Real Answers from Real Pilots

How Old Is Too Old to become a Commercial Airline pilot?

Hello I am 52 years old and looking for a worthwhile career change . I love flying and have always wanted to become a Commercial Airline Pilot but at this point in my life I am not sure if I am too old to become a pilot . Would you please give me your advice & comments on this topic

William,

I personally think the ship has sailed for you, but only you can determine that. Please check out the FAQ section as your question is addressed in depth there.

Chris

William,

You’re not too old, the question is would it be with the financial sacrifice? If you started training TODAY, you could be at a Regional airline in 2-2.5yrs. putting you at 54-55. Mandatory retirement is 65. That gives you about 10yrs of flying for your career. The training will cost you about $90k total. You won’t be working during training and for the year to year and a half you’ll be instructing to build time you’ll be making $30-40k. First year at a Regional is $50k with bonuses and after 2-3yrs you could upgrade and make in somewhere in the $80-90k range.

What I’m saying is it’s probably not the greatest return on your investment. However, if the idea of spending 10 years seeing the country, flying a really cool jet with some nice people sounds like a blast (and I can tell you it is) then it’s worth it. If however you need to make $300k as a Capt flying a 787 to Narita for it to satisfy your dream then it’s not because that’s not going to happen.

Your call.

Adam

1 Like

I’m in the same situation. Use the search feature at the top-right and type “too old”…there are several forum posts with pros-cons and other considerations for seasoned citizens. A common issue for most is going from $100K+ per year in a profession where you are at or near the top, to making less than nothing (paying $85K with no income to show for it) for a year and then $30K or so as a flight instructor followed by (as Adam said) $50K or so for a while as you are a junior First Officer at a regional. Then there’s the age limit for airlines of 65. There are other flying jobs after that, but you’ll have to research those to see if they offer what you need with regard to lifestyle and earnings. Good luck. As Adam said, the answer is not “No, you are too old to fly.”, it’s “Sure, you can fly, but…”.

I have around 1700 hours, 125 multi, 1000 dual given. I graduated college in 2001 with a degree in aviation and September 11th pretty much eliminated every job possibility around. Had interviews with Continental Express and American Eagle set up in October and November of 2001. I worked for another couple of years for a small company flying a Cessna 210 and got out of the profession to chase another one of my dreams, Coaching. I have been coaching/teaching since 2004 and have flown a few times but nothing substantial. I am getting tired in the education world and looking at my options. I am now 40 and wondering if it is worth it to go back to the original plan of being an airline pilot. I have two kids (5 and 8) and an incredible wife that is also a teacher, and I understand the sacrifice I will have to make in the coming years to make this work…

I know everyone is hiring now (regionals) and am looking to get any advice anyone can offer. My initial thought is to make sure I try to get hired by a regional with a flow through program so I can move up faster, but I am really not sure!! I also do not know how or if I need to find a place to get re-current or what that would entail.

thanks!

A local CFI will be able to get you back up to speed. Call around, explain your situation and tell them what your goals are. They’ll be able to set you up with a BFR/IPC (biennial flight review/instrument proficiency check). I know you didn’t mention if your certificates were current. It’s still a good idea to run through a full BFR. Your skills and knowledge need to be sharp when you get to the airline level. Ground school is quick. It’s easy to fall behind if you’re not up to speed.

Once your CFI signs you off and you meet all of the ATP flight experience requirements, start applying. Choose an airline based on their values, reputation, aircraft, bases, and average upgrade times. I wouldn’t even consider flow in your decision. Flow programs do not guarantee that anyone will expeditiously move up to a major. They are designed to prevent a major airline from crippling their own regional carrier(s). A couple of main features of flow programs is that they move in both directions and there are maximum hiring limits. Depending on the number of total pilots participating in a flow program, it may actually be faster to get hired at a major by applying externally.

More importantly, first you need to get back in the groove. So, start calling around and knock some of the rust off.

Tory

1 Like

NB,

At 40 WITH your current hours and qualifications you’re no where near too old (I started training at 39, long before any pilot shortage and I’m a Capt at a Major). Things are great, pay has tripled and the Regionals would grab you tomorrow. As Tory said a flow would be the last thing on my list. They’re easily cancelled and I know many pilots who have gotten hired long before the flow guys because the Majors limit how much they cannibalize their own feeds.

My only HUGE caveat is you need to go beyond just being current. You need to have your skills (particularly your Instrument skills) down. Everyone is obsessed with getting hired these days. The problem is the Regionals are also experiencing the highest failure rates they’ve ever had. They will train you to fly their jet but they will not train you to be a pilot. Your knowledge and skills need to be comparable to someone who earned hour 1500 yesterday.

If you’re serious get a updated FAR/AIM and whatever other training materials you have and start reading. Get current and then some. Not sure how many hours you’ll need but you need to be really comfy in the seat you’re in because things will get really uncomfortable at .80 mach if you’re not.

Adam

1 Like

Appreciate your help! I am not current and do need to get back in the swing of things… I have kept my CFII valid through the years but thats about it. Good info on the flow throughs… wasn’t aware of that

1 Like

thanks for the advice!

I second Adam on this. You need to be truly current. not just on paper. I mean current to the point that you would feel comfortable taking an instrument checkride.

1 Like