Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is age 47 & limited geographic base a deal breaker?

Hello everyone!

My name is Todd & I am:
• 47 yrs old
• Married w/ 10 yr old step daughter & 6-month-old
• High School & some college but no degree
• Employed & currently making $100k/yr…but only tolerating my job
• My wife is employed & making $95k/yr
• Live in Charlotte, NC (cannot relocate due to family obligations)

I’ve been reading through many posts & they have been very encouraging. I’ve always wanted to follow my passion of becoming a professional Pilot and there’s lots of useful info. & guidance.

I considered attending an accelerated flight school in the mid 2000’s but at that time the Airline industry climate was not as favorable as it appears today. Therefore, I decided not to pursue that path (a big mistake? Yes, probably)! All the information I read now indicates a hiring frenzy at the Regionals, plus an increase of Pilot age limitation to 65 has rekindled my curiosity.

My questions are mainly to receive confirmation of what I was told by ATP on a recent phone call &/or get other opinions/input:

  1. Is it possible to stay in my geographic area for training & CFI & Regional FO based in Charlotte, NC?
    Yes, I know this is a tall order & time is of the essence due to my age. I called ATP & the young lady I spoke with all but told me “don’t bother”. And that really burst my bubble! She indicated that once completing my training at ATP, they will do all they can to base me as a CFI in Concord (just North of Charlotte) but there are no guarantees (which I understand). And even if I am based in Concord, there may not be a good CFI to student ratio for me to generate the 1,500 hours quickly. In addition, she said there really isn’t a Regional airline that hires Junior FO’s for Charlotte based crews & I would likely be based with a Regional airline in San Francisco, Newark or Dallas/Fort Worth. Well, this is a deal breaker & a heart breaker for me.
  2. Although time is of the essence due to my age, I also must pay off our house before quitting my job & pursuing flight training full time (deal with the wife). This would likely place my start time at ATP around age 49, is this too late? All of this is of course moot if the answers to question 1 are not favorable but if I can make it work, my expectation is not to reach the Majors but spend my career with a Regional until 65. It would be nice to work for a Major but I don’t have a degree & from what I’ve read it’s difficult to reach the Majors in your 50’s even with a degree.

Thanks in advance for any comments & answers.

Kind regards,
Todd

Todd,

I think it would be possible to stay in the CLT area, but the person on the phone was correct in that ATP cannot guarantee you students. Of course there are other flight schools that you could look into instructing at if teaching at ATP does not work out for you.

As to being based someplace, there are multiple airlines that have bases in CLT (check out www.pilotjobs.com), but they are not necessarily the junior bases. So, you might have to serve some time at another pilot base before you are able to get the one that you want. Of course commuting to work is always an option, but I would not recommend it.

As to your second question, take a look in the FAQ section for a detailed breakdown. The short answer is that you should be able to make it to a regional without any issues, but a major is most likely out of the question.

Let us know what other questions you have.

Chris

Todd,

If you start at 49 that puts you at a Regional at 51-52. Degree or not you’re not going to a Major. I agree with Chris, you should be able to instruct in the CLT area but the hours may or may not be favorable and you may have to commute at least in the beginning of your Regional career. Only you can decide if it’s worth the sacrifice and effort.

Adam

Chris & Adam,
Thanks for the quick response & info. I was kind of thinking & hoping I may have a chance to stay in the area & still accomplish my goals. I realize the hours & sacrifice will be difficult. I plan to pursue my PPL while getting my ducks in a row. I have been searching through the FAQ’s & there are encouraging posts about career change at my age, certainly no bed of roses but possible.

A few more questions.
I’m open to other pilot jobs beyond the Regionals as long as I can get close to what I’m currently earning within the next 7-8 years. Do you think ~$90-100K is a possibility given my specific situation?
Also, according to what I’ve read - ATP CFI’s tend to make ~$25-$35K per year. I’ve heard you can make more at other schools & I realize it’s difficult to pin down due to many specifics but do you know ball park annual earnings at flight schools other than ATP? 5K more, 10K more?
And one last question, are you aware of anyone in the Charlotte area that may be a good resource or traveled a similar path to my goal?

Thanks again,
Todd

Todd,

I do think getting close to/at $100k after a time is definitely doable. There are other jobs and opportunities, its a matter of researching in your area. You’ve got a few years, start visiting airports, networking and of course Googling. Also keep in mind since you will be at a Regional for a time there are additional opportunities there. When I was at ExpressJet I was an instructor and averaged around $120k yr. As for CFI jobs while there may be schools paying more per hour, but I’m really not aware of anyone who’s making much more than the ATP instructors. There are some good gigs in NY, LA etc, but that takes us back to you staying locally. That said again its a matter of researching what’s available in your area.

Adam

Adam,
That’s encouraging news & thank you for your response. I’m not opposed to “paying my dues”, but want to reap the rewards & attain a good ROI before I’m 65.
The main focus of a recent job for the past 6 years was education based & I would be quite interested in the CFI job and especially at a Regional. I’ve seen postings for Simulator Instructors in Charlotte for PSA. Obviously I’m a LONG way from that opportunity but I can see me fitting into that type of role.

Thanks again for your reply & encouragement!