Real Answers from Real Pilots

Trying to figure it out

First of all I want to thank everyone who has contributed to his forum. I have read so much and believe I have everything I need to know about flying and flight schools. I have 1 last thing that I am trying to figure out. I am in my early 40’s and looking to transition out of the restaurant industry, however I am a father of 2 and have bills that go with married/ mortgage life. I figured out how to go to school on my time and get the flight time in while still working. But I am struggling to figure out how to get my 1500 hours, outside of being an instructor, which would make me lose my full time time.

Any suggestions on how to get the 1500 including the 500 cross country hours, without being a full time instructor? I appreciate all the feedback.



The short answer is no. Listen, you’re in your 40’s and time is not your friend. I was EXACTLY where you are. I owned 2 pizzerias and wanted to fly. Mortgage, car payments, 3 kids etc etc etc. I tried the local route for training and it doesn’t work. The same goes for building time. At your age you still could make the big bucks but every year you delay is another year off your career.

My only regret in this entire career is I didn’t start sooner. Can you train and build time part-time, sure but I’d be willing to bet at some point (if you’re serious) you’re going to bite the bullet and go full-time. It’s just too inefficient to not.


Welcome George!

The only low-time non-CFI job I can think of that would provide you with the necessary flight time in order to be eligible for an ATP certificate is aerial photography. I know a handful of airline pilots that used this method to build their flight time. It does require a lot of traveling, however. I’m not sure that gig would be any better than a flight instructor job given your situation, but of course you are the one that will be deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Perhaps one other option is to become a CFI, see how you like it, and then if you are still looking for a change to fit your needs you could look at companies like Cape Air and Ameriflight. You may even be able to network your way into a corporate gig if you know the right people.

I should clarify that I’m giving you some options to think about, but I still think that instructing is the best way to build time and experience towards an ATP certificate. If you can make ends meet instructing it really is the best way to go. ATP CFIs also have opportunities to apply for tuition reimbursement, bonuses, cadet programs and corporate pathway programs: Airline Pilot Hiring Partnerships / ATP Flight School


Right now is your plan to do the flex track program with ATP and balance work? We recommend that at the minimum pace. Anything slower than that would be inefficient (spend more time catching up on what you learned from a previous lesson than progressing in your training). Obviously at your age, the fast track 7 month program is the best possible program for you. However, we understand your hesitations due to your financial responsibilities with your family.
As for time building after flight training, you could also shoot for a job flying skydivers. It would keep you locally based compared to traveling all over with Pipeline or aerial photography. It’s relatively consistent flying, it’s just incredibly repetitive and will always be day VFR so you’d have to make a constant effort to keep your IFR knowledge sharp.

I know you came here more for motivation rather than questions you already did you research and know the answer to. Take a loan against ur house to cover your bills and take a student loan to cover your school. That’s what I’m doing, tried part time but doing 2-4 hours a week is going to take me 10 years to finish something that can be done in 2-3. Maybe sending your wife to a fast track program like atp might be a better option and once she’s done and flying with the regional you can then make a full time transition