How Late is Too Late?

Hi everyone,

So there’s a lot of talk about what age isn’t too late to make it to the majors, and a lot of talk about tempering expectations if you start later. My question is this: when is it too late to start to become a widebody captain? What age is young enough to still dream of the left seat of the Dreamliner?



That is impossible to answer simply because things change every day. Right now, if you have a clean training record, no major red flags, a college degree and 1000 turbine time you could make it in to the right seat of a wide body at United right out of the regionals. That simply is unprecedented. Over the next 8-10 years, mandatory retirements will drive movement throughout the ranks. That means being able to hold an aircraft sooner, upgrade sooner, etc. However, once that hose is turned off, movement will stagnate for while.

If wide body captain is your goal, United has the most wide body aircraft than any other US airline. If delta or American is your goal, well they have significantly less wide bodies in their fleet so it would take you much longer to get to those coveted seats.

You see how complex that question is? The best advice I have for you, get started ASAP if you haven’t already. Do well in training, build time efficiently and get to the regionals. Fly as much as you can and build good habits. Hopefully your timing will work out well. But you can only advance so quickly and there is so much that is out of your control. You’ll just have to make decisions at each crossroad the best you can with the info you have.

Generally speaking, and just my best guess (including time building and training) less than 10 years until 65, regional Capt is probably the limit if you value quality of life. With 15 years, narrow body captain, 20 wide body FO and maybe CA if you’re at a junior base.


Thanks Hannah! I figured it would be more complicated than a simple date, but I thought I’d throw the question out there. Thanks for the general timeline!


That’s one of those questions that’s virtually impossible to answer. Further I’ll tell you this, while it’s great to have goals, I can pretty much promise you those goals will change with time.

This industry is very dynamic and things can and do change often. To answer your question most simply, I’d say if you’re not at a Major by 40, it’s probably not going to happen. That however is based on what’s happening TODAY. If the shortage continues things might accelerate but they could also slow. While the 787 is the newest, 20yrs from now it will not be and the plane could actually go junior. Some LCCs could buy a few and then too you’d get there quicker. You could also turn out to be a medicre pilot, bust a few too many checkrides and be lucky if you end up at a Regional at all.

Again, it’s simply impossible to be certain.


1 Like

Thanks Adam! I didn’t think about how dynamic the situation is over a 20+ year question. I hadn’t really considered how my own goals might change over time either, that’s a great point. Thanks!

No worries Jake, That’s why we’re here.

When I first got hired at Hawaiian I only wanted the 767 or 330. I had been flying at a Regional and wanted to be a “real” airline pilot, flying around the globe in a widebody. I was hired into the 717, which only flies interisland, and I was really bummed but I was here and sucked it up. After 2yrs I was able to bid 330 FO and was overjoyed. Thing was after I visited all our destinations I really missed the 717. Sure seeing the world was great but I had moved to Hawaii, was LOVING the life and found myself wondering why I was spending so much time flying away from it? I’ve since bid back and I’m fat, dumb and happy.

Now you could be completely different but honestly you never know what’s most important until you try a few things and that will define your priorities. Make sense?


1 Like

Totally makes sense, thanks Adam!