35… too old to make the jump?

Hello everyone,

So I have been pondering this idea for about 3 years now (probably should’ve jumped on it then, but I digress)… I am 35 years old and live smack dab in between TTN and PHL. I’ve had the opportunity to work in two different careers, and most recently being in law enforcement. With that being said - I do NOT have a college degree.

Is this doable or even smart at my age, with a mortgage - in this economy? Would airlines even want to touch a guy who may be 37 or 38 by the time he has his hours? Sidebar: Please correct me if I am underestimating that time frame.

Any opinions and guidance are greatly appreciated.



This is by far our most frequently asked question. Short answer is you’re no where near being to old but you will want to get a degree at some point or you’re career prospects could be limited as the Majors desire one.

For more details visit our FAQ section or any of the 637,252 threads on the subject.




Please check out the FAQ section as both of these questions are addressed in depth there. The short answer is yes, you still have the potential for a great career in aviation, but you need to get the ball rolling ASAP.



First off, thank you for your service!

I have seen individuals start older than you, you are by no means “too old,” but the clock is ticking. Every day you aren’t in training and building experience is seniority and chance to build your dream into a reality.

Do know that PNE is also opening a location soon, it was recently announced on social media. This may be an option if TTN is further from you. I would suggest reaching out to Admissions and scheduling an Admissions Flight/Training Center Tour of TTN and get firsthand experience of ATP, 904-595-7950! Fun fact, I graduated from TTN’s location and instructed there as a primary and lead instructor from 2021-2022.


Gentlemen — thanks for the input. If I am understanding this program you complete all your licenses within 7 months - then becoming a CFI with ATP is contingent upon passing within 2 check rides?

What happens to those who are not selected to be a CFI? I just like to plan worst case scenario.


If you’re not selected for any reason to return as a CFI, there are other opportunities to build time, see below a screenshot I posted on another thread:

One of my classmates at Piedmont, he did a lot of banner towing around the PHL area, told me a bunch of stories flying over events downtown.



Thank you I will look that over. I’m actually about equal distance to PNE and TTN. I did see that it is slightly cheaper in PA.


I also want to point out that getting a CFI position requires more than just not busting checkrides. It’s about attitude and interacting positively with others.



That shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve always played nice with others.

I have a friend who started this journey at 53, and landed at the airlines at 55. I don’t think I have seen anyone so happy, it is never too old to chase your dream.


I am in the same situation Gus, only slightly older and a firefighter/paramedic instead of LEO. Let’s do this!

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I’ll be 40 in two weeks. ATP has been great so far, just have the confidence to take the first jump to sign up and start and you’ll be really glad you did! Hope to see you both out on the line.

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I’m 50. I just started an online ground school and am looking to start flight school this June or July. I have a dental hygiene degree, but 4 years in medicine is only an AAAS degree, but I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. If you really want it, nothing will stop you.

Gus, I imagine your question is coming from the angle of what sort of career could you expect to have as an an ‘airline’ pilot? Ergo, the time from when your start your career until the point you age out at 65 (mandatory retirement).

Unless you were planning to retire at 65, this age should by no means be the end of your professional flying career. After 25+ years as a Part 121 driver, you will have considerable experience which is highly valued in the Part 135 and Part 91 domains. I have friends (both Captains) who aged out at the airlines and are still flying professionally, and both on very comfortable incomes! One flies a Boeing Business Jet (737) and G4 for a wealthy family and the other is a Captain on the MD-88 flying local and international routes for a freight company.

You could also work as a sim instructor after your get aged out.

Myself? I’m 52 and a CFI with 800 hours, and a couple of degrees. Like you, this is a career change for me, however fortunately I do not have a mortgage. I’m ‘open book’ when it comes to where I may decide to go. I have a Medevac pilot role I’m in discussions to secure; I’m also in the Skywest Pilot Pathway program and may end up flying for the regionals before possibly transitioning to a major, or…I could go directly to Spirit as a first officer. My friend’s son did just that with 1800 hours accrued flying his dad’s two aircraft - never worked a day as a professional pilot before going to Spirit! Unfortunately, I didn’t get into this career early enough, but I can still make it a fruitful one. Basically, I just want to fly turboprops or jets!

Best of luck with your decision. One thing I recommend is for you to go and get your Class One medical clearance now…before your commit uber dollars and time getting trained for a career you ‘may’ be medically-precluded from operating in.

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