I read several threads about how old is too old to become a professional pilot, and I just wanted to ask a couple of questions that I didn’t get answered yet.
I am 50 years old and have been flying single engine planes for about 20 years. I have an instrument, and commercial license, and I am an Advanced Ground Instructor, plus I have around 1600 hours (but all single engine props).
I have been successful in another career, but it has been my dream since I was 10 years old to fly jets, and I want to try and do it for the next 13-14 years I have left. I am honestly not too worried about the financial intelligence of this decision, I wanted to find out from you guys what would be the most rewarding and fun experience I might try for, if I put my heart and soul into it.
I don’t need to ever be a captain, but I would love to fly either for an airline, or a well run corporate operation.
That’s a decision for you to make. Corporate flying is very different from airline flying and there are pros and cons to each. That said there are far more opportunities at the airlines than there are Corporate positions and the best Corp gigs are more about networking than anything else. At your age, with your experience you’d be a perfect candidate for a Regional or LCC, and with all the movement these days, even a Major isn’t out of the question.
The only thing your missing is your multi rating and 25hrs of ME time to get your ATP. With the salaries and bonuses the way they are now the finances even make sense.
I do nto have any corporate experience, so there is only so much that I can share on that. What I can tell you is that I know many pilots who left the corporate world to come fly for the airlines, I do not know anybody that’s gone the other way.
With 1500+ hours already, you could be hired quickly after getting that multi rating and time for the ATP. I’ve flown both Charter and the airlines and honestly, I prefer the airline life. However, you’d be limited to the mandatory 65 retirement age where you wouldn’t flying part 135. Doesn’t mean you couldn’t fly for the airlines and then if you’re still healthy enough to keep a first class medical and want to continue flying, pursue part 135 jobs at that point.
Here’s the key differences:
Schedule- most charter carriers do block scheduling. 8 days on/6 days off. No bidding, predictable and long blocks of time off. I wasn’t a fan of 8 days on. I prefer more of an airline schedule of 3/4 day trips followed by 2 days off. Bidding can be tricky, but it’s nice to have more control over your monthly schedule.
Pay- initially much more lucrative. I was making regional captain pay as a first year FO. However over the course of a career, you’ll make exponentially more as an airline captain.
Flexibility (home based)- since I don’t live in base, not having to worry about a commute was huge for my quality of life. Home based means you can live wherever you want and the company pays for your ticket to get to and from work.
Daily tasks- It’s much easier to be an airline pilot. There is a team of people with tasks to make the flight happen safely and efficiently. Dispatchers do the brunt of the flight planning, rampers load bags, cleaners make the cabin presentable, flight attendants deal with customer service… pilots just fly the airplane. On the 135 side, there were no dispatchers, no ramp crew, no flight attendants, no cleaners. We were a “2-man band.” Typically the capt was responsible for the flight planning while I cleaned the cabin, weighed and loaded the bags, met the passengers, boarded and briefed them and served them in cruise flight.
Wow. That is such great replies. Thank you all. I do have one more question. If I needed to have 2 weeks off every 3 or 4 months. Would that be possible to work as an airline FO and still let that happen?
And it isn’t going to work Corporate either. Corp flight dept, private owners and the airlines hire pilots because they need pilots. Not some time, all the time. While you might be at a point in your life where you’d like to do this somewhat “casually”, that’s really not how this works.
Thanks for the insight. I am not looking to do it casually, I would treat flying very seriously. It was more that with my current career there are just a few projects a year that I wouldn’t want to give up, and I am trying to figure out if I could juggle both. It gives me a lot to think about. Most of the other job can be done one the road from a hotel room, but certain days I need to be present a few times a year. So, I will have to think about it.
The problem is you’re trying to do this backwards. Almost every pilot I know, with any seniority, has a second career. Thing is the opportunity was created AFTER they were well established at an airline, gained seniority, built they’re benefits and now have tremendous flexibility.
Doing it the other way can be very challenging as in the beginning of you flying career you’ll have no seniority and very minimal scheduling flexibility, time off, etc etc etc. Not saying it’s impossible but it’ll definitely be tough.