Am I to old to become an Airline Pilot

Good afternoon or evening. I’m not sure if this is the correct thread or not. But, I’m looking for advice. I have the option of retiring out of the Air Force after 20 years of service as an aircraft mechanic. I have wanted to get my pilots license and fly for the airlines since I have come in. My thoughts are, is this truly still possible and would I still be able to be hired on. I will be 40 years old and looking for my next endeavors in life.


This question gets asked daily, there are literally dozens of threads on the subject. People from 20 to 60 all want to know if they’re too old. It’s also in our FAQ section which I encourage you to look at.

Long short no 40 is not too. What you do need to understand is that mandatory retirement is 65 which means if you got hired today you’d have 25yrs to fly which isn’t bad. Every year you wait is another year you’ll lose and you will not get back. It will also cost you seniority which dictates everything in this industry. What that means if you dream of being a widebody Capt flying around the world earning $400k the clock is ticking fast. Does that mean it can’t happen? No but again the longer you wait the more the odds go down. What’s important is to be realistic about your goals and understand you might never reach the top AND be ok with that.



It is absolutely still possible, but you need to be realistic with your career expectations. Airline pilots must retire by the age of 65 and the industry generally runs off of a strict seniority system. This means that your odds of ever being a 777 Captain at Delta are zero. However, you do have plenty of time to have a long career at the regional airlines and quite possibly get hired at a major. Time is of the essence though, I would not waste much of it.


Hi Christopher,

A little more than a year ago I asked the same question here. I was 41 then. Now I’m a few months from turning 43 and hoping to finish the ATP training program at the end of this week and begin instructing soon after (fingers crossed). With any luck I’ll be eligible to be hired at a regional before I turn 45 and that gives me a good 20 years to progress and build seniority.

My goal isn’t to become a 777 captain but the guy in the right seat gets to fly the plane too. Adam’s job hopping around the Hawaiian islands sounds pretty cool, so does flying Cessna caravans out of KOAK 5 minutes from my house. So “too old” is all a matter of perspective.

I encourage you to do some more research and read the FAQ section, it was very valuable for me when I was trying to figure things out.


I’m looking to find my next endeavor after my military career. My aspirations are to fly, but not needing to go to the biggest plane there is. Would it be awesome, your dang right it would be. I currently work on the C-17s and was on the Cadre that brought C-5M aircraft online in the late 2000s. But I was never able to reach my aspirations of becoming a pilot. If it’s a regional plane I’m good. Or even a charter style in a sleek G550 I would be just as happy or even in a 737. But I was wondering if there are any good mentors that could help to in me pursuing this and also what I need to know when going to AME with possible VA disability ( no PTSD or Sleep Apnea, just regular ailments and deployment related issues)


I’d like to think we’re all “good mentors”. That said we’re pilots and none of us are qualified to give medical advice. If you have concerns you need to speak with an AME particularly if you have some “ailments” sufficient enough to get you a VA disability.


Hi Christopher!

Any of us can help guide you along your journey to becoming an airline pilot. We will always give straight answers.

One thing in particular that we can’t offer much guidance on is offering any sort of medical advice. None of us are qualified medical examiners. We’re just pilots. Any concerns about your medical history needs to be addressed with your AME directly.

You can Google search for AMEs in your area. The FAA also has a search engine on their website.

Are there any specific questions that you have for us at the moment?


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I’m also quickly approaching 20 years enlisted in the Air Force and I am also strongly considering ATP. I’m curious if you’ve tried or considered getting your PPL before starting ATP. I’m just curious about your thoughts because I haven’t come across very many people with such similar goals/situations to me. Any thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.

I started on my ppl and got my ground school completed but that was in the early 2000s and didn’t get to take my test. Was going to go ahead and start pursuing PPL here soon to give my self a leg up, but that will save about 2 months of training time with a rough estimate of 10K at most to get (that should be high side, but fuel cost drive the price ive seen alot of times) if I did my numbers correctly. But I’m looking into the avenues since I’m about 10 mos from being able to get our.

That sounds about right for your numbers based on what I’ve seen. We’re definitely in the same boat, I am able to retire in December. My mindset right now is to get my PPL first and at that point I can really make the solid choice of if I want to pursue this as my next career. If I choose this path I really hope to do 2 or 3 months of training while on terminal.

Where are you currently based out of? I’m located at Dover right now. Do yall have a Aero Club where your at?

Keep in mind gentlemen if you want to start the ATP program with credit for your PPL you’ll need at least 78hrs of flight time.

Just FYI.


I’m at Davis-Monthan in Tucson. There isn’t an Aero Club here, but there are a few local flight schools I’ve been looking at. I remember there being an Aero Club at Kadena back in the early 2000s, but I haven’t seen many since.

I appreciate that Adam, that is an important bit of info to consider.

Definitely, good info. Is this part of the pathway with the ATP building the 78 hours into the curriculum?


Yes. The time is necessary to meet the CPL requirements when the time comes. This is one of reasons for the misconception that getting your PPL locally is much cheaper than doing the entire program with ATP. ATP PPL builds in the 78hrs again to meet the requirements. The difference is if you were to get your PPL locally and do in min time (which rarely happens), rather than just burn holes in the sky paying to meet the hour requirement, if you’re training with ATP it gives you the opportunity to get a jump on other skills.


If you were looking at cost, is it better for this route?

It should be pointed out that in addition to the 78 hour requirement, eight of those hours need to be PIC cross country time.

Mr. Chris

Is the time frame still 40 hrs for the PPL, but I know these individuals are fast learners, and usually it takes a little longer for other individuals. Does this not count for the 8 hrs of PIC. Or is this entailed with other ratings like instrument and other endorsements?


I’m not sure what you mean when you say “this”? (ATP or Local) but what I’m saying is most people look at the bare minimum hours and start locking their chops saying “oooooh I can save thousands!”. When you factor in the 78hrs and then the fact that all those hours will be well spent the number gets even smaller. Now is it possible to get your PPL for cheaper than ATP? I’m sure it is BUT, I’m assuming you’ve decided to train with ATP do to their reputation and the quality of instruction. The question then becomes if you’ve decided ATP is the right school, why would you want to do your primary training (the foundation you’re going to build on) at a different school only to save a few bucks? Doesn’t make sense to me but it’s your decision.