Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is 47 too to get started?

Hi, I am 47, with a Bachelors in a non aviation field. Can some of those 1500 hrs be waived with a Bachelors degree. What is the absolute minimum hrs needed to fly for money. And is 47 too old to get started?

Hi Anthony and welcome!

Short answers, no, 250 and depends. But I’ll explain.

The 1500hrs. Everyone is calling the rule the “1500hr Rule” but it’s really not solely about the 1500hrs, it’s about obtaining (or being able to obtain) your Airline Transport Pilot license (aka ATP). There’s actually a ton of boxes in those 1500hrs that need to be checked experience wise and you could have a PHD in Aeronautics and you’d still need the 1500hrs. The only relief is if you go to an accredited college and do you flight training and get your degree there (that would allow you to get a Restricted ATP with 1000hrs). Now if you were to go back to school and were able to apply some of your current BA credits towards another degree in aviation and do your flight training there as well you could possibly shave off some time but most college training programs are at 2yrs long so I don’t see you actually saving any time. Which leads us to your second question.

The 1500hr is only a requirement to fly for a Part 121 operator (aka an airline). To as you say “fly for money” you only need your Commercial license and that requires only 250 hrs. So what can you do with you CPL (Comm Pilot Lic)? The most common answer is flight instruct and that’s how most pilots build the 1500hrs to get to an airline. BUT, there are alternatives. There’s cropdusting, banner towing and small cargo or mail operations to name a few. There are also small Part 91 operations. These are non-scheduled airlines or carriers that often connect island or remote areas. These jobs aren’t always the easiest to get. There’s a lot of competition to get them since they’re a great way to build time, but they are out there.

Last, are you too old? Depends on your goals? Let’s say you start training today, instruct and get hired at a Regional in the next 2-3 yrs. You’ll be 50. That gives you 15 yrs to fly. Not bad. Now are you going to be a 777 Capt flying to Narita? Probably not, but you could have a very nice career as a Capt at a Regional or a First Officer at a Major eventually making low to mid $100k. If that’s what you have in mind then the answer is no, you’re not too old.



I am 37 and was pondering the same question, they way I look at it is cost vs gain question. It does cost a lot to finish training, is it worth it ? That depends on what you plan to gain from it, like Adam said, it will take 3 yrs total to get an airline job, that includes training, time building and getting a class date at an airline. Loan payments can be up to $800/month but that can be supplemented by the tuition reimbursement and sign on bonuses offered right now. Job market may change and sign on bonuses may disappear or may become as high as 50k. So far the outlook is positive.

Then is also the question of family. Being married myself, no kids, I have to plan everything accordingly including being able to be on wife’s benefits thru her job while I am training and instructing. There are jobs out there with low time requirements but the pay is also low. Serves their purpose though of time building and eventually getting a higher paid job.

Then the question is your current prospects at your current job vs leaving it to chase a dream. I have a very good job, unmatched benefits, profit sharing, 401k, PTO. Financially and rationally speaking it works for me to climb the corporate ladder at my job. But is it the job I want for the rest of my life ?

Once you’ve taste flight, you’ll forever walk with your eyes to the sky since you’ve been there, and there is where you long to return–one wise guy.

Flying is a passion, yes you can get paid for it too. For me the answer was, after 5 yrs of planning, saving money for living budget, working out the logistic details, to quit my job and start ATP. I will have 25+ yrs of career, all things remaining the same and at the end of it, I won’t have any regrets. Not having regrets was the single, most deciding factor behind my choice after considering everything.

So, only you can answer the questions and if you decide to do it, good luck to you :slight_smile:

My personal experience so far with ATP has been phenomenal, real professionals dedicated to make sure you succeed in whatever your goal maybe so if you do plan to start, ATP is what I’d recommend to get the training and hours under your belt !!

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Just curious are you in the program now? If so how far along.
And I have to give a shout out to ATP. They are always there to answer any questions you have, and if they do not know the answer they either find someone who does or finds out themselves. Every email I’ve sent has led to either a call or email back within a few hours and they are always so helpful. I start in July and so far the support and staff have exceeded my expectations.

I am enrolled for the April 24th class and since day one they have been great, like you said, they call and even texted me making sure everything is good to go as my class date approaches, just doing the self study modules for right now !

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I am glad that it is all working out. Thanks for the update.