Flying the impossible turn - career change at age 50


Once again, the age old age question. And yet I am very curious to hear your feedback from the professionals.

I just turned 50 and after 20+ years in the IT business, this is perhaps the very last opportunity to jump ships and pursue what I have been passionate about my whole life. I have been a glider pilot at age 17 and a private pilot for 10 years now. Here is the scenario:

  1. I don’t need to make aviation an opulent career. Not in for the money but for what I love to do. I would be perfectly happy to never move up beyond the regionals but stay or fly corporate, cargo, etc.
  2. I am single without children or dependents.
  3. I am completely debt free, no mortgage, loans or anything to pay back at this time.
  4. I am flexible to relocate
  5. Healthy, fit, sporty.
  6. Technically, I have some years of college education but no degree. I’m self-thought (continuous education my whole life) and worked my way up in the IT industry where I now make a decent 6 figure income as a systems developer in the SFO Bay Area.
  7. Making the switch now, I would still have 15 years in the new profession and more than a decade of service to offer to a prospective employer.

What’s your honest take on my proposition to make the “ultimate” career change? Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

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As you said “once again, the age question”. It sounds like you’ve read some of the threads (which is good). Now you don’t say how much time you do have but we’re talking at least 6mos for training and maybe a year of instructing (I’m guessing you have a few hundred?). With that now you’re closer to 52 and about 13yrs of flying. Not bad for a career in the Regionals which you say is fine. You don’t have dependents or debt, don’t mind relocating and the Regionals are hiring like crazy and don’t require a degree.

Again it sounds like you’ve done your homework but only you can decide if this is something you want to do. You’re 50 and are talking about a very significant life change including a significant pay cut, incurring some debt(?) and a tremendous amount of hard work. Your call.



Thank you for the detailed introduction, it really helps to understand where you are coming from. It sounds like you have a very good understanding of where you are and what your career potential will be. I do see you finishing out at a regional, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with.

At the end of the day, the choice is up to you.



Thank you for your replies.
Nice to hear there is a path. I fully understand on what website I am here and do appreciate your genuine feedback. I think you would not encourage someone like me to make the jump if you thought there was really not a good chance to actually land a flying job with a regional (or other opportunity to fly commercially) after successfully completing the ATP program.

I also understand and don’t expect a prediction or promise of some sort to ever get hired by anyone of course. The outcome is fully contingent on my efforts, abilities and commitment.

However, I guess I am trying to get a feel for the industry and derive my “chances”. I am no naive kiddo and prefer to be told that I might as well not be very “eligible” or attractive to an employer if that was realistically the case. After all, it’s $60-70K decision too. How do you see this?

You know my details from the intro and the market. Having to offer about 12 years of potential service before retirement, would regionals likely discard me as too old, or would it be seen as and advantage that I would not move up to the majors but likely stay with them.

This and the foreseeable future of the industry, demand for pilots, the industry’s preferences and outlook will enable me to make a fairly quick decision and commit.

Again, your honest opinion would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.


While this website is sponsored by ATP, if you read through it you will see that we are absolutely not salesman and always strive to provide the best answer possible for our forum members.

I do think you have a very good chance of getting hired on at a regional, you will never fly for a major. The regionals like older pilots because they know that they will be around for the rest of their career, instead of jumping to a major as soon as possible like a younger pilot.

I would encourage you to consider the cost of flight training and if it is really worth it to you. I would also encourage you to spend some serious time read this forum, to include the “Flying the Line” and “Schedules” sections.


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As I said above, the Regionals are hiring like crazy. The average pilot stays about 7 yrs at a Regional. Obviously if you can offer 12 you’d be a good investment because they know you’re not going anywhere. As always there are no guarantees.


Thank you Adam and Chris.
I appreciate your feedback.

Anytime, let us know how we can help you further.