Realistic expectations?

Edit to original post…. I searched the word “Old” and discovered that I am not the only one with this question. If you have anything new to add about someone in their 40’s I appreciate it, but if not I’ll probably find plenty of info under that search.

I am looking into what I want to do with the next half of my life. By the time I get into a flight school (if that’s the route I choose) I will have spent 20 years with the fire department and be turning 42.

Part of the motivation for the career change is to have a career that pays well and is enjoyable. I believe the enjoyable part is absolutely achievable.

My real questions are:
Starting a program at age 42, what kind of career outlook do I have?

Could I be a commercial pilot by age 45 and give the airlines a solid 20 years?

Would the airlines think a 45 year old isn’t going to give them enough time to make it worth passing over someone who is younger?

I’m also willing to look into the cargo side of things.

The intro to the forum suggested providing some back ground, so here it is:
My primary career was 20 years with the fire department (FF/paramedic/Captain/Battalion Chief), 10 years as a SWAT medic, and 6 years as an explosive ordnance disposal technician in the USAF Reserves. I do have a BS in Emergency Management. My youngest will be heading off to college at the same time I can begin this new journey, so there’s nothing holding me back from beginning a completely new chapter.

Thank you for your time in considering my situation. Realistic expectations are what I’m looking for.

I am aslo looking to start a new career as a commercial pilot. I am 38, been a Race Car technician, Commercial Diver, and a government contractor.

I have the same questions about starting at this age. I also would like to know what is the BEST way/ school to go is? I am looking into Liberty University because they offer a BS in aviation and i think that may help me secure a job. Am i worng and just wasting time and money or is there a better pathway?

This is my last career change, its always been a dream of mine and now i have the opportunity to finally see it happen. I just want to make sure im doing the correct steps and not digging myself into a pit. Any input or advice is greatly appreciated.


The age question is by far the most common question we get asked. There are dozens of threads on the subject and it’s included in our FAQ section. I encourage you to do some reading for greater detail but here’s the quick and dirty.

  1. As you point out you could have a solid 20yrs. The key is to be realistic about your goals. In all likelihood you’ll never be a 787 Capt flying to Narita earning $400k. But you could get to a Major, be a narrow body Capt or LCC Capt and make in the mid $200s. Maybe even stay at a Regional, get in the training dept and have a really good QOL. Again as long as you have reasonable expectations you won’t be disappointed.

  2. Definitely! If you start soon (like really soon) and train in an accelerated program like ATPs. ATP can literally have you at an airline in approx 2.5yrs and that’s realistic and even conservative. That said you’re 42 and the clock is ticking.

  3. Not at all. If fact the airlines know and appreciate that a person with some life experience is a good investment. Is willing to put in the work and will probably stay longer rather than jump ship if they see what they think might be better gig. Btw I say this from experience as the “old guy” here (2nd career and I started at 39. Was also involved in hiring at both my airlines).

  4. Cargo is def an option. Keep in mind they often have some really tough schedules better suited for the youngins.


Thank you for replying to my specific questions, especially since this gets asked often. I only realized it gets asked so often after posting and doing some more searching on here.

Your answers do give me more confidence moving forward. Have a good one!

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