Career changer

What a wonderful forum! Thanks to the professionals willing to share opinions with people like me exploring aviation. I trained for a PPL as a 18 year old for nearly year logging 40+ hours, working through ground school, and completing multiple cross country solos. Then life happened. 27 years have gone by and I am 45 with an MBA, great career, an amazing wife encouraging me to explore happiness, and a solid nest egg that gives me a certain degree of financial flexibility and freedom. The problem is that I haven’t stopped thinking about commercial piloting since I was a kid! In addition to fulfilling a dream for myself, I want to be a roll model to my three daughters that you write your own story and if you want something, be brave enough to make it happen. With that background, here are some things I’d love some advice on:

  1. Am I crazy to think that at 45 I can do the necessary work to get ATP certified and be a good candidate for the airlines or corporate / fractional companies to take a chance on a career switcher? I will pursue a PPL (and potentially instrument) regardless of whether it can be a career because I have to scratch the itch but I want to be realistic about my options.

  2. If I did an accelerated program such as ATP to get through CPL, how long does it reasonably take to get to the 1500 hours?

  3. Am I at a disadvantage being potentially 20 years older than others competing for jobs?

Thanks in advance for any advice! I’ve lead large teams and delivered an unfortunate amount of tough news throughout my current career so I’m not afraid of a hard answer. I just frankly want to know where I stand as I consider a potentially large life decision!



Welcome to the forum. The “am I too old question?” is probably the number one question we get asked. Its included in our FAQs and there are dozens of threads on the subject. Long short is no you’re but…

  1. being realistic about your options really means being realistic about your expectations. Mandatory retirement for the airlines is 65 so if you got hired today you’d have 20yrs left. That’s not bad but since everything at the airlines is based on seniority it will have limitations. While nothing is impossible, if you dream of being a 787 Capt flying to Narita for Delta that’s probably not going to happen. But you could most definitely have a long career at a Regional or LCC. Getting to a Major isn’t out of the question either as a widebody FO or even a narrowbody Capt, maybe. The fractionals also aren’t out of the question. That all said you need to get cracking soon since you have more runway behind you than ahead.

  2. ATP instructors build about 75hrs on the average. That puts 1500 at 1.5-2yrs realistically.

  3. Depends. The Regionals love older pilots. All the young guys are chomping at the bit to move on but for most older pilots it’s more about quality of life. While you may want to move in there’s a chance you won’t and that makes you a better investment. Same for the fractionals. The Majors do prefer the young guys but the pilot shortage has made it less of consideration.


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Adam - Great information and thank you for such a quick response! Apologies on rehashing such a popular topic. I was able to review some really interesting perspectives previously brought to the board. Incredibly helpful!

To your point, my expectations are in line with what it sounds like is realistic for a mid-career changer like me.

Thank you again for a warm welcome to what is obviously an amazingly tight knit “family” of mentors on this board. Speaks to the passion in the aviation community!

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Hi Rob

You are pretty much me exactly three years ago, so I’ll share my story. It’s April 2019 and I pulled the trigger to quit my Corproate finance career at age 46. I had a nest egg to make the change relatively painless and one daughter to show the importance of defining the path you want to take in life. I was a private pilot but had no other ratings.

I got all my ratings at ATP in 7 months. There’s good and bad about ATP, but one thing they are good for is earning ratings quickly, which matters at age 46. I instructed at a Part 141 school for 18 months and now I’m a FO at SkyWest. Still about a month of training left.

I could pretend that taking an 80+% pay cut was a tough pill to swallow. But it wasn’t. Life gets very interesting when you walk the path you are supposed to. I was going through a slow period instructing when a very unique investment opportunity came my way. Had I been working in finance I would have been too busy and blown it off, but since I had surplus time, I was able to follow my curiosity and capitalize on it. My net worth is substantially higher today than it would be if I hadn’t taken that >80% pay cut.

In just 3 years we’ve gone from a strong industry with an acute pilot shortage, to an industry killing black swan (Covid), back to the best possible time in history to be a pilot.

I enjoy waking up each day and enjoy the path I’m on. Good luck with your decision on what to do.


Andy - Wow! What an inspirational message! Thank you for taking the time to share. So many similarities to our paths that it’s almost eerie. Certainly illustrates the possibilities and potential. Great example you are setting!

Congratulations to you as well for taking the leap and being on the tail end of an amazing journey. Will keep y’all posted on my journey as some details come into focus!