There are some 5,000 public airports in the United States, and 500 of them have at least one Fixed Based Operator, or FBO, on site. These are businesses that provide everything an airport visitor might need, from aircraft fuel and repairs to flight training and aircraft rental. Once you've got a pilot's certificate, you can show up at any FBO, take a check flight with an instructor to demonstrate that you know what you're doing, and they'll let you take a plane wherever you want to go. A Cessna 172 typically rents for $100 to $115 an hour, while smaller, older planes like a Piper J-3 Cub might go for as little as $65 an hour. It's a great way to see a place: Hop in a Cessna in St Thomas and fly to the British Virgin Islands for a lobster lunch, or pick up a Piper Cherokee in Los Angeles and take a sunset cruise to Catalina. A new startup called Open Airplane lets you take a single check ride and instantly qualify to fly at any participating FBO.
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