View Full Version : Too old to start?

12-07-2011, 02:25 AM
I have dreamed of flying for years but unfortunately chose a different career path based on pressure from others. I am not at all happy in current career and have been looking into aviation degree/flight training to become commercial pilot. I realize that I will have to work for smaller airlines and I am ok with that. I also realize that money will probably be less and amount of financing this goal is high, but at age 46 It is now or never. Is this just a waist of time, delusional or what? I certainely am more interested in flying for a living even with lower pay. I want to fly and get paid for doing what I know in my heart I will love. My father almost got his PPL but financially just could not finish. Going the route via flight school and student loans is the only way to make this happen. Should I go forth or not? Please advise, anyone. Thanks.


12-07-2011, 05:36 AM
Go for it! If you never give it a go you will never know. Then you will be 56.......

Janet Davidson
12-07-2011, 07:12 AM
I used to fly with a guy who had started flying about your age. He had "made his fortune" and wanted to try his dream of flying. He worked his way through all the licences, and came to work for the outfit I was flying for at age 49. The pay wasn't quite what he was used to, but money wasn't the issue for him. He loved his time with the airlines, and was a very good pilot. But this was 15 years ago, before everything in the airlines changed so much.

I would definitely say "go for it". I believe strongly in not taking your last breath thinking "I really wish I had done that, or this, or whatever". But think very carefully about your finances. The aviation world is not an easy one to get into, and pay is very poor initially, regardless of your age. If you are serious, then how about doing the PPL first, if you haven't already done that, while still employed? Then, subject to how that goes & how you feel about it, continue with the other licences while still working. Or having done the PPL, go to somewhere like ALLATP where you work your backside off and get everything done in 4 months or so.

Then the really difficult part starts - finding a job. No airline will take you with 250hrs, so you will spend quite a few years instructing, glider towing etc, etc, trying to build hours until your resume starts to look a bit fuller.

Unless you really want to go to college, I wouldn't necessarily follow that route. Do you already have a degree?

Alternatively, get your licences to CFI/II and flight instruct in your spare time. You may find that sharing the joy of flying gives you as much job satisfaction as anything else.

Good luck with what you decide to do. And remember there's an awful lot more to working in aviation than just flying for the airlines :thumbsup:

12-07-2011, 08:33 AM
Janet has given you some very good advice. Do what you would like to do, but keep your options open. Age is not a factor in learning to fly (I got my ticket at age 72) but whether or not you want, and can afford, to have flying your sole means of support is another issue with many, many details to consider.

12-08-2011, 11:14 PM
Fred here. Flew for United for 30 years. Pay and working conditions are so bad that some who got out of the military to fly commercially, have quit and gone back to the military. The small carriers are even worse. I'd think long and hard before I spent that kind of money. To show how old I am, my wife and I both got our privates (back in the early 60's) for $800 for both of us.

Jim Clark
12-08-2011, 11:27 PM
Do the math and you will discover you can't get the ROI to pencil before you turn 65. Should you fly? Absolutely! As a career? Do the math.

12-15-2011, 06:43 AM
no such thing as "too wold",

i'ts all in the mind! true, there are such things but not much of it :)

nice forum by the way!!

cheers !!

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12-15-2011, 07:02 PM
At your age, you are not too old to learn to fly, but whether you can make a career of flying for the airlines is problematic. Different airlines have different hiring minimums, so you should research that before setting yourself an unlikely goal. And as you'll see, it helps to already have "made it" economically.

I have 2 acquaintances who made "the leap" at an older age, but they already had their private, instrument, commercial, and multi.

D was in the insurance business and had done well. He regularly flew, mostly for pleasure, his light twin, occasionally for business. He'd had a dream of flying airliners. In his mid-40s, he researched and found that he already had the minimums (barely) required of a number of different regional airlines. He applied to all of them, and got several responses. Long story short, he was accepted into the training program for one of the larger regionals, worked his butt off, became a FO, and regularly flies in the eastern US--but he lives in California, so he commutes and misses out on much family stuff. The pay is awful--but he gets to fly a lot, and that is gratifying.
W has flown most of his life, largely as a part-time instructor. Can't recall what business he was in, but I think it was a stock broker. He built and flies a Murphy Moose. Anyhow, similar story as D, except he had reached age 50 when he decided to switch careers. Again, bare minimums to qualify, but again accepted into a training program, not for a regional, but for a major west coast carrier. He's been with them for 8 years as of last Fall, spends about 4 days a week away from home, but enjoys flying up and down the coast to Alaska. Pay remains an issue, but he had been set from his previous career. He just moved to the left seat this past summer, largely due to some unexpected retirements.
So it's possible, if you stick with it, but don't expect it to be a money-maker. The days of the high paid airline captains is long gone, and by the time you get through the necessary qualifications, you'll only have a decade at most for the career, which may or may not give you the seniority to move to the left seat. But you'll be flying, and that may be enough!


12-15-2011, 11:25 PM
Howdy Will; I was very fortunate to have started my flying career at the end of WW-II. Still, I had to work for every hour of flight time. Sold my '33 Chevy and my saxaphone to buy my first airplane, a "46 Champ for $ 600. This airplane got me my Private, Commercial and Flight Instructor ratings and later when sold bought me an Instrument rating and a Multi Engine rating. Unfortunately times have changed. I still think that having your own aircraft is a good route as there are any number of Cessna 150's for a low enough price. One more thing, I never attended any kind of formal flight school, found a good instructor and got the rest out of the midnight oil and books. I did fly for an airline for 35 years, started as a co-pilot on DC-3's at $325. per month! You might take a look at the possibilities in corporate flying, air frieght or commuter. Low pay but it's flying. I am 82 and still flying sportsman and I would do it all over again if I could turn back the clock. Barnstormer

12-16-2011, 09:34 PM
I'm not a professional pilot but at around the same age as you I started looking into flying for a living. With the time you have left before mandatory retirement, you will not be able to make this endeavor pay off. However, if you are really determined to try, you might look into flying helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico. The competition is probably just as strong, but the starting pay is better and I'm told flying them is a lot of fun. The cost of helicopter training is greater, but you don't need an ATP rating, just a commercial instrument rating.

If you look into this, DO NOT believe what the flight schools tell you about job prospects. They greatly exaggerate. However, it might be a worthwhile option.

You didn't say what you do for a living currently. It obviously doesn't suit you or you wouldn't be thinking of trying to become a commercial pilot. Maybe there are other fields that would better satisfy you. You might consider taking some values and interests tests ate your local community college to get some ideas of another career change that would be more satisfying, yet not leave you destitute at 65 years old.

However, I do strongly urge you to learn to fly. In fact, I believe you should get your PPL before even considering going further. If you haven't gotten at least a hundred hours, you really don't know if you will enjoy flying for a living or not. I know several pilots that got their PPL, flew for a short while, then decided it was not what they expected and quit altogether. There are many ways to fly recreationally that are very satisfying, or you can get your CFI and teach on the weekends.

If money is currently tight, I suggest you see if there is a glider club near you (not a commercial operation). Learning to fly at a soaring club is both cheaper and a lot of fun. Most clubs have a very social aspect, as opposed to commercial operations where you show up, take your lesson and go home. OTOH, at a club, you are expected to chip in and help with the maintenance of the aircraft and the flight operations, so just showing up for your lesson and then going home is unacceptable.

I'm not saying don't do it, but I think you should evaluate this coolly and with detachment, rather than with the idea that it will be fun and glamorous.

Good luck, whatever you decide,


12-17-2011, 10:24 AM
Ok, wmalone, my dad earned his glider in his 20's. But he really didn't start getting into flying, start enjoying it, start making a habit of flying, until 20 years later in his 40's. Age doesn't matter, your passion does. You can do it if you devote yourself.

12-18-2011, 04:07 PM
If it's your passion and what you've always wanted to do, then age should not be a factor. People believe that when they turn 40-50 years old, it is too late to change careers and become a pilot. This is incorrect. The main factor that comes into consideration when you are at that age is not that it is too old or too late, but because you may have more responsibilities to be able to endure entry level jobs and low pay when you're starting out. If you have the passion, it's your dream, and the only thing holding you back is your age, then go for it!

Eric Page
12-19-2011, 01:59 PM
You've got some good info above. I'd just add a few words about lifestyle and pay at regional airlines.

Expect to get no more than 10-11 days off per month for the first few years. That may sound good to an office drone who gets 8 days per month, but your duty days will routinely stretch to 12-13 hrs (max is 16 hrs). Expect to be tired, a lot. Keep yourself in good shape.

You'll spend several months on reserve (telephone standby) after you're hired. This is especially costly if you're a commuter (see below). When you upgrade to Captain, you'll be at the bottom of the roster again and back on reserve. Reserves make minimum guarantee pay (~75-80 hrs/month).

If you don't live in base, you'll have to commute, which will burn more of your time off and pay (for crash pad or hotels). Many airlines make little effort to construct commutable trips (late start, early finish); non-commutable trips require you to commute the days before and after the trip.

First year pay is universally abysmal. $20k to $25k/year isn't uncommon. $30k is rare. Pay improvement is slow until you upgrade. No one is getting rich. Plan to carry a cooler with food in it; eating airport food all the time will make you bored, fat and poor.

Airlines are legendary in the realm of bad labor relations. Regionals are particularly egregious when it comes to violating collective bargaining agreements. Unions' contract enforcement power is neutered by the Railway Labor Act, so expect to hear "fly it and grieve it" a lot.

Having said all of that, if flying is in your blood, nothing else will make you happy. As I write this, I'm on day six of six, and two of the last three days have exceeded 15 hours. I still love flying and if I had to commute to a cubicle every day I'd slit my wrists.

Go in with your eyes open.

Lots more at http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/

Eric Marsh
01-05-2012, 02:23 PM
If you are fit I don't think that at 46 your age is a consideration. I'm 58 and hope to get my PPL in a few months.

01-14-2012, 07:49 AM
I agree with this. GO FOR IT. :)

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01-15-2012, 09:13 PM
I like the others, say go for it!!!!!! I'm 49 been attempting my PPL since 8/2008, Should finish this spring, Medical issues delayed me 18 months, it could be one of the factors that could effect you. I had thoughts of CFI towards retirement. GOOD LUCK!!!! Tlim

01-21-2012, 12:30 AM
I'd love to say that you should go for it. But there are something that you have to consider.

Can you afford to invest in it, only for it to end up as a hobby? You're not too old to fly. But you might be too old to establish a good career in flying. Just like in any other career, you'll have to start at the bottom. So if money is currently tight, you have to consider that you won't be able to recoup your investment immediately.

But just for the love of it? By all means go for it!

Bill Greenwood
01-22-2012, 12:13 PM
If you really want to learn to fly and be a pilot, go and do it, if you can afford the cost. It doesn't have to be a career. Do you go to church and is that a profit making deal? Do you play golf or fish or whatever, and does that make you a profit?
Do you have kids and are they a profit center?

If you want to be a pilot and have the time, and yes it does take some money, then go do it and don't let anyone give you any nonsense about being too old.
A few years back a friend told me that he always wanted to be a pilot, but wondered if he could do it. He was 60 years old, and only had a jr high education. He also had no interest in a 172 or similar. He was successful in real estate and I told him to go ahead. He bought a brand new Bonanza B36, and learned in that. It took a little longer that in a simple trainer, but now both he and his wife are pilots , own and fly their Cessna Caravan all over the U S and to Canada.

01-22-2012, 03:02 PM
If you are fit I don't think that at 46 your age is a consideration. I'm 58 and hope to get my PPL in a few months.
I like this reply.

One thing seldom mentioned is health. Commercial pilots are held to a higher standard. Learning to fly at 46 or even 86 is no big deal. But imagine spending all that time and cash on a career change then having some age related health problem shut you down when you are 50.

If it's a side job or doing it for fun, go ahead. As a way of supporting a family, unless you are in exceptional health, its a gamble. You're only as good as your last medical.

01-30-2012, 10:45 AM
I musta missed the original post. But here'z my 2 cents.

Insofar as becoming a "commercial" pilot as a career; 46 is too old...W-a-a-y too old. Why would anyone hire a commercial pilot in his mid-40's with low hours (no experience) when 21 year old commercial pilots are a dime a dozen? And airlines (currently) have no problem finding pilots 30 and under with 500 (or more) hours multi-engine / instrument time.

Becoming a CFI (instructor) would be no problem at all.

Insofar as learning to fly for fun, pleasure, or transportation; there is absolutely no age limit, as long as your health doesn't prevent you from being dangerous. I'm (two weeks from being) 72. There's a very active 86 year old pilot in our EAA chapter, and I suppose others, too, that I don't know about.

01-30-2012, 05:34 PM
Why would anyone hire a commercial pilot in his mid-40's with low hours (no experience) when 21 year old commercial pilots are a dime a dozen?
Because with age comes (usually) maturity? Because older people don't feel invincible while flying a $500k plane loaded with passengers? Because passengers don't like putting their lives in the hands of someone younger than their kids?

I'll take a mid 40's guy with 200 hours over a 21 year old with 500 hours who knows everything there is to know about flying.

Frank Giger
01-31-2012, 05:04 AM
Another route to consider is CFI (add additional letters as required).

The money isn't stellar, but my CFI (Sport, PPL, Instrument, Dual, etc. rated) is doing okay with students and photography flights; one has to schedule a week in advance to take up an hour of his time and he instructs on weekends by hesitant appointment. Since he rents the student the C172 or Champ (and has a CTLS available), he gets a slice of that, too.

Downside is that when the weather is crap he's not making anything if nobody needs ground school or additional instruction that can be done on terra firma.

He started late in aviation as well and found a way to monetize his pilot abilities with his skills as a teacher.

03-30-2012, 11:05 PM
I have a slight twist on this having started in aviation (military) as a youngster then leaving to pursue other interests.

Didn't fly for many years but drifting back and have decided at age 50 to get CFI rating and see if that could be my final career. Book study is a challenge, but am confident I can be a successful instructor. I'm not interested in hours building and my "day job" is largely about mentoring so a pretty decent segue right there.

Whatever you choose just have some fun.

04-23-2012, 09:20 PM
I no longer fly commercially at my age. They look askance at me. However, I did for many years. Do not forget the corporate world. A lot of pilots fly corporate aircraft and do a lot of flying in nice aircraft. I found it helpful in corporate aviation to also have an A&P license. When you are not flying the airplane, you can perform the routine maintenance that is required. Then they don't feel like they are being ripped when they pay you for a forty hour week and you only flew for ten hours!