Real Answers from Real Pilots

Question about age

Hello,

I’ve always had a passion for flying; however, I have never taken a step towards flying as my job or employment. I’m 45 years old and thinking of taking on this new adventure. I’m in amazing health and even better shape.

Given the expertise on this site, please advise if I should even begin this journey in an attempt to not only achieve my goal of flying but continue the path towards full-time employment as a pilot .

Respectfully,

Eric Witte

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Eric,

This is a question that we seem to get a lot, you are certainly not alone in your desire to join the airlines a bit later in life. Airline pilots have to retire by the age of 65, there are no exceptions. So if you were to start training today, you would be 47 by the time you are airline eligible, assuming that you go the fast track route. That leaves you 18 years left to fly for the airlines, which is not bad at all. Many of the airlines, especially the regionals, like hiring older pilots as they have a maturity that younger pilots sometimes do not and there is a good chance that an older pilot will stick around and not just jump on the first job opportunity at a major like many of the younger pilots will.

Here is the catch, the odds are that you will not make it to a major, you just don’t really have enough time left. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with a career at the regionals, many pilots choose to stay there for various reasons. So yes you have time, but no, you will not be that senior 747 captain.

Chris

I’ve read several responses to a mid-40’s pilot that it’s unlikely they will make it to a major. Is that more because there is not enough time to go to a major and build any kind of seniority and being at a major at this age basically means you will never have much say in your schedule, or is it because it takes too long to get out of regionals? Someone starting at 45, as I understand it from what I’ve read, could be a FO by about 51, allowing for a 14-year airline career. It would seem that this would be preferable to spending 17 years at a regional, as the 2nd year FO gets paid considerably more than a seasoned captain at a regional. If someone starting with 0-time in their mid-40s would be happy captaining a domestic 737 as the top of his career, is that still a bridge too far vs being a regional captain for the rest of his career?

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It isn’t about what the individual pilot wants to do, it is that the major airlines look at pilots as an investment. They spend a lot of money training us and want to make sure that they get a good return on their investment. A pilot that can only offer a major airline less than ten years of service does not represent a good ROI for the airline.

Furthermore, if you start at 45, take two years to train and build hours, that is 47. Let’s say three years to upgrade to captain at the regional, so 50. Then at least two years of being a Captain before you will have the minimum 1,000 hours of Captain time necessary to apply to the majors, so 52. But majors do not generally hire pilots with minimum qualifications, so add two more years onto that, making it 54.

I have heard of pilots 54 and older being hired by a major, but it is extremely rare.

Chris

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Jon,

The way I see it, it’s more about seniority and quality of life than it is
about probability. There’s plenty of time for someone of that age to make
it to a major, but most pilots (that I’ve met) that start flight training
in their 40s and 50s would prefer less pay and a better schedule.

By the way, it is not taking long to get out of a regional now. 10 years
ago though? That was a much different story. The demand for pilots in the
airline industry is cyclical. Right now the demand is higher than airlines
can keep up with.

Tory

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Jon,

I’m with Tory and Chris here. It’s really about quality of life and choices. While Chris is correct that it may be harder to get picked up by a Major once you break 50 it does happen. But once you get there however again you’re the junior guy. Even if the pay is better your schedule won’t be. While movement is rapid at the Regionals, that’s not the case at the Majors and then when/if you can you’re back to being junior. It can take quite a bit of time to ever get to widebody Capt if it happens at all. Most older pilots do this to fulfill a life long dream but it’s usually a second career. Many are more established, maybe have a retirement, home paid for etc so again it’s a matter of QOL.

One other thing to consider is training is challenging. We recently signed a new contract and the pay bump for the A330 is significant. I know many senior older FOs (and CAs) who are looking at the money but don’t want to go through the hassle (risk?) of learning new equipment at 60 and aren’t going to.

Adam

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Dear pilots,

I have 55 years old. My dream is to fly as a first officer in a corporate airline company. Is it possible to realize that?
I flew since 2001, glidder licence and PPL night rating with 275h and 20h simulator, 2nd medical class renewing in 2020.

I am in a very good health condition, that allows me to be hired by a little company.
Please let me know if I have a hope to become a Flight Instructor and a pilot corporate?

Respectfully,

Armand Levy

Armand,

Sure it’s possible but you really need to get moving and also understand you might not reach anywhere near the top of the corporate world. Your post itself reveals it’s been a while since you’ve flown and your knowledge needs some brushing up. The good news is the shortage has reached the entire industry so there’s a good chance there’s something for you out there.

That said I wouldn’t plan on flying a G650 to Dubai any time soon.

Adam

Armand,

Corporate jobs can be very difficult to obtain, a lot of it depends on who you know and many companies require significant flight time. That being coupled with being on the older side might make it harder to get a flying job than you might think. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but just trying to be honest with you.

Chris

Hello,
My name is Khoudia, I’m 18. I’am a Senegalese but I reside in New York City. I don’t speak very well yet but I’m working at it. Since my childhood, I always dreamt to be a pilot. Sometimes people says me you can’t do it because you are a girl, you very good at science so you can do nothing else better than it. That’s why I stop to tell them I want to be. The career of pilot passion me a lot. I want to be a pilot I know and I will follow my dream. I want to ask what public school college can I go to be a excellent pilot as I always dreamt. I’m in 10 grade, so I will graduate in 2 years next Inshallah.
Thank you, Khoudia

Khoudia,

You’d have to do some research as I’m not aware of any public college that offers an aviation program. That said you don’t need an aviation degree to be a pilot. You can go to a public community college, get your degree and then attend flight school which is where you’ll learn to fly.

Take the time to improve your English. Also you don’t mention your status but you need to be a US citizen or permanent resident to work as a pilot in the US.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot achieve. If you’re willing to do the work you’ll be successful.

Here’s a little video I literally came across today for inspiration: https://youtu.be/pu4uCwwn5gQ

Adam

I would also mention that our Frequently asked questions page has a ton of information on it that you might find helpful.

Thank you very much. I have a green carte so I think I can do it with it.

A thank for the vidéo I realy like it. When I watch it i was very happy to see them, their costume and I don’t have any word to describe what I fell

Hi,
Im currently a high school student and I’m very intersting in becoming a pilot in the future. Is there anything I can do now to prepare this career and what are some requriements.

Yiming,

There are things that you can do, but for now we suggest focusing on doing well in school and obtaining your 4-yr degree before enrolling in flight training.

This is explained in further detail, as are answers to many other common questions, in the FAQ section.

https://airlinepilot.life/c/frequently-asked-questions/19

Tory