What Is the Best Online Ground School for You?

Depending on your situation, one online ground school may suit you better than the others.

Editor’s note: The following article is not intended to be a ranking, but is only to serve as a list of possible options. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Ground school is the first step a student pilot needs to take on the way to achieving most flight certificates and ratings, from a sport pilot certificate to an airline transport pilot certificate. 

While most elements of aviation education need to be completed in person, there are online ground schools available to prepare aspiring pilots for the FAA knowledge test.

All of the online options have a variety of offerings, including banks of information relative to the written exam, sample test questions, and links to other resources to help pilots prepare for their knowledge and practical tests. 

Quicklook: Best Online Ground Schools to Consider

6 Online Ground School Options

Depending on your current level of aviation knowledge, your budget, and your timeframe, one of the many online ground schools may suit you better than the others. Here is a look at six of the best options.

Pilot Institute Online—Private Pilot Made Easy

Best For: Pilots who are nervous about their ground school investment. If you don’t pass the written test, Pilot Institute will send you $175 cash on top of a full refund for the course. This option is also self-paced, and 99.8 percent of students do, indeed, pass their written exams. They also offer a Facebook group for online study and discussion with classmates and a 44-page study guide.

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Website: Pilot Institute Online

Instructor: Multiple certificated instructors teach more than 540 (35 hours) video lessons. 

Course Length: Self-paced with a long list of practice examinations—20 hours, generally (courses can be sped up or slowed down to match learning style).

Subscription Access: This includes lifetime access to all materials, even those that are added after you pass your exam.

What You’ll Learn: In addition to these areas of study, the course also offers a flashcard app for your phone to help you practice for the exam.

  • Airports and lingo
  • Weather patterns
  • How to choose a flight school
  • Aircraft systems
  • Flight instruments
  • Aerodynamics
  • Performance limitations

Pricing: $279

Sporty’s Private Pilot Learn to Fly 

Pilots who want an easy-to-follow, deep-knowledge course to prepare them for their written test. They offer a TV app so you can watch your instructional videos on a large screen, and offer a phone app that allows access to their training resources at any time. 

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Best For: Best For Self-pace Learning

Website: Sporty’s Private Pilot Learn To Fly  

Instructor: There are multiple CFIs who contribute to the Sporty’s Learn to Fly course materials.  

Course Length: The course is self-paced and is expected to take about 15 hours of study and practical time in order to be prepared for the written test.

Subscription Access: Lifetime access — even to updated materials

What You’ll Learn: The Sporty’s course offers a very extensive outline and you can customize your areas of focus based on your weaknesses and strengths. Here are some key points:

  • Maneuvers
  • FAA regulations
  • Aircraft familiarity
  • Weather patterns
  • In-cockpit feel via their video catalog 

Pricing: $279 (can be split into four payments)

Gold Seal Online Ground School

Future pilots who want to take some free classes to test the waters first, and also for “rusty pilots” as they offer a “flight review” course similar to ground school that helps current pilots brush up on their skills. 

Best For: Best For Tech-savvy Pilots

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Website: Gold Seal Online Ground School

Instructor: Russell Still 

Course Length: There are 6 modules, and each can be completed in a few hours. 

Subscription Access: There is a lot of free content, but subscription access grants you a lot more and is good for life. 

What You’ll Learn: Here are the 6 modules:

  • Getting Started
    • Pilot Qualifications
    • Aircraft Parts
    • Aerodynamics
    • Instrument Panel
  • Your First Few Hours
    • Zulu Time/Phonetic Alphabet
    • Charts
    • Airport Operations
  • Skill Building
    • Engine Systems
    • Ground Maneuvers
    • Turns
    • Recoveries
  • Aviation Weather
  • Real World Flying
    • VOR
    • GPS
    • Night Flight
    • Flight Plans
  • Passing Your Test

Pricing: $229 for full access (about ⅓ of materials are free to access)

ASA Private Pilot Online Ground School

Pilots who want an extensive library of information that can help them learn well beyond the study requirements for the exam. They also offer an instrument pilot ground school for a few more dollars, and if you’re planning on pursuing an IFR rating and/or becoming a commercial pilot, this is a great option to get ahead early.

Best For: Best For Future IFR Pilots

Website: ASA Private Pilot Online Ground School

Instructor: Multiple instructors across a large array of learning materials

Course Length: 2-4 weeks (self-paced)

Subscription Access: 24-month access to all materials including prepware.com

What You’ll Learn: As per their website, the sections are:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Aircraft Systems
  • Flight Instruments
  • Regulations
  • Airport Operations
  • Weather
  • Aircraft Performance
  • Enroute Flight
  • Navigation
  • Communication
  • Test Tips

Pricing: $180

Gleim Aviation Online Ground School

Gleim has a lot of ground school options. In addition to their basic private pilot ground school, they also offer ground school training for aspiring sport pilots as well as classes for future instructors, airline transport pilots (ATP), flight engineers, and more. 

Best For: Best For Multiple Ground School Options

Website: Gleim Aviation Online Ground School

Instructor: Multiple instructors across learning materials

Course Length: Self-paced; average of 35 hours

Subscription Access: 12 months

What You’ll Learn: Here are the sections of their training curriculum:

  • Airplanes and Aerodynamics
  • Airplane Instruments, Engines, and Systems
  • Airports, Air Traffic Control, and Airspace
  • Federal Aviation Regulations
  • Airplane Performance and Weight and Balance
  • Aeromedical Factors and Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM)
  • Aviation Weather
  • Aviation Weather Services
  • Navigation: Charts and Publications
  • Navigation Systems
  • Cross-Country Flight Planning

Pricing: $110

King Schools Private Pilot Ground School & Test Prep 

Aspiring pilots looking to gain knowledge in a light-hearted atmosphere with plenty of one-on-one availability for questions and confirmations. The videos are as fun as they are educational, and the lessons can be customized to ensure there is more focus on areas of weakness. 

Best For: Best for Lifetime Access to Digital Resources

Website: King Schools Private Ground School

Instructors: John and Martha King and others – custserv@kingschools.com

Course Length: Self-paced—recommended 15 hours of engagement with video and materials. 

Subscription Access: Lifetime access to all training materials is included in the price. 

What You’ll Learn: The course is split into these areas of focus:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Aircraft performance
  • Airspace
  • Communications & radar services
  • How to read and understand sectional charts
  • Flight operations
  • FAA regulations
  • Safe flight operations
  • Navigation
  • Weight and balance
  • How to ace your test

Pricing: $279

What Is an Online Ground School?

Ground school is the first thing all aspiring pilots need to take in order to prepare them for the FAA written exam that will prove their competency, ultimately allowing the pilot to get a student’s certificate. This certificate is the gateway to all types of pilot certification. Some ground schools are in-person, but with so much technology available to make the online classroom seem more like the brick-and-mortar one, online flight schools hold a similar level of accreditation as their in-person counterparts—but can be completed at home and generally on the student’s own schedule. 

How Do Online Ground Schools Work?

No certification can actually be earned via online ground school (or in-person ground school, for that matter), but preparation for the FAA knowledge exam is very important, as the test is expensive and can only be attempted a limited number of times per calendar year. 

Online ground schools use video and text to educate aspiring pilots on everything they could be asked on their exams to get their student pilot certificate. 

What to Consider With an Online Ground School

As the FAA exam is the same no matter your prior education level, most ground schools will offer the same basic package. Depending on your areas of expertise, bank account, flexibility, and learning style; however, it’s a good thing that there are multiple school options to choose from. Before enrolling in an online training program, you should consider the following. 

Instructor Expertise

In order to apply for the FAA knowledge exam, aspiring pilots must have an endorsement from a CFI stating that they are ready to take the test. Knowing this, you should first be sure your online ground school offers a path to this endorsement. 

Some courses have single instructors while others have multiple, but as long as there is an option to ask qualified instructor questions, the ability to ask a single instructor versus multiple ones has a pretty even mix of pros and cons. 

Easy Access to the Course

If you’re very busy, online ground school is almost certainly your best option. Furthermore, some of these courses offer apps for phones and tablets, as well as downloadable content that you can study while not connected to the internet. 

Quality of Course Materials

All of these courses offer a preview of their course materials, and it’s up to you to decide which style you prefer. Some are more video-based, and others are more text, but all of the options on this list offer quality knowledge. 

Strong Community Support

If you’re someone who likes to learn in a group setting, the online option may be a bit off-putting, but some of these courses offer real-time support with an instructor, as well as group meetings via Zoom (or similar) so you can interact with fellow classmates. 

Online Ground School Reviews

The aviation community is a pretty small one, so each review holds a little more weight than that of something like a restaurant, so you might take a look at reviews regarding a course. 

Course Pricing

Most of these courses hover between $250 and $300–though some are even less–but be sure to check if you have unlimited access to the materials. If not, you may want to consider a slightly more expensive option that allows you to continue accessing lessons long after you pass your FAA written exam. 

Online Ground School vs Physical Ground School

With so many advancements in remote learning (many spawned out of necessity during the pandemic), the digital classroom has almost everything you would want in a physical classroom, outside of a handshake with the instructor. 

For more practical applications in aviation, like a check ride, a significant amount of hands-on training is a necessity, but for preparation for a written exam, such as that which ground school prepares you for, you may be well served by studying online. 

Study Time

With both online and in-class sessions, there are plenty of options for preparing you to pass the FAA-required exam to get your private pilot certificate. Online offers a bit more flexibility, and money saved on trips to and from a brick-and-mortar classroom. 

Online classes also offer access to materials that you can use even after your exam. If you’re tech-savvy and need a flexible schedule, online ground school is probably the best option for you.

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FAQ

Can you take ground school online?

Yes, you can, but only in preparation for the FAA written exam. The exam must be taken in person.

How long is ground school online?

Most courses are self-paced and recommend 15-30 hours of prep time with their materials. 

How much does online ground school cost?

Online ground schools range in cost from free to $300. Entry-level, in-person courses generally start at $250. 

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