Am I too old to start a career as a commercial pilot?

Hi there,
I’m currently researching a career move to begin commercial pilot training. I was in the air cadets at school and had a long held ambition to fly but I took a different route. I’m approaching 45 years of age and slightly concerned that I may be too old to be considered by airlines once I complete the training. Is that unwarranted?
I’m also curious about the excluded expenses from the course fees. How much, typically, is recommended to budget for an international commercial pilot course (I’m from the UK so would be open to flying for US or European airlines)?
Really enjoying reading the threads on here, it’s reinvigorated my childhood dream and current career aspiration.
Many thanks for reading and I look forward to any answers and advice.

I think I’ve found the answer to the 2nd question in the Student Visa Application instructions. Looks like $70K but would be great to have this validated.

My next question. Are there restrictions on Student Visas being issued at the moment, given the stance of the new administration at the White House? My wife is a US citizen (currently residing in the U.K. with me), would this help or hinder my application (or neither)?

Hi Darren,

First to the age issue. You’re not too old BUT you do need to be somewhat realistic in your career goals (I apologize as I’m less familiar with Europe so I’m going to give you the info based on flying in the US. Hopefully Chris (our Intern’l guy can chime in on the rest). Mandatory retirement is 65. If you started NOW it would take approx. 2yrs to complete your training and build the required 1500hrs you’d need to fly for a Regional so now you’re 47. That leaves you with an 18yr career as an airline pilot. Not bad. Figure 3-5yrs to upgrade to Capt (you’re 50-52) and then another couple to build some turbine PIC time(aka jet Capt). So you’re 55 leaving you 10yrs. What I’m saying is you’re probably not going to be a 787 Capt flying to Narita. Is that cool? In my mind it should be. I was at the Regionals for almost 10yrs, made over $100k and was very happy. I moved on to a Major because I wanted to check some boxes on my list but if I had been “stuck” that honestly would’ve been fine. I was getting paid pretty well to fly a really nice jet all over the North American continent. Could you get to a Major? Possibly? There is a pilot shortage and things seem to be accelerating some but even if you could at 53 would you really want to go back to the bottom of a seniority list with a lousy schedule etc. Maybe you would but these are things to consider. If you believe you could be happy at a Regional for 18yrs with a possibility of making to a Major IF you so chose then no you’re not too old.

$70k is a fair number. The prices quoted are essentially all inclusive with the exception of examiners fees (appro $7,000 which get paid directly to the examiners) and you’re required equipment (iPad, headset, kneeboard, travel bag) but after that there are no “by the ways”.

Honestly I haven’t heard of our immigration putting a strain on student visas but I suppose it’s possible. You’d also need to get a fairly thorough TSA background check before you could do flight training in the US so if there’s any sense to the whole thing (I’m not saying there is) that should really help pave the way for the visa but you’re probably better off talking to the embassy etc. Here’s a link to AOPA’s Guide to the process


Hi Adam,
Thanks very much for your reply.
Yes, I have tempered my aspirations with the reality of my prospective late entrance, but I did not know the timelines in the way you laid them out so that is really useful and in no way off-putting.
I will begin the visa investigation (thanks for the link) Is there a definitive list of accredited training schools? My wife would need to work whilst I’m training and so I need to weigh up the location against the opportunities she would be able to line up state to state, although if it’s a case of just searching for schools by state/city I will just dedicate some time to continuing that search. What should I look for in training schools? Pass rates, fleet, sims, hire rate, instructor to student ratio?
Again, thank you for your answers, Adam and I appreciate any further insight from you.


When looking at flight schools I highly recommend that you ask them these questions: Questions For Any Prospective Flight School


Hi Darren,

It looks like Chris and Adam have answered your questions pretty well-- the only correction that I would have is that the total cost of $70,000 includes everything that you will need to spend while training at ATP Flight School. FAA examiner fees, accommodations, supplies (including iPad, etc.) are included in the total cost.

I will add though that $70,000 would be the total cost if you complete in 8months. If it takes you 10 months you are looking closer to $73,000 because of the two additional months of living expenses.

If you have more questions, please contact me at 904-595-7942


Many thanks, Chris.

Hello, I’m 48 yoa with just under 700 hours and bachelor degree. I have private and instrument ratings. Is it realistic to retire and get the ratings and flight time necessary to get a job with the regionals? I’m eligible to retire from law enforcement career and looking to change careers. Thank you.


Welcome to the forums! Your question is one that we get a lot and the answer really depends on how quickly you plan on starting your training and what your expectations are.

The FAA imposes a mandatory retirement age for pilots of 65, there are no exceptions. This means that if you started right now and were airline eligible at the age of 50, you would have 15 years left of flying, which sounds pretty decent to me. Now the caveat is that every year you wait is one less that you have to fly, so time is of the essence.

The other thing to consider is your expectations. My gut feeling is that you will not be able to be hired by a major airline in the time you have remaining. If you are okay with working for a regional, and there is certainly nothing at all wrong with that, then you could have a good career ahead of you.

By the way, thank you for your service in law enforcement. It is because of people like you that we sleep soundly at night.

Feel free to ask any other questions that you may have.


Hi Steve,

There’s no question you could easily get to the Regionals. First of all time wise you’re half way there time wise already so if you were to train at ATP you could realistically only be talking a little over a year away. Right now the Regionals are hiring like mad. They’re offering Hiring bonuses and Training reimbursements and actively recruiting which they’ve never done in the past. With your employment history they’d scoop you up in a second. The other thing you’ve got in your favor is in fact you age. While all the 20 and 30 somethings can’t wait to leave the Regionals for a shot at flying some heavy metal, there’s a good chance you’ll opt to stay and become a training Capt. In short you’re a good investment.


I’m 39 and looking for a career change. I’ve already got my private pilot license, although, haven’t flown in 20 years. Does ATP make it an easy transition to get back into flying?


Even though you hold a PPL, it’s best that you don’t walk into ATP without
a BFR first. You want to be a current and proficient Private Pilot when you
start. If you aren’t, you’ll be starting out with either your private multi
add on or your instrument rating. Both are challenging for different

The private multi training consists of 8 hours of sim and 8 hours of
training and then a check ride. The instrument training lasts several
months, but it’s a whole different world compared to VFR. You won’t have
time to go back and review private knowledge stuff. Fast forward a few
months and now you’re training for your commercial multi. You may only have
8 hours to master the maneuvers and brush up on your private pilot

Spare yourself the headache and get current. Some students can make it
through without renewing their cert, but it’s rare. It usually doesn’t work
out well for the students that either dumped all of their private knowledge
and/or haven’t flown in years. They either need extra training at some
point along the way and/or drop out before CFI school.



I wouldn’t say it’s an easy transition as the ATP program is quite accelerated. I’m with Tory on this one, you want to be current. I’d do some studying and flying and when you feel you’re somewhat up to date then you can jump in.


Being 36 I see that obtaining everything I need is definitely a possibility for me. I currently have a full time job and unsure how often I would be able to fly during the week. From what I have heard, the more you do the quicker you get through everything. If I were to train 3-4 times per week, what is a typical time to achieve a pilot’s license? Beyond that, do the schools typically offering training to get you eligible for a Regional Airline?

Thanks in advance.


There’s a reason the airlines and military train their pilots every day. Flying is a process and each lesson builds on the last. There’s simply no way of estimating how long it’ll take you training 3-4 days a week. If you’re good at retaining information it’ll obviously take you less time, if not more.

The other issue is most local flight schools that will allow you to train part time really aren’t equipped to train pilots for a career. There often aren’t enough planes or instructors and maybe don’t have twins for your multi training. Also after you get trained you then have to build the required 1500hrs to fly for a Regional. At 36 while you’re not old you really need to get serious as you have a very finite amount of time to be successful as a pilot and really should be looking to train full-time. I know that’s not easy or possible for everyone but it really is the best route.



Every school’s syllabus is different, but if you flew 3-4 times a week, you
could get your Private Pilot License in about 2.5-3 months.

Without knowing what school you will be attending, I don’t know if they
offer training to become eligible for a regional. I doubt that they do
because regionals mostly look at flight time. So, it’s on you to get
yourself eligible. Most pilots become flight instructors to build their
time and an ATP rating. Most, if not all, regional airlines will actually
pay for your ATP rating. So, you just have to meet the minimum experience
requirements to be eligible for the ATP. Here is a link.

If you’re really serious about flying for an airline, you should really
consider training full time. Coming from that environment will acclimate
you to what it’s like at a regional. Not saying you HAVE to. Your odds of
actually making it are higher, and airlines love pilots that came from
accelerated training backgrounds, because they are already conditioned to
sift through massive amounts of information at a time.


I am 43 an wanting a career change from to a pilot. I would be fine with flying regional giving my time to fly per FAA mandatory age of 65 wouldn’t allow me time to get to major. My question is does anyone know of a flight school in Ohio. I checked out ATP but the closest in KY