Career change at 29

Hello everyone, I’m looking for some insight from established career pilots, especially the mentors as you seem to be full of wisdom and helpful knowledge. I’ve had a passion for aviation since the third grade, but was not able to pursue that passion until now. I am considering where this road will take me, professionally or otherwise.

For some context, I am recently married with a possible family on the way. I have an established 6 year career in law enforcement and have seemed to just become stable enough to start taking flying lessons. My wife is fortunately incredibly supportive and will follow me wherever I need to go, but I can’t help but consider how rough it will be hitting the reset button.

Our current plan is for me to continue working at my current job to pay for flight lessons up to ppl, then save a bundle of cash before going to ATP. As I read through the boards, I find that it’s highly recommended that you start flight training with ATP early on so as to avoid fighting “bad habits” and such. My current CFI has worked out great and I enjoy learning with him, but if I plan on making this a career, I’d like to do whatever I can to make the process quicker, easier, and less painful.

I’m just curious to hear from anyone else out there who may have gone all in so to speak, and what they might have done to smooth out the process. If I was single it would be a no brainer, but my decisions no longer effect only me.

Thank you for you’re help and advice, it’s nice to have a place where people can just honestly discuss something we all have in common and help further our community and industry as a whole.


I think it’s safe to say unless you just graduated and daddy is paying for your flight school, virtually every ATP student has gone “all in”. I mean that’s sort of the point of the program. There are thousands of flight schools for the casual or recreational student wannabe pilot but ATP does one thing and one thing only. They train pilots for careers in aviation by making you go all in. While the program is actually pretty reasonable cost wise, it’s a VERY different mind set to look at that $59,000 number and the fact you’ll be unemployed and an absentee husband/father for 6mos+. If that’s not all in I don’t know what is? Yes it will be rough and it will require sacrifice and commitment not just for you but for your wife as well. My wife threw me out when I started the program (luckily I was using the student housing :slight_smile: ). The first few years instructing and at a Regional were no picnic either. Yes the salaries have come up tremendously but the time away from home, being gone weekends and holidays has not and will not change. Not trying to paint a dark picture but for a young couple possibly starting a family it’s important you know what you’re getting into. The 6mos at ATP is really the easy part.

As for you plan my only question is you say your current plan is to earn your PPL “THEN save” to start training with ATP. I’m less concerned with your learning (or having to unlearn) any bad habits vs how long do you estimate it’ll take you to save the money and start with ATP? My concern is getting your PPL now then just letting it rest and not advancing or working on other ratings. That would be counterproductive and cost money and time you don’t need to spend. I’d rather see you save your cash (get to your goal faster) and spend more QT with your family and then dive in.

That said it’s your choice and you have to do what’s best for you.


Thanks for the quick reply Adam, you guys sure are on top of things! Just to clarify my previous post, the money we wish to save will be for living expenses as I am the sole provider, and will be out of income for a while, then less income than we are accustomed to for some time. We are currently in the process of clearing our debt which will take about a year, then I would dive right back in with ATP. During that time I would get my PPL and prepare for the program.

However, another thing I just noticed was the 80TT prerequisite for the 6 month program. Although getting a PPL is doable in a year around my schedule, 80 hours is not likely. We currently live in central Vermont, which does not exactly provide easy support for professional or general aviation. I’ve already discovered working around my schedule, weather, and other’s renting the available aircraft (when they’re not down for maintenance), really lengthens the process.

I understand no one can give me the answer, as everyone is different and the decision is solely ours. Again, just looking to see if anyone came from a similar background or situation that can offer the advice to either continue the slow progression, or look into speeding up the process and jumping right in. The more I fly, and the more research I do, I feel it’s the right direction.

Thank you


You are correct, ATP requires your PPL AND 80hrs so you need to factor that into your plan and timeframe.

As for the rest as you said everyone is different and as I said everyone has made sacrifices and commitments to make this work. I’m sure some others will chime in with their stories but in the end does it matter? The fact is many have taken the plunge and I’m certain more have not. They’re not you nor you them.