Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is age a big factor for airlines when hiring a new pilot?

HI Everybody,

I am 47, if enter ATP flight school soon, and graduate and get all my hours by time I’m 50.
Will entering the workforce as a new pilot at age 50 be more difficult in the hiring process?
Will it be harder to get hired at age 50 by an airline?
Do they tend to overlook the older pilots, and be more likely to hire a younger pilot?


Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting!

A few years ago I would have told you that yes, 50 is too old to be starting a career at the airlines. However, the hiring dynamics have really changed and now it is not uncommon to see pilots that age hired at the airlines. In fact, I know that United recently hired a pilot who was 59 at the time.

Please keep in mind that airline pilots must retire before they turn 65, so your career will be limited by that fact. There is a good chance that you will fly out the duration of your career at a regional airline, which is not a bad thing at all.

I hope this helps, let me know what other questions you think of.



Just to chime in as the “old” guy here (I’m 52, started at 39). Even a few years ago I still would’ve told you you’re not too old. I think what’s important is to be realistic in your expectations. As Chris pointed out right now the mandatory retirement age is 65 (there’s grumblings about possibly 67 in the future?) so you’ve got a finite amount of time left to fly. Will you ever make 777 Capt? Probably not but that’s ok. Honestly I was stupid happy flying interisland for Hawaiian but I had that itch to fly a BIG plane around the world so I moved up to the A330. Now I’ve flown a big plane to Asia etc and you know what? It’s cool but an airplane is an airplane, but that’s me. 15yrs doing something you enjoy isn’t a bad thing. Let’s say you get hired at 50 and spend a few years at a Regional, at some point you’ll have a decision to make. Do you stay at the Regional as a Capt making $100Kish with a good schedule or do you move back to the right seat as an FO with a lousy schedule again for a few years flying something big? There is no right answer, it’s personal choice and what’s important to you?

As for getting hired you’ll have no issues whatsoever getting hired at a Regional age wise. Frankly you’re a great investment. All the young guys can’t wait to move up to the Majors (some airlines are paying retention bonuses to encourage their pilot’s to stay). If they get 4-5 yrs out of them they’re happy. With you there’s a chance you might hang out a while. Training new pilot’s is expensive and the longer they can keep you the better return on that initial investment.



Wow, Adam you really gave me some insight on my second career. I am 55 and have a 40 year career in retail. I have had my PPL since I was 17. Unfortunately timing was not good in the early 80’s and I took a different route but commercial flying was always on my mind. I bleed 100LL. I would be very content as a captain for a regional.
Thanks again!


I have to play bad cop on this one, I am not sure that you should invest your money into flight training. If you started today, you would be airline eligible by age 57, more realistically age 58. That only gives you seven years of available flying to an airline. You might very well get hired and even upgrade to RJ captain, or if the industry has one hiccup you might not get hired at all.

I would just think long and hard before investing such a large amount of money into a very time limited career potential.


Chris, thank you for your honesty. Thank God I have a substatianal retirement fund. I would be content flying for a regional until full retirement. If I made captain, icing on the cake. Flying charters would also be fine as long as I’m in the air. Any suggestions?

I am not really very familiar with the charter world, perhaps some of the other mentors might be able to chime in.


I’m not familiar with charter either. I would browse
to get an idea of what’s out there.


Great advice! I’ll be 50 when I retire from my current job. I’ll have a really good pension after working in an exciting but non aviation related career. I put my commercial pilot career on hold decades ago when another great opportunity came along. Now I am looking forward to completing my life long dream of flying commercial. It’s something I started when I was in my early 20s but never got there. Your thread gives me the assurance I wanted to hear. Thanks!