Age 51 and training - too late to set sights on a legacy career?

jupiter87135

New Member
Hi folks,

I started training for private pilot license this last July with a part 61 school (Cessna 172, Piper Archer). I just turned age 51 a few days ago.

Question: Am I too old to realistically have as a goal making it to a legacy/mainline carrier? Would it be more realistic to think I could make it to a regional, and likely stay there for the duration of a potential career? I have two bachelors degrees from years ago, so college degree is not an issue, but I’m wondering, given the time it takes to build the hours for the regionals, and even more so for the majors, is it realistic to think that I could have a worthwhile career, and even more so would I ever have a chance of making it to the majors?

Thanks for any advice that any of you can provide.

Cheers!!
 

jupiter87135

New Member
AAPalmTree and Autothrust Blue, thanks for your replies! I also got the first class medical (with ECG)...wanted to make sure that wasn’t an issue before starting. The financial situation is such that it would be fine to be at a regional. But it would be even finer to make it to a major/legacy company. Just trying to gauge how realistic that aspiration is at my age.
 

A300Capt

Freight Dawg
I hate to be a Debbie Downer here but just starting at square one in aviation at age 51 and hoping for a Legcy is probably pushing it. This massive hiring is gonna end eventually and we are one economic hiccup from massive furloughs. That’s just the nature of the beast and has been in my 40 yrs in aviation.

I think more realistically you could make it to a Regional carrier and possibly someplace like Amazon or Atlas for some heavy jet time if that’s interest you. Unless the mandatory retirement age gets raised again (and it will) you’ll probably time out age wise before you could make a worthwhile career dent at a Legacy.

Hopefully you’ll be able to prove me wrong. My wife tells me I’m wrong all the time!
 

ComplexHiAv8r

Well-Known Member
Welcome to the fun! Regional no issue. Goal is to get started and keep moving forward. GOOD LUCK!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

jupiter87135

New Member
I did double degrees - biology and history. Not a double major, but two actual degrees, with a bit of time off in between. That took about 7 1/2 years, while also working at the same time.

So, unless I’m wrong, that at least eliminates me from a future with Delta, if I were to proceed rapidly through the ratings and build up time sufficient for a major airline. Although when in college I worked for Delta for three summers in their college summer employee program, and we were ALWAYS evaluated in written form. Perhaps they could pull those stellar performance records, and give me a pass on not completing college in six years.
 

Dphoenix

Love lasagna, hate mondays
You're wrong on that. 2 degrees working fulltime that took 7 1/2 years is not really a big deal. I know plenty of people 4+ year degrees that got the call.
 

jupiter87135

New Member
T
You're wrong on that. 2 degrees working fulltime that took 7 1/2 years is not really a big deal. I know plenty of people 4+ year degrees that got the call.
Thanks! Appreciate the feedback.

And thanks to all of the rest of you for your feedback. It is much appreciated.
 

A300Capt

Freight Dawg
We have 20-somethings that made it to the "big leagues" with only 2 or so years at their regional. It's possible!
Yea but, a Legacy is much more likely to hire a younger qualified pilot with possibly 25-30+ yrs of productivity ahead of them over a much older pilot where their productivity years are limited. The airline is investing a large sum of time and money to hire and train an individual and they want to recoup that cost. It’s not personal...it’s just a business decision.

There’s nothing wrong with a career at a Regional. If I were 51 or older and just starting out in aviation, or a career changer, getting to the left seat at a Regional would be a great end game goal. Those getting to a Legacy in their 50’s are generally folks who have been in aviation for many years or possibly decades, and for one reason or another, just haven’t been able to make the move up the ladder. An example: UPS is hiring folks in their 50’s, even late 50’s lately, but those new hires are walking in with heavy jet PIC time from places like Atlas, Emirates, AF Tankers and even a few from other Legacy carriers. I haven’t heard of anyone being hired in their 50’s who just started flying in their early 50’s.

Not trying to be discouraging or rain on anyone’s parade, just trying to be realistic here and have realistic and obtainable goals. Are there people who have done it...hired by a Legacy at a later age after starting from scratch? Probably but the numbers are very very few. I could be wrong but I’ve just never seen or heard of it. Time is not on the OP’s side with the goal of a Legacy. There are just too many boxes to check, hours to obtain and limited time to get it done. Regionals are probably a more realistic goal. The hard part is gonna be getting the 1500 hrs (or whatever it is nowadays) before a Regional will even consider an applicant.

And here’s the kicker......even if you get all the boxes checked and hours accumulated, luck and timing play a huge roll in your aviation career. I’ve witnessed some really good people fall by the wayside and it was no fault of their own. They just simply couldn’t catch a break. Economic downturns, unexpected medical issues, furloughs, mergers, bankruptcies. It’s a mine field out there that you have zero control over.

Have goals, be realistic and except that you can prepare yourself the best you can but know it may not pan out the way you think or thought it would. Be realistic of the time and money required. It may be, and probably is, more than you originally planned for. When your 20 something you have time to ride out the highs and lows. Not so much when you get older. Have a plan, execute the plan, enjoy the journey, appreciate and be thankful for the goals achieved and experienced gained.

Good luck to everyone beginning the aviation journey both old and young.
 

Richman

Well-Known Member
This is one of those things where you need to do an honest assessment of what you want out of life. Certainly you can, but the real question is if you should.

About 10 years ago, during the depths of the turmoil, I took some personal leave to help out family, but I also went back to school in my spare time. I was looking to see if there were other “professional” options, so it made sense while I was out to do another degree to dust off the brain, knock out some potential prerequisites and see what the options were.

I learned that school is expensive, not only in cost outlay, but in living expenses and loss of income. That’s not really that big a deal for someone who is 23, or even 30.

OTOH, once you get past 35, and certainly by 40, the loss of income while career changing is huge, but also you have much less time to amortize the cost of the education over your remaining career.

For instance, let’s look at medical school at 40. Drop everything and do 2 year prep. Actually get in somewhere. Do your 4 years. Unless you are a total rock star, attractive (ie well paying) residencies are going to be beyond your reach (yes ageism is alive and well in that respect). You’re still going to do 3 years somewhere. That means after 7 years you’ll have 300k+ in debt, PLUS 7 years lost wages, and you’ll be 49. Starting pay is not great and you’ll not be making good wages until you’re WELL into your 50s.

Law, vet and STEM PHD tracks are all the same. The numbers are slightly different on the front and back end but the math works out similarly.

Complicating this is that there are always random success stories. Like the dude that got a full ride to medical school because he aced the MCAT. Once you dissected the story you find that he had taught MCAT prep for 6 years and had a PHD. Like the random story of someone getting hired at a major without a degree, these are fringe cases and in no way reflective of reality for most people.

The only way this makes sense is if you don’t care about retirement, the money or potential pitfalls of health issues as you get older. That means you have a financially supportive spouse, cashed out a business for at least 3-4 million or are otherwise financially independent.

But if you DON’T fall into that category, you really, really need to put pencil to paper and do a realistic analysis, because as you get older, the ability to recover from a bad deal becomes very difficult. In aviation especially, there are lots of places to run aground.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. I found I had some pretty tight golden handcuffs. Even at 2008 airline pay I couldn’t make any of the numbers work to switch, and I was 38 and relatively well off in terms of personal assets. As you get older, it becomes exponentially more difficult.

Sure, you can say “I want to do it for personal satisfaction and I’m not into it for the money,” but you really need to look ahead.
 
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USMCmech

Well-Known Member
I learned that school is expensive, not only in cost outlay, but in living expenses and loss of income. That’s not really that big a deal for someone who is 23, or even 30.

OTOH, once you get past 35, and certainly by 40, the loss of income while career changing is huge,
Opportunity cost is a mother.

I did a breakdown for going back to college. I'll have to dig it up, but the short version is that most career changers are worse off financially than if they had just stayed put.


Re: the OP's question.

If you are starting from scratch at 51, you are looking at 18 months of flight school, 2 years of time building as a instructor before you can get a job at one of the regional airlines. So, you'll be 55 when you start as a co pilot. Add another 3-5 years at a regional to build the time and experience before a major will hire you and you're at 60. I highly doubt a major will hire a guy at 60 years old.

Now, a 2nd career at a regional airline is not a bad deal. It's a real airline, you can make low 6 figures. There are a fair number of guys who for various reasons found themselves "stuck" at the regional level and have made a life for themselves there.
 

Cloud Surfer

All Roads lead to Trantor
Richman has made a perfectly good argument. However, I would like to chime in and say that the OP should go for it if he/she is: a) capable of undertaking the challenges of training, b) has strongly dreamed of being a professional pilot, and c) has a lot of money saved up so that he could take the huge paycut needed to go back to school/training while losing his/her foremost source of training. We only live once...do whatever makes you most happy if you have the ability and will to achieve it.

I believe that the OP has a good chance of being hired by companies such as Frontier, Atlas, Allegiant, Spirit and any regional or corporate operator. Mainline legacies such as United and Delta prefer to hire civilian folks who are younger than 40 years of age, unless they have a strong military background.
 
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killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
This is one of those things where you need to do an honest assessment of what you want out of life. Certainly you can, but the real question is if you should....

....OTOH, once you get past 35, and certainly by 40, the loss of income while career changing is huge, but also you have much less time to amortize the cost of the education over your remaining career.

...The only way this makes sense is if you don’t care about retirement, the money or potential pitfalls of health issues as you get older. That means you have a financially supportive spouse, cashed out a business for at least 3-4 million or are otherwise financially independent...

...It’s a tough pill to swallow. I found I had some pretty tight golden handcuffs. Even at 2008 airline pay I couldn’t make any of the numbers work to switch, and I was 38 and relatively well off in terms of personal assets. As you get older, it becomes exponentially more difficult.

Sure, you can say “I want to do it for personal satisfaction and I’m not into it for the money,” but you really need to look ahead.
This is real, honest and sage advice for us mid-lifers looking at changes. Should be read and considered soberly.
 

mrivc211

Well-Known Member
Hi folks,

I started training for private pilot license this last July with a part 61 school (Cessna 172, Piper Archer). I just turned age 51 a few days ago.

Question: Am I too old to realistically have as a goal making it to a legacy/mainline carrier? Would it be more realistic to think I could make it to a regional, and likely stay there for the duration of a potential career? I have two bachelors degrees from years ago, so college degree is not an issue, but I’m wondering, given the time it takes to build the hours for the regionals, and even more so for the majors, is it realistic to think that I could have a worthwhile career, and even more so would I ever have a chance of making it to the majors?

Thanks for any advice that any of you can provide.

Cheers!!
Not at all. An FO I once had was exactly 51 at a regional carrier. He had quit wall street and decided he wanted to be an airline pilot. He did make some coin in wall street and opened a pet grooming business that his wife ran. He was a sharp cat. My old CFI was 47 when he got hired at Expressjet in 2005. He's now at United.
 

Kingairer

'Tiger Team' Member
Hi folks,

I started training for private pilot license this last July with a part 61 school (Cessna 172, Piper Archer). I just turned age 51 a few days ago.

Question: Am I too old to realistically have as a goal making it to a legacy/mainline carrier? Would it be more realistic to think I could make it to a regional, and likely stay there for the duration of a potential career? I have two bachelors degrees from years ago, so college degree is not an issue, but I’m wondering, given the time it takes to build the hours for the regionals, and even more so for the majors, is it realistic to think that I could have a worthwhile career, and even more so would I ever have a chance of making it to the majors?

Thanks for any advice that any of you can provide.

Cheers!!
Provided, you are going to be working your non-aviation job while you do flight training concurrently, Its going to take a little while to get everything. At age 51, lets say it takes 2 years to get all your ratings, you're still going to need to acquire 1500 of TT to be eligible to be hired by a regional carrier. Getting 1500hrs is no easy task, especially if its CFIing at a part 61 school, itll take years. Id estimate 300 hours a year would be good (provided you quit your current job and go all in). Now we're into 55-58 years old before you're qualified for a regional airline job. By the time you make left seat and starting finally getting up to a more respectable quality of life and paycheck, you're in your 60s, and by then, (even if you got hired by a major) would you even want to start over again knowing you may retire in the right seat with an undesirable schedule. Sure all of this is "possible" but id say its unlikely and probably unwise.
 
Provided, you are going to be working your non-aviation job while you do flight training concurrently, Its going to take a little while to get everything. At age 51, lets say it takes 2 years to get all your ratings, you're still going to need to acquire 1500 of TT to be eligible to be hired by a regional carrier. Getting 1500hrs is no easy task, especially if its CFIing at a part 61 school, itll take years. Id estimate 300 hours a year would be good (provided you quit your current job and go all in). Now we're into 55-58 years old before you're qualified for a regional airline job. By the time you make left seat and starting finally getting up to a more respectable quality of life and paycheck, you're in your 60s, and by then, (even if you got hired by a major) would you even want to start over again knowing you may retire in the right seat with an undesirable schedule. Sure all of this is "possible" but id say its unlikely and probably unwise.
Doesn't matter at the last Skywest meeting. The guy from pilot recruitment said that age 67 is coming. :D
 

jynxyjoe

The Kickin' Chicken!
Hi folks,

I started training for private pilot license this last July with a part 61 school (Cessna 172, Piper Archer). I just turned age 51 a few days ago.

Question: Am I too old to realistically have as a goal making it to a legacy/mainline carrier? Would it be more realistic to think I could make it to a regional, and likely stay there for the duration of a potential career? I have two bachelors degrees from years ago, so college degree is not an issue, but I’m wondering, given the time it takes to build the hours for the regionals, and even more so for the majors, is it realistic to think that I could have a worthwhile career, and even more so would I ever have a chance of making it to the majors?

Thanks for any advice that any of you can provide.

Cheers!!
Do every jobs fair, get lucky, youll get to a legacy in time for what you want.

You might check, I'm bot sure how long you have to work to be qualified for non rev benefits after retiring, but you could contract/consult for a while afterwards if you've got something they need.

Regionals aren't exactly crapholes anymore, it may be worth your time to retire from a good one too.
 
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