Real Answers from Real Pilots

Options at my age

Hello all!

I know you’ve answered this type of question many times, but I’m trying to weigh my options. I am currently 38 years old and was an ATP student last year. I finished my PPL, multi-engine rating and was 90% through instrument training in the Seminole when I had to stop my training due to a family emergency. Things are fine now. While the decision to stop training was an extremely difficult one, family always comes first. I’m lucky that I have 19 years in the technology field to fall back on as a job. Flying has always been a dream of mine. Looking at things, I’m about 3 years away from being at a point where I can come back to ATP. That puts me at 41 years old. I figure < 2 months to wrap up the remaining ratings and then start instructing. Maybe around 43 I would have the 1500 hours. At that age, do you feel it is possible to make it to the majors or should I look at making a career at the regionals? In the meantime, I’m flying Search & Rescue with the Civil Air Patrol. It’s a great way to give back to the community and keep me flying :slight_smile: Every hour counts right!!

Thanks in advance for your time!!

Hey John and welcome back!

I was a Capt, mission, transport and instructor pilot in the CAP years ago. Great organization! Anyway glad you’re coming back. First off 43 isn’t old and as you probably have heard things have changed dramatically in the last few years as far as hiring goes. All the Majors are hiring like crazy and there’s tremendous movement. Many Regional FOs are getting picked up after only a few years. To give you some perspective I spent 9 yrs at a Regional and was hired by a Major at 49. If you get hired at 43 and are only there for 3-4 yrs you’re still 2 yrs ahead of me. Now as to what you should do when the time comes that’s a decision you and only you can make. Many Regionals are offering retention bonuses to keep guys around longer and pay has jumped considerably. What I’m saying is you may find yourself in the left seat (Capt) making pretty good money with a good schedule and decide you want to hang around a while vs starting all over again at Major. Me I wanted to fly some “heavy metal” to Asia etc so I went for it. I’m def glad I did but honestly an airplane is an airplane. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s whatever’s best for John.


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Thanks for the quick reply Adam! All the best!

I’m 42 and am starting from ground zero is November so you have a leg up on me!!

Best of luck Chris! You’re going to have a blast. It’s a lot of work, but the most fun I’ve ever had!

A post was split to a new topic: Rumors regarding ATP?

Adam, glad to hear that you were picked up at 49. I’m currently 45 and have a couple of years left in the military. I have about 1900 hours of military time and am working on getting all my FAA certificates transferred over and my ATP. Any advice for someone my age or someone looking to come over from the military?

Thanks, Ryan

Hi Ryan,

Many Majors LOVE military pilots (not sure why? :wink:). At Hawaiian probably 50%+ of our pilots are former military. The only real advice I have is start figuring out where you want to go as far as airlines. Talk to other pilots, friends, forums etc and narrow it down. Once you have start networking with your military buds. I’m sure you have friends flying at virtually every airline and if you don’t I’m sure you have friends who have friends (and if you don’t have friends start making some!). Everyone looks fairly generic on a resume and the guys on the hiring board will ALWAYS welcome some help in the decision making process. I’d say when you’re 6mos and counting AND you’ve completed your transitions to civilian licenses find out who you need to meet and/or email and get on it. See if your buds will walk in your resume or even better get you a face to face with the Chief Pilot or whoever it is you need to get in front of.

You got the time and the licenses so those boxes are checked. The rest is on you.



I would agree with Adam that your prospects at getting hired at a major airline are excellent. The majors love hiring military pilots and age does not seem to be an issue anymore. I know that we have hired several pilots that were well into their fifties in the past few years. I would suggest that you work all of the connections that you have through your squadron and maybe even attend a few job fairs.

Is your time fixed wing or rotary?


My time is fixed wing, primarily B-1B, but I’m currently flying C-12 Kingair.

Thanks Adam!


I received this email from United a few days ago. Let me be clear, I am in no way saying that I have an in with the hiring department or anything like that, but I thought you might be interested:

Over the next 20 years, we will need to hire more than 10,000 pilots based on retirements and attrition alone. In that same period, major U.S. airlines will need almost 50,000 new pilots. To help with this effort, our Pilot Recruiting team is hosting a career fair for current military and veteran pilots on Nov. 10 and 11 at our San Francisco Maintenance Center.

The first day of the two-day event will include a general information session as well as an opportunity to hear directly from our current pilots. All attendees will receive detailed information about our pilot hiring process and representatives from our pilot recruiting team will be available to answer questions. Attendance on the second day will be by invitation only.

To register, please click Registration is open through Oct. 7. Applicants must make sure their pilot application is on file and up to date on by Sept. 30. Due to space constraints, the Pilot Recruiting team may not be able to extend invitations to all applicants.

For more information or if you have any questions, please email

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Pretty cool!


Thanks, that is a great opportunity, but I don’t have an application on file yet since I’m still working on getting my ATP.

Brings up a good question. If I can retire in September 2018 from the Air Force, how far out should I apply for the airlines? 6 months, 12, or just how far out is reasonable?



I happen to be taking a check ride with a former military pilot now. He recommends applying 12 months before getting out of the military and then updating your application every month. If there is a way to put a note in the application telling them when you will be available you should do that.


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Sir: Recently signed up for this forum and noticed this particular discussion is over one year old. Have several questions regarding this topic-“Getting back into the cockpit”. Are you still entertaining mentorship questions on this forum ? Thanks.

O.K. My mistake. Just figured out how to correctly read the posting date. Have been waiting in the wings for the past several years for airline hiring to return. Obviously that time is here. I was a “casualty” of the 2001-2007 downturn and remained in the non-flying profession I am currently in ever since. I have over 5500 hours of heavy MEJ and vast international experience but, I’ve also been out of professional aviation since 2009. What is the present hiring environment look for individuals like me and what do you feel is an appropriate pathway ? Thanks.


Welcome to the forums! Your situation is unique in that you have so much flight time, but your time is a little old. I think that you need to go get some recent flight experience, maybe 50-100 hours and then apply to the regionals. If you can get your recency of experience back up I think you will be rather marketable to the airlines.



I agree with Chris in that you definitely need some currency but I doubt you’ll need that many hours. Honestly I’d start flying, get instrument and ME current and start applying. Either that or most of the Regionals are doing recruitment roadshows or have numbers to contact recruiters. I’d attend one or call and ask them specifically what they need to see.


Gentleman: Thanks for the prompt reply. While I have been maintaining currency under part 91 logging night time with a ton of landings, 98% of my aviation experience is military. Looks like getting my foot back in the door via the regionals might be the way to go. Appreciate the input.