Older dreamer - beginner pilot - PPL first? I have the time

Hi everyone -

I have only been on this site for 10 days now and I cannot tell you how much I have been challenged, inspired and motivated by the pilots on this forum –thank you for taking the time to provide honest, candid and even brutal information. It is very much appreciated.

A quick background - I am one of the older dreamers (41) looking to make a long time dream a reality. I recognize a lot of the same fears and concerns in other would be pilots as I do myself (financials, ROI, the firehose of information, leaving an established career for something wild and unknown) – but if so many others have had the courage to do this at my age (and older) successfully, I believe I can as well. I just need some encouragement to know that this isn’t as impossible as I once thought and that I can realistically have a career as a pilot potentially spanning 25yrs? I realize it’s going to take a lot of sacrifice, courage, dedication and support (and more money than I’ve ever seen). I came from South Africa 8 years ago with the dream of being an American, and now that I am, I feel the world is my oyster.

That said, I’m still petrified.

Firstly, the earliest I can start at ATP (in Ogden, UT) is March. In the meantime, would it be wise to get my PPL at our local flight school here in town, or is it better to start ATP from ground zero? (I will also get the written tests out the way).

Secondly, I have a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of South Africa – our degrees are 3 years, not 4 like the US. Does anyone know if the majors would take my degree into account even though it isn’t 4yrs? My understanding is airlines do differ in their requirements.

Again, thank you for all your time.



While you won’t have a 25yr career (if you start in March and you’re 41, add 2.5 to get to an airline so you’re really looking at 21-22yrs), you can have a very nice career as an airline pilot. People these days like to talk about ROI. While I understand the concern, with the movement in the industry these days and the current and ever improving salaries, that will not be an issue. Now for your questions:

  1. the only time I ever recommend anyone getting their PPL elsewhere is if they have concerns whether they really want to, or have the aptitude to do this. Even if that’s the situation, I’m most cases you’ll end up spending too much time and money and may actually get discouraged. There’s a reason you’re here and want to train with ATP. I’m sure the time frame is a factor but hopefully it’s also because you’ve read about their reputation and quality of training. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t you want to start off day one on the right foot?

  2. as long as your degree can be verified you’ll be fine.


Adam, thank you so much for the information and food for thought. I’m going to investigate moving my resignation date up a few months instead and start ATP from ground zero.


I too would recommend completing all of your training with ATP. I got my PPL at a local flight school, it was a disaster. Cost way too much and took much longer than was expected, plus then I got to ATP and had to learn too do everything the ATP way. Save yourself the time and grief and do all of your training in one place.


Thank you for the solid advice Chris - I really appreciate it.

Any time. Let us know how else we can help you.