Considering a career as a major airline pilot

Dear Mentors,

First of all, I want to thank you for answering all those questions in this forum. I really appreciate your valuable information. I would like to be a pilot and I have to start from zero. Below are some of the questions I have.

  1. I am 38 years old and became a U.S. citizen a couple of years ago. I got my graduate degrees from a U.S. regionally accredited university and taught at a university for 5 years. Do I need to submit any test for English proficiency for flight training?

  2. I had had myopia and astigmatism since I was in elementary school and just got a surgery to improve my vision. I am actually in the recovery period. My unofficial vision is 20/20 and hopefully it willI stay that way or get better. Unfortunately, the procedure I got, call, ReLEX, is not FDA approved. Is this going to prevent me from getting a 1st class medical certificate and ruin the chance of being a major airline pilot?

  3. I want to be able to go and visit my family in Southeast Asia every once in a while. Ability to work for any major airlines in the world like FAA plus EASA conversion program is very interesting for me. With my age of 38 and goal to be a major airline pilot, how far do you think I can go assuming that I am not ruled out by my vision concern?

  4. I realise that I am starting quite late for this career. I would like to be as quickly as possible to meet all requirements and at the same time keep my options open to any airlines. How should I plan for my training to achieve my goals more effectively and efficiently?

  5. Do airlines tend to hire a multilingual pilot over one that speaks only English?

I hope you can help me with questions I have. Your answers will definitely benefit a lot more people as well. Thank you in advance for your kindness.

Best regards

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Hello Paul and Welcome!

Some interesting questions so lets dive right in.

  1. Here in the US there is no formal English Proficiency test. BUT, when you go for your first Practical Exam with the FAA for your Private if there’s any question to your proficiency the examiner can (and probably will) give you their own exam (have you read and explain passages from manuals etc). If you proficiency remains in question they’ll refer you to the local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) for further evaluation.

  2. Not sure what you mean by your “unofficial” vision? Regardless it’s pretty simple, you’re required to take a vision test when you go for your FAA Medical and you need to have 20/20 distant and 20/40 near with or without corrective lenses. There’s also a test for colorblindness. You have to disclose any other issues you may have but if the surgery was done outside of this country but the results allow you to pass the exam you should be fine. To be certain I recommend you contact your local AME (Aviation Medical Examiner, you can Google for one nearby) and ask. As long as you can get a First Class Medical the airline is happy.

  3. I didn’t start my training till I was 39 and I’m an A330 pilot for Hawaiian (the oldest Major airline in the US) so you should be fine age wise. From what I understand if you earn your FAA ATP you can get a EASA conversion fairly simply by taking a flight test.

  4. If your desire is to be expeditious AND you want quality training I recommend a fulltime training program like ATPs. You can literally go from zero time to your Commercial Pilot License with all your ratings in 5 mos. Doesn’t get more expeditious than that.

  5. I suspect a bilingual pilot might have an advantage outside of the US IF the language you speak is relative to that airline as a convenience (South American airline might prefer a Spanish speaking pilot, Japanese for JAL etc). But here the number one priority is your ability to communicate in English because that’s what’s required for you to do your job effectively around the world.

I hope this helps. Great questions.


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Thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness.


To jump in here, the FAA can be picky about vision issues, but generally they just want to understand what you have had done and why. I have had a multitude of vision issues myself and regularly see a doctor at NYU for this. The FAA has asked questions and required additional forms to be filled out by my doctor, but they have never disqualified me.

I completely agree with Adam that your first stop should be an FAA medical examiner. He or she will review your health history with you, then the FAA will review it so there will be no doubt. An exam should cost less than $150 and is a good way to make sure that you are eligible for flight training. It might turn out that there is no reason at all to be worried about your vision.


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I appreciate your valuable information. Thank you.