Real Answers from Real Pilots

50 years old and want to follow a dream

I know this has been covered a few times on this forum, but Id like to touch on it again. My background: Ive worked as a medical technician for 30 years and its time for a change. I did get my private pilot certificate back in 1993 and my instrument rating in 1994. Due to economic reasons (kids!!), I stopped flying in 2000, but before that, I managed to tally about 340hrs. Recently I took on a weekend job as a line crew at a local FBO and now the aviation bug has bit me again. So at this point in my life, if I start the ATP Airline Pilot Program, is there a good chance I will be hired by a regional? Does it make since to dive in, dig into my savings and persue this dream? My desire…heart and soul is in this and I want to start as soon as possible. Is there anything I should be aware of before I take the plunge? Thank you ahead of time for any advice!

David

Hello David,

As you said, this topic comes up from time to time but nothing wrong with a recap. The number one thing I tell older pilots is you obviously have to be realistic about your expectations. Mandatory retirement at the airlines is 65 so you have a very finite amount years left in your career. If your dream is to fly a 777 to Narita that’s probably not going to happen BUT that doesn’t sound like what you’re asking and that’s good. The answer to your question is a resounding YES. If your desire is to spend 12-13 years putting on a real pilot uniform, flying a really cool jet around the North American continent then your chances are exceptionally good. The Regionals are hiring like mad AND the Majors are whisking the RJs guys away as soon as their qualified. What that means is a) build the time and you WILL get hired and b) you’re actually very desirable. A Regional will spend $20k to train a new pilot. The new 25-30yo is going to jump ship as soon as they can but you aren’t going anywhere. If you could get 12yrs out of your new car vs 6 wouldn’t you want to? Well they do to.

That all said the best advice I can give you is since again 65 isn’t that far away the sooner you start the better.

Adam

Adam,

Thank you very much for the reply. Honestly, I would be happy flying for a regional as long as I am flying and making a decent living. If by some miracle, I move up to the majors flying the bigger jets, thats icing on the cake. I cant express enough how excited I am.
Another question, do I need to get IFR current before starting at ATP. With my flight exerience, will I start further along in the program? And…at the end of training and starting the CFI job, Ill have about 500hrs…where does that put me as far as starting to receieve offers?

David

David,

ATP only offers 2 starts, one with zero time and one if you have your Private. You’ll actually go through your Instrument training again so currency is not an issue but you won’t be any further along in the program. Right now Instructors are receiving offers and locking positions with Regionals at 500 hrs (which also allows you to tap into the Tuition Reimbursement program). I’d imagine they may make you wait a month or two to allow you to settle in but I don’t believe you’d have to wait long at all. The biggest thing to me is I’d recommend you research who you want to fly for before committing to a single carrier.

Adam

I am wondering about the mandatory retirement age. After 65 other than corporate jet pilot what other “air line” jobs are allowed? After 65, what about being a bush pilot in Alaska for instance. Just curious. Thanks for your time.

Gary,

After turning 65 pilots are still free to do any number of jobs. Corporate flying, bush pilot, parachute jumpers, flight instructing, traffic watch, and air tours all come to mind. Of course a lot of these jobs are dependent on what part of the country you live in.

Chris

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Gary,

And keep in mind the age 65 rule isn’t just a random number the FAA came up with. To continue flying in any capacity you must have a current medical. While I know many pilots who’d love to fly past 65 most probably wouldn’t pass a medical. Maintaining health and fitness is crucial.

Adam