods. 

Where Can I Rent A Plane?

Most flight schools, aviation centers, flying clubs, and Fixed Base Operator (FBOs) offer a rental service. An FBO is an airport business that handles private aviation (non-commercial), aircraft passengers, and services.

Individuals also can rent out their own aircraft as long as they have followed the rules and regulations.

A quick google search will pull up a laundry list of all rental businesses in your local area or in a specified location that you want to look in.

Plane Rental Checkout

Places that rent out their aircraft do not just lend out their expensive planes to anyone that asks. You will have to show that you are capable of basic pilot skills and airmanship through the checkout with one of the instructors or owner of the aircraft.

The checkout is a demonstration of your ability to fly the plane and is also used to show you around the local area and the pattern. It consists of items such as ground operations, maneuvers such as stalls and recoveries, and landings. Each place is different, but with successful completion, you will be able to rent one of their planes.  

Open Airplanes

For those of you who have used the Open Airplane network, it is no longer available as of Dec. 2019.

There used to be a way to bypass the checkout at new places through “Open Airplane” which was a network of rental businesses. It included an annual checkout at one of the locations. Successful completion of the checkout allowed you to rent out the specific type of aircraft anywhere in the United States as long as the rental business was a participating member.

How To Choose Where To Rent A Plane

This comes down to personal preference and what works best for each individual pilot. Some considerations could be:

  1. Cost
    • Wet versus Dry
  2. Location
    • Airport Type
    • Geographical Location
  3. Amount Of Aircraft
    • Variety Of Aircraft
    • Schedule Traffic
  4. Rental Durations

The Cost Of A Plane Rental

When renting from a business, you will most likely be given a cost per hour of use.

The vast majority of rental locations charge based on the engine time. You are charged from the time you start the engine to the time you turn it off. This is done by looking at the Hobbs meter which is a small clock that runs when the engine does. The backup is the tachometer.

You will check this when you get in and out of the aircraft. Make sure the numbers are documented correctly, and clearly so you will not be charged incorrectly.

Fuel is another source of costs that may differ depending on the rental place. You will oftentimes see a “wet” rate or “dry” rate.

What do Dry and Wet mean when renting a plane?

A “Dry” rental is the rental price per hour with fuel not included. A “Wet” rental is one where fuel is already included in the price. Renting wet is oftentimes easier and tends to be cheaper. 

Why Plane Rental Location Matters

Renting a plane is not difficult but it does require some effort and energy. The reason why this is a personal choice for each individual is that when choosing where to go to rent a plane, you are choosing an airport type, geography, distance away from your home, etc.

Maybe you are a seasoned flyer and airport size does not intimidate you, then the class B airport down the road may be a good option. Or maybe you just received your PPL and want to stay on the safe side and would not mind driving 25 extra minutes to get to the non-towered airport with way less traffic. Figure out what would work for you in the short and long term and make a decision based on that.

Geography can be one of the reasons you want to fly around an area. You want to see it from a bird’s eye view. Why rent a plane way far away when you can rent one near the geographical location you are itching to check out with some friends, this can save you tons on fuel and hour costs.

The distance can be a huge factor for someone who plans on renting a plane often. It would make the most amount of sense to find a location nearby that offers a good deal so that it is not super out of the way to take a plane up whenever you are able.

What Makes The Amount Of Aircraft Significant For Renting A Plane?

It is a good idea to find a location that has multiple aircraft. This is for a few reasons. Planes are machines and are subject to breaking down just like cars. Though, maintenance is way more thorough than automobiles, you never know when a part can just fail. If a rental business only has one aircraft, you will be unable to fly.

If it is a popular rental business or a flight school, it may prove difficult to rent aircraft if they are constantly busy. This is where having multiple aircraft helps, giving you the best chance to actually get on the schedule.

Having a variety of aircraft could be beneficial as well. You are able to rent out any plane as long as you have the proper certification. Though, it would not be smart to take a plane into the sky solo without having instruction on it, you can do it. As a pilot, it can be beneficial to fly and learn all different types of aircraft, if the rental place has multiple, this will only make this easier. 

Rental Durations

Another consideration could be duration of the rental. Everyone has their reasons to rent a plane and requires a different duration. Each business is different and with that have different terms and conditions on plane rentals and this is true with durations as well.

The normal length of time for a plane rental would be around 1.5 hours depending on the aircraft type. If you are looking for longer or overnight rentals, you will have to call around and ask if a business offers that option. 

Something to consider, most locations that offer overnight rentals will charge a minimum engine time regardless of usage.

Renter's Insurance

When renting a plane, most places will provide insurance that’ll cover the rental should something happen. This insurance is not necessarily the best and as the person who is renting it could be worth it to get your own policy. This will protect you and your family from unnecessary financial harm should there be some sort of accident.

Tips For Renting A Plane

Block Time

You can save money on plane rentals by pre purchasing time. This is called Block Time. Instead of paying for your rental after the flight at a certain rate, you may be able to save a good amount if you request to do a 10 hour block time for example at a cheaper rate.

You can do this by asking before hand or calling around and asking places if they offer this option.

Bring Your Own Equipment

Most places will have the necessary gear you will need to get into the air but it doesn’t mean it will be the best or the cleanest (headsets). The gear provided will also be the very minimum, you will not get an iPad fully loaded with Foreflight, so it will be a good idea to bring what you believe you will need for your flight. 

Read about what every pilot needs in their flight bag here

Also, check out our guide on the best pilot headsets for any pilot here



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