Getting to 1500 hours?


I’m new to the site. I’m 36 years old and will be able to retire from my current job in 9 years. I was looking into becoming a pilot after I retire from my law enforcement job. I’ve been saving so I won’t have to get a big loan once I do start at ATP. I have a couple of questions.

  1. If I start ATP at the age of 46 years old, how long will it be before I’m flying at the regional?

  2. At what age do you think I can become a captain ?

  3. At what age do you think I will be able to fly with major carrier ?

  4. Let say if I get my license to fly just for fun but not complete the other requirements for commercial license, do the hours I fly for fun count toward the 1500 I need for my commercial license?

I appreciate your reply.


Let me start by saying 10yrs+ is an eternity in this industry and if you want to be a pilot you should think about doing it now vs later. Of course it’s your decision but you should know that every answer you receive is purely speculation based on what’s going on today. I don’t know what kind of salary you earn now and the 9yrs you won’t be flying could literally mean millions in lost earnings.

  1. Typical going from zero time to the Regionals is approx. 2-2.5yrs.

  2. Right now people are upgrading at the Regionals in 2-4yrs. 10yrs ago the industry had stalled and it was taking 6+. Where we’ll be 10yrs from now who knows?

  3. Average time to a Major is about 5yrs right now but again in the past it was double that. Also know that in the past many Majors wouldn’t take a serious look at pilots over 50. They are now but there are zero guarantees. Could be less than 5, could be never. The older you get the less of a good investment you are.

  4. All you’re hours count (even those while training). Doing that would shorten the time it takes for you to meet the airline minimums. Btw you only need 250hrs for a Commercial license however you do need 1500 to fly for an airline.



Nine years is a very long time in any industry, especially in aviation. Hiring trends are often cyclical and can vary greatly from one year to the next. While the industry is currently in a hiring boom, that could very easily change in nine years.

  1. If you attend ATP, the average time to the regionals is 2-2.5 years. It could be considerably more, but it would be almost impossible to do it in less than 2 years because of the 1,500 hour requirement.

2 and 3. Impossible to really state. Average time to the majors right now is anywhere from 5-15 years.

  1. Yes, all of your flight time counts.


One of my off-forum mentors is a Delta captain. I brought up my thoughts about being 45-46 years old when (under ideal conditions) I would be eligible for a job at a major, and how it could be a matter of hiring someone who’s in their late 20s vs myself. He mentioned that while it was a concern before (and as Adam pointed out, who knows what will happen in 5-10 years), airlines aren’t as concerned for a couple of reasons. For one, usually as we age we mature and are better at making informed decisions, but most of all—focusing airline hiring on 20 year olds would put the airlines in the same bind we are in right now 30-35 years down the road, so they are “diversifying” so to speak. All of that was an educated opinion on his part, but it made me feel a bit less concerned about job prospects in the future.
Adam and Chris are spot on about timing: 9 years (11 if you count your time to a regional) are an eternity in a rapidly changing industry—the longer you wait, the lesser is the ROI in your educational investment.