New in the country - From South Africa

I have recently immigrated to the USA from South Africa - I now have permanent residency and eligible to work (green card). I have just converted my SA (CAA) PPL to the FAA and have just recieved my Foreign FAA PPL License. I am 46 year old and I am facinated with the aviation industry here in the States. Its mindboggling how active and alive it is here. I am doing my real estate license due to that is what i have done for many years in SA, but something is pulling at me to consider getting into Aviation. My wife says I should go for it, at 46 is this still an option? This is all new to me but exciting to know that there is so much opportunity here, I need some insight from you guys to put things in perspective. I love flying, I have been flying since 17, I love working with people - I think this is for me. How much scope is there in it for me at 46 years old?

Werner - welcome to America!!

I’m just starting this aviation journey myself - so I may not have all the answers. If a mentor has something to say that’s different than my take - I’d defer to them. That being said, I think I can give you some basic pointers to get started.

The mandatory retirement age for an airline pilot in this country is 65. At ATP, the course is 5 months with credit for private pilot (could be a bit longer if weather isn’t on your side). Based on what I’ve been reading in the forum, it takes an average of 22 months after that to get the minimum hours you need to get hired by a regional. So, on average, you’re looking at around 2.5 - 3 years before you make it into the right seat, which would put you around 49-50. Assuming a regional would want to invest in hiring you at that age (a question I’ll leave to the more experienced folks here), and the industry outlook remains the same (which is no guarantee), that leaves you with a solid 15 years of flying.

So, you are quickly coming to what we would call a go - no go decision. It sounds like you have a passion for aviation, and a very supportive family, which is extremely important. That being said - my understanding is this program is no cakewalk, and just like life, there are no guarantees. You have a lot to think about and limited time to make a decision.

My advice - go seek out an introductory flight. Take seriously what the mentors on this forum have to say - they’ve been through the program and know exactly what to expect - and use their advice to help inform your decision. Personally, as a fellow aviation enthusiast, I hope this dream works out, and that I’ll see you up in the air real soon.

Again, welcome to America, and the very best of luck to you!

Thank you Chase,

Appreciate your solid response, its alot to consider. Nice to have this forum and input to make a better informed decision.

Good to connect with fellow aviators in the country, thank you for your welcome and best wishes.

Werner,Welcome to the forum. Check out this post on age and the airlines: Am I too old to be an Airline pilot? - #2

One potential issue I see for you is your PPL being based on a foreign license. While yess, the FAA has granted you a license, that does not mean that your skills will be up to speed for flying in the US. Or they might be, I have no idea what flying in SA is like. Either way, I would suggest spending a few hours at the local flight school with a CFI both on the ground and inflight becoming familiar with US procedures.


Thank you Chris,

Yes indeed I have engaged with a local flying school to get familiar and comfortable with the area and procedures.

Thank you for the link.


If you work hard to earn your certificates as to become eligible to fly for an airline you should have 15-17 years left to enjoy your time at the airlines before being required to retire.

Scope depends on what is important to you. You could enjoy anything between a relatively senior FO schedule at a regional to a junior FO schedule at a major.


Thank you Tony,

I would immagine based on your reply that there would be more scope for me at a regional level.

My initial thoughts are that my time left for the majors puts me sort of on the back foot.


If you decide this career is worth the leap, I would get started as soon as possible. You don’t have much time to waste. If you pursue an accelerated program like ATP, I would first get a Flight Review completed with a local CFI first. Preparing for and completing it will help refresh all your private pilot level skills prior to picking up your training at the instrument phase.


It does. You could get to a major no problem if you start now, but it would be up to you to figure out if it would be worthwhile. If you act quickly you could spend 10 years at a major. That’s not nothing, but you need to get a move on.



I’ve been laying back on this thread as the others are doing a fine job but I had to chime in as I’m very confused based on the above? The last thing I ever want to do is convince someone to fly. It’s your life, I don’t know you so I have no idea what’s best for you. Problem is all this “I’m fascinated and I LOVE” flying stuff BUT I’m not sure if I’ll get to a Major so maybe I don’t love it that much?

Newsflash: I don’t care if you’re 46, 26 or 16, there are ZERO guarantees of getting hired by a Major. I know some really talented pilots who never got the call. Thing is IF you really want to fly there had literally never been a better time in history to start. When I started Regional pilots made less than $20k and you would max out at $80. Pilots were stuck there for decades and you were lucky if you even got an interview. Now if you’ve got 1500hrs and a pulse you WILL get hired. You’ll earn $90k your first year plus another $100k+ in bonuses which will more that cover your training costs.

Sure getting to a Major is always the goal and if you do well in training, have no blemishes on your record and interview well you’ve got a good shot but even if you don’t you can have a very nice career at a Regional or LCC making $200k+. If you really are excited and LOVE flying it’s kind of a no-brainer.


Thank you Adam,

I am sorry that you find a problem with someone being facinated with a flying industry that someone was never exposed to, or that someone loves flying. I dont see what that has to do with the price of eggs or that you dont care about what age someone is.

The point is that I am trying to respectively gain perspective of the industry here in the Sates, to make an informed decision based on some constructive feedback and not personal opinions or problems someone might have. Making a problem out of something that is fruitless is certainly not my problem.

The fact that I LOVE flying was not the subject of this feed and up for debate - or perhaps I am mistaken that only airline pilots are eligible enough to LOVE flying? Maybe this might help your confusion or the fact that you had to restrain yourself from offering feedback.

What I can agree on is that you dont know me, nor do you know my family and my family structure. Based on your problem that someone LOVES flying and is excited results in being a no brainer - thank you for that but I could figure that out myself IF that was the case.

Newsflash: What in your opinion is a no brainer is not always the case for some.


Clearly I offended you which was not my intent. I was simply addressing your question regarding “scope” at your age and your comment about the Majors, which you took as something else.

Peace out.


Yes Adam,

I accept the fact that you are trying to backtrack from your original reply - clearly your snippets from my originaly message contradicts your claim that you are simply addressing the “scope” issue.

I am not easily offended, I prefer to put things straight in into perspective. Lets leave this one to agree to disagree.


We understand that life is about choices. You may love Aviation but it obviously had to take a back seat to other priorities in your life up to this point. No judgements here.

Just make sure you are ready to make the first priority before you embark on the career. Getting trained, building time and getting started as a junior FO at the regionals is brutal. It takes sacrifice from you and endless support from your family as they sacrifice too.

If you decide to do this, feel free to come back with more questions. We’ll be happy to help where we can.


Thank you Hannah,

Appreciate your message,

I would like to get some clarity on the regional issue if I may. So my understanding is that regionals are private charter entities or companies that require pilots to fly their A/C vs Majors being the airlines?

If so and if I am not mistaken, I have reached out and engaged with a company by the name of AB - Jets. I don’t know if your are familiar with them. I would imagine this would classify as regional? I understand their min requirements, they require you to be 1:30 hours away from one of their major departing destinations, that which I am.

On face value it appears that they will suit me and my family structure perfectly. FO position $135k, 16 days on and 12 days off. Am I missing something or are the regionals just not in favor.

Werner what you are referencing is part 135 corporate flying and not what is being referred to as the regionals.

Ok thank you Raffeale,

So what exactly is regionals?

Every airline listed here is considered a regional: Regional |



Regionals are airlines that fly smaller jets for the major airlines. In the US, most 50-75 seat jets are flown by outsourced companies known as regionals. They operated under a slightly different name, such as “United Express” or “American Eagle”. Typically these are stepping stone jobs to the majors, which are American, Delta, FedEX, Hawaiian, United, UPS.


Ok great, thank you I understand.

So having said all of this, would part 135 corporate flying be a better suited option for me joining the industry at my age?

Going for the Majors or regional airlines might be as I mentioned before due to seniority and having family starting on the back foot?