Older Students at ATP

I’ve been reading through this forum and have seen numerous threads created regarding the realities of folks starting a second career in aviation in their later 40’s to early 50’s (like me) and jump starting it at ATP. That question as been answered. Thanks to everyone who posted. However, I haven’t come across any posts by anyone in that age group who has actually done this.

  1. Is there anyone out there in this age group who has been or is currently at ATP that could share their experience?

  2. Are there any current or former ATP students out there who went through the program with an older student or instructed an older student, who could share their perspective as to how that older student fared?

  3. Are there any ATP reps out there who might be able to shed some light on what percentage of their students are in fact in their late 40’s to early 50’s and how they have fared in the program and afterwards?

Hope that’s too much for a first post and thanks in advance for any feedback.


Hi Jim,

I WAS the old guy at ATP when I went through my training at 39 (instructed at 40). While he wasn’t my instructor there was an instructor at the location who was a few years older than me. In my experience I kicked butt over the younger guys there at the time and wasn’t because I was smarter, older or wiser. In fact I was probably a much weaker student having not been in school for decades. What I did have to my advantage was drive. I gave up a successful business, had a family to support and daddy wasn’t paying for my loan. This was a MAJOR life change and failure was not an option. While most of the younger guys spent their evenings watching the game or playing X-Box I was studying. Sunday they’d hang with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I was studying. Many didn’t heed the advice to have your writtens complete and had to cram (often failing them on the first run) mine were all done before day one.

The moral of the story in my mind is sure you may be rusty but focus and hard work can more than compensate for a little rust.



Thanks Adam. I’m a little past 39. Headed for 50. But this is the kind of “real world” experience I’m curious to hear. It’s one this to know it’s possible to have a second career at 50 but it’s totally another to hear it from those who have actually done it at that age. Thanks again. Hopefully this thread will attract some more great response.


I won’t be able to answer question one, but I would say at least 90% of the
students are in there 20s or 30s.

I had one 45 yr old student and he did phenomenal. He had great work ethic.
He went on to be an instructor for EVA Air (International School) and now
he’s in Alaska for the summer flying C206 on floats for fun before he
applies to the airlines.

There were only 2 other students in their late 40s, early 50s that came
through the Sacramento location. They didn’t make it through ATP’s program,
but they found success elsewhere. Both had potential. I think ATP’s program
was too fast for them, and stubbornness was only making things harder.

I know that’s a very small sample, but I hope that helps.

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Thank you Tory. Good info. Those are the sort of percentages I would have expected.


Congrats on making First Officer at Horizon Air! Awesome. I am 48 and considering ATP. I have 65 hours TT and was scheduled to do my PPL checkride the week of 911 and never finished due to the airlines cutting back due to 911. Thinking about finishing my PPL and if it goes well completing my writtens and training at ATP in the fall. Just wonder what you think obstacles are for older people besides the medical? Also what do you think about the current hiring environment for the regionals and where do you think they will be in 2 years?

Also did you wear ear plugs or anything besides your headset to help protect your hearing during almost 3 years of prop flying?

@Adam well said sir,well said. :clap::clap::clap:

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I’m 53 and really don’t see any obstacles for you as long as you’re realistic about your goals. Let’s say 2yrs to a Regionals and then another 3-5 to upgrade so you’re 53-55. With 10 years left to retire will you want to go to a Major? Maybe, maybe not but if you do you have to know you’re never going to be a 787 Capt flying to PEK. BUT you could have a very nice 15yr career at a Regional as a senior CA with a great schedule making $100k. If that sounds good to you then by all means.

The current environment at the Regionals is probably the best it’s ever been. Back in my time you were begging for an interview and hoped to get picked up at a Regional (ANY Regional) for a starting pay of $18k (not long before that they actually charged pilots for their training). Now the Regionals are actively recruiting pilots before they even have the time they need and starting pay is $38k (plus there are hiring bonuses and Tuition Reimbursements). Older pilots are actually desirable to the Regionals because there’s a good chance you’ll hang around vs the young guys who are chomping at the bit to move on. Basically you’re a good investment. While no knows for certain the current environment is forecast to continue well beyond 2020.


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Sounds like you made a few pivots in your life and it turned out great! I just have to see how my 1st class medical goes and finish up my PPL. Thanks for the great info.


Sorry for the delay. Just finished a day trip. Adam made some pretty good
points about being a good investment for Regionals (if you’re interested in
that at all).

Adam is absolutely right about the current state of things. I don’t think
you have much to worry about. It doesn’t look like the doors will be
closing any time soon.

Another thing I think is worth mentioning… I don’t know what your family
situation is like, but this can be a challenge for some older
folks…depending on which ATP location you plan on attending, some of the
training might be elsewhere. As long as your’re okay with spending a couple
of months away from home you’ll be fine, but a lot of people are unaware of
this so I want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

For example, CFI training is in Vegas for west coast locations, and Florida
for east coast. CFI training is supposed to take two weeks but can take as
long as four depending on how many classes are ahead of you that are trying
to finish up. Also, there’s a crew cross county phase right after the
instrument check ride. Two instrument rated students pair up and ferry
planes to and from training centers to maintenance hangars. The students
need that flight time for the commercial check ride and ATP needs their
planes serviced. It’s a win-win, but again…there’s no guarantee that
you’ll be home every night.

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Thanks for the great info. Yes the regionals would be my end goal, but I wouldn’t tell the majors no. I’ve check-in with Trans State Airlines and they gave me the green light even though I am old! I don’t mind being away from home since I don’t have kids and I figured I would go to FL for the six month training anyway since I believe the weather is better for flying and I have lived there before. I supposed though for flight instructing ATP can send you to any location. How did you like training out west?


Nice. It’s good that you’re mobile, because yes, ATP can send you anywhere.
They might be able to transfer you to your preferred location after a
couple months, but don’t count on it.

Instructing on the west coast was a lot of fun. The Sacramento location
produces good pilots and instructors. The examiners out there don’t horse
around. The weather was good almost year round. Huge practice area. Some
flights had us go to places like San Louis Obisbo, Long Beach, and Medford

Florida is known for it’s quality instruction and weather too though.
That’s not a bad idea. There are probably more opportunities to make more
connections in Florida too if you want fly right seat in a Citation or King
Air before you head to the airlines.

Thanks Tory. I’ve noticed a lot of the flights in training are later in the day. I am wondering why that is? Generally the weather always seems better in the morning before things heat up. I have my medical on Friday, we’ll see how that goes. I can pretty much go anywhere for training. I do have family in Seattle so I would have a place to stay there, but I can’t imagine the weather being favorable for training there. Generally how long are the training flights?

Each lesson is about 2 hours.

You’re right about the weather in Seattle. It was common for Seattle-based
students to fly down to Sacramento in the rainy seasons for training and
check rides

As for the time of day lessons are usually done, instructors make their own
schedule. Some prefer to get all their flying done as early as they can and
then do ground after. Others prefer to alternate. No rhyme or reason. I
typically scheduled flights for students based on the time of day they
preferred to fly. Or if they didn’t care, I took their commute to the
training center into consideration. That worked most of the time. On bad
weather days, I scheduled my flying around the weather. Bad weather days
were usually filled with sim lessons.

Hi Jim,

I’m in the same…plane as you are age-wise. I stopped flying 14 years ago for family issues right before I pursued my Commercial license. Didn’t think much about it until I met one of the moms at my son’s ice hockey team banquet a few months ago. She is a B767 captain for a major and told me now is the time…so that knot in my stomach tells me it’s time to get back to flying and continue that lifelong goal of flying for the airlines. Just need to get financials in order and get moving! This forum is a huge help in deciding a plan of action.

Hi Ron,

I hear you. It’s a big decision at this point in my life. If you’re like me money and time are the obstacles now. The biggest pain point for me is location. There’s an ATP facility just up the road from where we live near Austin, but it’s just not possible for me to be away for a year or a year and a half full time instructing. It sounds like ATP won’t guarantee your location as an instructor. That’s a non starter for me, at least, if I want to stay married! I’m exploring some other options.

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Meant to say “time and money aren’t” the big issues now. The instructor job location is. Sorry about that typo.

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Have you visited any other local flight schools and see what the job prospects are with them? Either that or there are other ways for low-time pilots to build time. Traffic watch, banner tow, crop dusting, light cargo charter. If it were me I’d be exploring my options.


Yep. Looking into some other local schools to check that option out. Hopefully, I can come up with a plan that makes sense. Thanks for all the good info.


I am a student pilot PPL and am going to progress to commercial. I am 44, well established in another career path. I have talked around in PHX and a good friend of mine at 50 just got on with a regional. He did the process piecemeal. PPL,Instrument, Commercial single, Commercial Multi etc.

I wish you great luck with your endeavor.

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