Real Answers from Real Pilots

I'm 25 in a job I don't love; looking at aviation again

I am 25 years old and am wondering if I’m too late to start a career in Aviation. I started flying at 13 with my grandpa and got bit by the aviation bug. I went to a flight school in my state and got close to finishing my private pilot’s license but the program was not the right fit for me (1.5 years and was just starting cross country solos. Flew maybe once a month and constantly felt rusty). I’ve been looking at ATP a lot and went out on my introductory flight and loved it. I know it will take close to a year or more to get my ratings and I’m wondering if I will be doing the right thing. Also with the industry being down, I’m thinking that I’ll finish and be qualified for the airlines when things start ramping back up.

Just want to get some professional advice before going for it. I’m also married and my wife is unsure of how this will impact her as I pursue this.

Matthew,

Not sure why at 25 you’d think you’re too late for anything other than maybe a high school prom? Fact is the average age most people start is early 30s. You realized early the number one reason many people who do their training at their local flight schools are unsuccessful, lack of consistency. Each skill you acquire is built on the last and that’s really hard to do (if not impossible) flying once a month. I also agree while things are down right now they will without question recover so it’s a great time to start.

As for whether or not this is the “right thing” that’s something only you can answer? There will also require some sacrifice as training is full time and the first few years the pay is less than great. On the flip side the rewards are great. Senior airline Capts earn $350k, have terrific travel benefits, and your wife gets to tell her friends her husband is an airline pilot. Further if this is in fact something you love and have a passion for, you really can’t put a price on realizing a dream.

Adam

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I think you need to come up with a list of questions cause broad insight could be endless.

You’re not too old. Here is link to my experience since I was 26 when I started.

Short version - Trained in NJ, Instructed in FL, Airline in Chicago. Made 30k working part time while training, 45k instructing for a year and about 65k 1st year at airline.

Chris F

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Matthew,
It’s never a bad time to get started in this career if you know it’s a passion of yours. Each day you wait, the longer you prolong having a career you love. Right now things are at a low point but by the time you start earning your ratings, complete the 9 months of ATP as a student and get to your 1500 hours, it will likely be about 2 years after you start and things should be ramped back up with hiring and the deficit worse than ever before. As a student, you will have to be unemployed because it’s demanding to get through all 7 ratings in 9 months. After that’s the instructing life isn’t all that lucrative so things might be tight with loan payments activating. The first two years will be a grind but after that, it’s very rewarding. With that being said, talk things over with your wife about the lifestyle of a pilot. You both need to be okay with multiple nights away from home, missing holidays during your junior years and potentially moves to your assigned base. I’m pointing out all the tough stuff to be prepared for but the feeling as you fly, earn new ratings and pursue something you really love makes it all worth it.

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Matthew,

Welcome to the forums. To begin with, 25 is in no way too old to start, it is younger than most. I got my private at a small school and while it was not as bad as what you are saying, it took way too long and led me to ATP for the same reasons. I do happen to think that the timing is perfect to begin training, that way when the airlines start hiring, you will be ready.

You and your wife should take a look at the “Schedules” section on this website. Pay particular attention to mine and Tory’s as they are most reflective of what you will likely end up flying as a pilot.

Your wife is also free to join this forum and ask questions if she likes.

Chris

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Matthew,

I was 24 when I started flight training. I’m 32 now and a Captain at a regional airline. I went in knowing that the first 2-5 years of my career would be the hardest. There’s no guarantee of a job and the pay is low, albeit better than it was before, but still low.

The demand for pilots is still there. The airlines just have to hang on a little longer until the pandemic is under control. Once hiring starts up again there should be an even higher demand for pilots because of the number of pilots that took early retirement.

What is it exactly that your wife is concerned about?

Tory

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That’s great thank you. I’ll show her your schedules and have her come on to ask some questions. Her uncle is a UPS Pilot so we’ve been talking with him a lot

I really thought I was behind the curve with age. I was in a college program but things did not pan out with training and consistently flying.

I would say my wife is the most concerned about the scheduling and if we moved what she would do. She’s a school teacher so that would be hard to move around whenever I’m based somewhere new.

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My wife is also a teacher. We met when I was already a pilot and making decent money so the adjustment was pretty easy for her.

She is also very independent. She enjoys getting to do whatever she wants to do, watch, cook, etc. when I’m gone. The best advice I have for pilots and their significant others is make time for each other and live your life. My wife appreciates it that most of my time at home is spent together and when I’m gone she keeps herself busy.

As a teacher she has said on many occasions that she can work just about anywhere. It may require that she transfer her credentials so she can teach in a different state or that she sub until she can transfer, but the point is that she’s on board 100% if we choose to move to avoid commuting.

So that’s another conversation you guys should be having is what you both are willing and not willing to compromise on. As a pilot, you don’t have to move to base. Most pilots would encourage you to, but it’s never a simple decision. So if it comes down to it you could commute.

Another point I want to make is that I went through training before I met my wife. It was tough financially. Had I been married, having my wife’s income would have made it easier, that is if she would have supported me through it, which she would have.

Bottom line is that you’ll need 100% of your wife’s support and she will need to feel like you are making an effort to make time for her, which should be a given, but it matters.

Tory

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Matthew,

My wife is also a school teacher. I have heard her mention that she could move from state to state, it is easier with states that grant reciprocity, but it is certainly doable between any of the states.

While Tory is correct in that you can commute, I would strongly recommend against it. I have commuted for my entire career and wish that I could change that. If you want a better quality of life, move to base.

Chris

Matthew,

While I’ve never commuted and have heard many horror stories, the fact is over half the airline pilots in the US do commute. Further while it does happen, the fact is changing bases is usually a decision made by the pilot and not the company. Pilots will often do it for an upgrade or aircraft but if quality of life is more important you can usually avoid or delay the move.

Adam