Real Answers from Real Pilots

46 Year Old with College Degree - Realistic?

Hello all…new guy on the forum with a question.

I am considering a career change to follow my dream of working in the aviation industry as an airline pilot and curious if it’s realistic or not.

I previously completed some work toward my PPL back in 2001 with this same goal in mind. 9/11 put a big damper on things and rolling the dice to guess the future job prospects for people funding their own training seemed too risky. To that point I had managed to gain 27.6 TT in a C172. Soloed at 13.5 hours and completed my night cross-country. Life moved on but the passion/dream have always remained in the back of my mind. With pilot demand at regional airlines on the rise, I’m interested in learning if this could be a realistic opportunity for me to take advantage of or not. I like to think I may make an attractive candidate for regional airlines like Horizon, Compass, Skywest given my location (Seattle), bachelors degree, and lengthy/successful career as a full-time employee with two of the worlds largest tech companies in the Seattle/Redmond, WA area.

Unfortunately, I can’t start right away. By the time I get life and finances simplified enough to do this I could be 47-48 when starting. I’ve considered finishing my PPL in the meantime. Appreciate any thoughts you may have on all of this.

CE,

This question gets asked daily. The answer is yes it’s possible BUT you need to be realistic about your expectations. If you don’t start till 48 that means best case scenario you get hired by a Regional at 50. What that means is you will never be a 787 Capt flying to Asia. You can however have a nice 15yr career as a Regional pilot. If that works for you then you’re good, if not you’re not.

Adam

Hi Adam,

Thanks for the reply. I’ve read many of the ‘am I too old’ threads on here and should have made that clear. My expectations are fully grounded in the reality that I would be flying for a regional. Ideally, at least for now, it would be nice to have that be for a regional like Horizon. While I don’t think I’d be in a hurry to leave the regional ranks, it would be nice to know if there is any real chance to fly 737s or A319/A320’s for a major such as Alaska, Delta, etc. for a few years. The other part of the question was whether the bachelors degree and successful career track-record with large competitive tech companies may help reduce the barriers to entry for getting on with a regional or give me any kind of leg up for making it to a major.

The other things I’d like to know is this. You and others often say we could have a good career of x years till age 65. In your experience, what kinds of things do airline pilots do once they hit 65 and still want to keep flying?

CE,

Ok it doesn’t sound like you’re being to realistic about your goals? It’s nice that you have a degree and a “successful career track” but what does that do for Delta? It costs a considerable amount of money to train a pilot and while you’re a good investment for a Regional (because they KNOW you’re not going to Delta)l, you’re not for a Major. BEST case scenario you get to a Regional by 50, upgrade in 2-3 and then build some Capt time so you’re 55. That gives you 10yrs till retirement (provided your healthy?). Do I hire you or do I hire Joe Twenty-something who’s going to be with the airline for the next 35+ yrs.? Kind of a no-brainer.

Some fly recreationally but most I know hang up their wings. Corporate pilots can fly beyond 65 BUT if you haven’t been flying corporate again why should they hire you? There aren’t that many jobs out there and the one’s there are go to the pilots who’ve been doing them. I do know one guy who went to the Dark Side and now works for the FAA :slight_smile:

Adam

CE,

I am going to have to second Adam on this one. While I could easily see you getting hired on at a regional, I don’t see that happening at a major, you just don’t have enough time left. While major airlines certainly will look at your past employment record, the big thing is flight experience and that takes time to build.

Chris

Thanks Adam & Chris for your responses. I think I’d be happy with a career at a regional but obviously I won’t know till I know. I have some thinking to do for sure. I’m considering my options and researching a few different paths (ATP, local FBO, etc.) that could put me in a position to fly for a living. I’m even just thinking about whether getting my PPL and Instrument and flying for a hobby would satisfy the urge. I’m sure it would be fun and help but right now I don’t think it’s going to fully make the dream go away.

CE,
I’m 56 & just passed the interview at a regional airline.
Unlike most here, I’m just doing it … because… :slight_smile:
A friend said that in his class going into SkyWest, there were three new hires that were older than me.
But, I have ATP and all CFI’s and 2500hrs.

You are looking at a tremendous cost / effort. You have to commit the time and money and hit it really hard. Then you have to rack the hours as fast as possible. That may not be instructing. Jump pilot might be good. Fly a C-206, then C-208, then Twin Otter, some place where they fly year round.

If you do get your ATP and hours quickly, you will have also been exposed to a lot more flying. You will also find it way easier to get a lesser job. Also, if you do a year or more at a regional, you can still fly for something like NetJets, etc.

But, you may never make as much money as you are now. Try and do both! That’s what I’m doing. I work 12hrs/7day a week, because that’s just who I am.