Real Answers from Real Pilots

Aviation Career

(Billy Davis) #1

Hi Chris, my son just graduated high school and prior to graduation he said he wanted to be an airline pilot based on a conversation he had with a pilot on one of his trips up to see me. What is the best thing or best way for him to achieve this goal. Im trying to help push him in the right direction so that he doesn’t just end up working a job just to get paid without a better future for himself.




Welcome to the forums. The first step for your son is to go take an introductory flight, he can do this at any ATP school or most local flight schools. An introductory flight is just that, it is a quick flight where your son will get to practice some basic flight maneuvers and take off and landings. This will help him to get an idea as to whether he wants to fly or not.

If he decides that he wants to fly his options are:

  1. Join the military and hope to secure a pilot training slot.

  2. Attend an aviation college that will help him get a four year degree and his pilot ratings.

  3. Attend a regular college and then go to a school with fast track training (this is what I did).

Any of these options are great ways to go and each has its own benefits and risks.


(Jason Alvarez) #3

Hi Chris, I am 39, what is the best way for someone my age to become a pilot? Or am I too late to get started in this career field.




Welcome to the forums. Let’s talk about your age first, then the best path for you. 39 is definitely not too late, but it depends on what your expectations are. Advancement in the airlines is driven by seniority, meaning that the younger you are when you get hired, the more advancement opportunities that you will have. What I mean by this is that there are only so many 747 Captain slots at United Airlines and the most senior pilots get these. These would typically be pilots that joined the airline at a very young age. The 777 Captains at UAL are the next most senior group, and so we go down the seniority list.

If you were to start flight training right now you would likely finish the program at the age of 40. You would need to flight instruct for about two years to get the necessary 1,500 flight hours for the airlines, so 42 when you walk in the door of a regional airline. This is by no means too old, plenty of people have been hired at that age.

If you want to stay at the regional airlines, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, you could have a solid 22 year career of flying ahead of you, much of it as a Captain. If you want to shoot for a major airline you will likely need to spend 5-8 years at a regional before you have the necessary qualifications, so say 48 when you get hired by a major airline. This too is not too old, but you will never be a 747 Captain at a major as the younger, more senior pilots will get that position. It is likely that you would retire as a First Officer or maybe a junior Captain.

The best path for you to get to the airlines at your age is the quickest path. I recommend a school that offers a fast track course, not one that will take two years to get all of your ratings. It should also be noted that the major airlines require a college degree, the regionals do not.

My biggest question is have you taken a discovery flight yet or actually flown a small airplane somewhere? If not, go to your local ATP or other nearby flight school and sign up for one. An introductory flight is a great way to get behind the yoke of an airplane and see if flying is something that you really want to do. They don’t cost much and are a great way to get started.


(Aurora M) #5

Are you required to do an introductory flight before you can enroll in the course? I have flown a few times before and I already know I love it! :smile:




No you don’t. The intro flight is only required if you have zero flight experience. It’s simply to avoid the problem of “I’ve always dreamed of being a pilot and KNOW I’m going to love it”, sign up, pay a whole lot of money, go up once and freak.


(Taylor Otis Dahl) #7

What is the cost of Intro Flight if you don’t mind me asking?


ATP charges either $150 for an intro flight in a single engine or $250 for a flight in the multi engine. I personally would save the $100 and do the flight in the single. Check out this link for more info:

(Taylor Otis Dahl) #9

perfect, Thank you Chris !


Anytime, feel free to ask any other questions that you think of.

(Aurora M) #11

Alright, so I have a connection in Delta, who is willing to be an internal reference to get me in as a flight attendant. Now as I want to be a pilot,I am unsure if this will help or hinder my progress into piloting. 1) I don’t know if I will be able to take time off to do my schooling. 2) It DOES get my foot in the door at a major airline.

Has it ever been done before where a flight attendant moves up to a pilot? Or would I have to quit entirely to do my training and gain the required hours?




Being a flight attendant will not help you in any way to become an airline pilot. In fact, the scheduling demands of the job could very well make it so that you have difficulty scheduling your flight training.

Being an FA for a major airline might be a good experience, but it really won’t do much for you when it comes to being a pilot. If you want to be a pilot stay focused solely on that goal.


(Aurora M) #13

Thank you Chris

I figured that was probably the case, but wanted to know the facts before making any choices on the matter! I know I would hate my life if I was stuck as a FA for the remainder of my life. In no way is that an ideal job for me, nor do I want to deal with relocation until I am actually flying or instructing! Guess I will just sit tight and save up for my time in ATP as planned!

Thanks again,



While being an FA will not help you in becoming a pilot, some airlines (not sure about Delta?) will allow employees to take leaves of absence but remain a company employee. What that does is give you a really nice seniority number for pass travel. I’s ask your friend but THAT would be a great benefit in the future.




I know of a lot of FAs that came to ATP for pilot training. Last summer KIWA had at least 10 “ex”-FAs going through the program, but they all quit their old jobs before they came in.
Also, you will most likely have to quit and forfeit your FA seniority when you are hired at an airline as a pilot. I would recommend focusing your energy on flight training.


(Aurora M) #16

One other question, once I do reach airline work, are there limitations on hair color? I have bright colored hair but don’t know if that is allowed or not…



That is great news from the FAA, I am so happy to hear it.

As to the hair, you will need to have a natural hair color. Brightly colored hair will not fly.



The airlines are still pretty conservative in many regards. I don’t know you but generally people who rock “bright hair” also have an affinity for piercings and tattoos. Nothing wrong with that but piercings will be limited to the ears and 1 on each ear only and tats must be hidden from the public. Just FYI.


(Aurora M) #19


Am I allowed to have my hair down while flying? As I have a tattoo going on the back of my neck. Not a crazy peircing person though :joy: I’m extra motivated if I bother with earrings at all!




You can wear your hair down, in fact I would recommend doing so if you have a tattoo on the back of your neck.