Career Change at 32

Hello, I am 32 years old, Army veteran, been in aviation for over 12 years as a mechanic and currently working as a helicopter mechanic for the DoD. The problem is I am not happy with my job and I want a career change. I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, but I have always been too scared to risk the career change, and I never wanted to pay for the training for it to just be a hobby. Well now I’m fed up with my current career and I want to pursue something I know I’ll love. However, I do fairly well right now and I have good benefits, so how realistic is it to give it all up, enroll into this flight school and pursue a career as a commercial pilot? Would I be able to sustain my current life style? Or at least close to it?


I’ll answer from previous posts while you wait for the mentors but as I’m a betting man their answer is going to go something like this.

You will be sacrificing some as everyone before us has but unlike the past the Regional’s are paying a lot more than so it is a little less compared to what Adam endured when he made the decision to leave being a business owner and become a pilot (at 49 if i remember right).

Is it realistic? That is more of a personal question for yourself. What are you willing to give up for 4-7 years (more or less) to get into Aviation and make it a career, giving up your current pay and benefits to do schooling for a year, have lower pay for 2 years to get to the regionals and then $33,000-$50,000 for a few more years before getting to a major.

Depending what your current lifestyle is you probably wont be able to as ATP is an accelerated course and leaves little room for personal time and items.

Now your lifestyle in 5-10 years will be what you make it with your pay, time off in between trips and what route you go (airline vs corporate).

I would suggest taking a deep look into why you want to get into aviation as you entered your current career with at least some motivation if not jumped in feet first and now you’re fed up with it. Dropping $100,000 and sacrificing over xx years to be fed up with aviation is a lot to look and think about.

Here are a few links that may help:

But those are just my 2 cents while you wait for the Mentors.

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Tom pretty much nailed (except I was 39 not 49). The short easy answer is no, you definitely will not be able to maintain your current lifestyle. Even if you did your training and built your hours part time (which will take forever), and even with the Regional salaries where they are now and some point you’ll be looking at a significant pay cut. To me it’s like when I have a friend who’s obese and they ask will I have to be on a diet forever? No of course not but yea if you want to affect some change you’re going to have to give up Twinkies for a while.

Obviously I don’t know what your current income is nor how unhappy you are but it really comes down to just that. Honestly if the thought of tightening your belt for a few years isn’t worth no longer being “fed up” well then frankly you’re not that fed up. I was AND I REALLY wanted to fly so the decision was almost a no brainer for me. If it’s not for you then perhaps you can save tens of thousands of dollars and just find a good hobby.


Hi Adam,

I read your profile and wow, you’re an inspirational guy, in my eyes at least. This convo is of interest to me as I’m a Brit who lives in Australia but will be moving to the USA next year as my fiancé is American.

My question is did you or do have a degree? As I know you work for Hawaiian. I don’t but I have seen that you or Chris said that it was easy to gain one while at the regionals.

Thanks mate



I do. I got it a million years ago. Not sure if I’d say earning a 4yr degree is “easy” but completing one online while working at a Regional is a fairly common method.


Hi Kurt, I was in the exact same situation. Air Force veteran, got 9ut and worked for DoD as an aircraft mechanic on navy Jets and hell’s for 13 years…decided I didn’t want to be 60 yrs old like some guys I worked with, climbing all over aircraft in the hot NC summer sun …so I went back to school for computer programming…been doing that for the last 20 years…realize I am very fed up at 50 with my current job…so I’m taking my earnings from that and taking the plunge. I made a budget spread sheet with various scenarios to see if it was possible, and looked the pros and cons…it’s going to be a big life style change to go from 6 figure salary…that was the big kicker…am I sacrificing my retirement? Should I just find a different computer job and do my training at my current flying club and fly for fun? No, I said to myself I would just be settling and look back and regret my decision to not even try…I do have my PPL already. Like others said, it seems pay has never been better so that may soften the blow a little. Granted, having a supportive spouse helps too…if your single, then it may be an easier decision. Steve Harvey has an inspirational speech on YouTube… “You got to jump”… Check it out. Best of luck with whatever you decide!


I have no idea what your income level is or what your standard of living is, so I cannot begin to answer your question. However, there is a detailed post in the FAQ section that addresses pilot pay.


Thank you everyone for the feedback, I was a bit vague about my situation in my original post. Right now I’m making 65k-ish, so while not glamorous it pays the bills without much issue. I may need to look into it but I’m fairly certain I can use the G.I. Bill to pay for the flight training. I am in the national guard so I would still have benefits, I’m just unsure how feasible it is to do this school for 18 months before going to a regional. I see a lot of airlines are offering high incentives so I’m not too worried about the salary when I get there, it’s more of the road getting there. I’m more concerned with enjoying my job than the money I would be making, however, I still gotta pay the bills. I am married, have a two year old and our 2nd is due in March. My being fed up has more to do with I don’t want to be a mechanic the rest of my career, as Steve said, but I do still love aviation, just trying to figure out a change in the right direction.


You will not be able to use your GI benefits at ATP, or any other part 61 flight school due to government restrictions. I think you will find though, that using your GI benefits at a part 141 school will be just as expensive and take a lot more time as they only allow you to use a certain amount of it at a time.