Too old to become a pilot?

sglowacz

New Member
You probably get this type of question a lot. I'm 46. I am a high school math teacher, but I am currently out of a job. I have had the desire to become a pilot for nearly all of my adult life. I actually took a serious look at becoming a pilot back in 1998 (got a bunch of information about schools and finance, actually visited a flight school, ran the numbers etc) but for a variety of reasons (a young family, concerns about finances, homeschooling my kids etc), I didn't go for it. Now, 14 years later (I can't believe it's been that long!) I'm taking one last look at the possibility of becoming a pilot. If I'm not too old, I suppose I have some other questions as well. I'd also like to know...

1. Are airlines hiring right now and what is the hiring outlook for the next couple of years?

2. I get that pay is real low at first, but just how bad is it and how fast does it go up (the family is older now, but they're not completely grown up yet... at least not the youngest ones).

3. Any other constructive advice, comments or opinions about anything that I'm not asking but SHOULD be asking would be greatly appreciated as well.

Thanks.

P.S. I want to thank Doug Taylor and everyone else who works on this great website. I first became aware of it during my research into becoming a pilot back in 1998.
 

HerrGruyere

Well-Known Member
I've always said you're never too old or too young. It's what you have riding on you that counts (meaning debt, family, etc.).

Anyway, I don't know what airlines are hiring right now; but, there are plenty of ops out there that are hiring. Some of them are probably not the airlines. There is much more to aviation than just the airlines. Check out the jobs needed section!

I've heard the pay at a regional airline can be as low as 18K a year (which is sad). Granted, after a year I hear it jumps maybe 10K in the right direction. You get steady raises every year based on your seniority. Depending on where in the U.S. you teach, this may not be so shocking. I know in NC teachers get paid dirt (and you wonder why our generation is so weird!).

Try not to go up to your eyeballs in debt. Really plan your finances for this, because it can and will come back and bite you. On the other hand, enjoy the journey getting there! It's not a race. I just did my solo cross country flights this weekend and I took some time to just stare out the window (looking for other planes) and sort of float around in the practice area during a pretty sunset. Take in flying. Enjoy your passion!
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
Just consider the price your family would have to pay. There's pursuing a dream, and then there's selfishness. Nobody knows your situation but you, but do weight those two things together. I had a similar dream a few years ago, but realized that it conflicted with my other dream of providing for my family. So I sit in my cube everyday looking up at the sky, but I see my wife and kids everyday when I get home, and I get the pleasure of being able to provide a nice, comfortable life for them.

Like anything in life, it's an equation - you just have to plug in your variables and see what you get.
 

jafra98

Well-Known Member
If that's what you want and your family approves it, go for it. Don't be one of the "what if" persons later in life. Just remember that starting in this business is going to take a lot of sacrifices and $$$$$$ just to get started. Have you considered going up to the CFI level( you are a teacher) and do it part time just to get your feet wet? From there you can decide where you want to go.............
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
Just consider the price your family would have to pay. There's pursuing a dream, and then there's selfishness. Nobody knows your situation but you, but do weight those two things together. I had a similar dream a few years ago, but realized that it conflicted with my other dream of providing for my family. So I sit in my cube everyday looking up at the sky, but I see my wife and kids everyday when I get home, and I get the pleasure of being able to provide a nice, comfortable life for them.

Like anything in life, it's an equation - you just have to plug in your variables and see what you get.
I don't disagree with you in principle, but there's another side to this, and that is that starting over in ANY new career has the same pitfalls.

Let's use an example of something that we're both way more familiar with than we'd like to be. Let's say that this was lawyercareers.com, and somebody came on here saying at 45, they wanted to become an attorney!

The discussion would follow the same form that it does here. First, people would say, "NOOOOO!!!! You're going to spend $150,000 to get your law degree!!! You will, quite literally, not pay back that debt while you're still alive!!!!" This would likely be a true statement.

But then the guy would say, "But what about the return!? I've gotta make some money now!"

Then the forum would scream, "NOOOOOOO!!!!! There aren't any jobs! Steve over there was a bar tender for three years after law school, and has been doing document review in the evenings because he's desperate for any kind of work he can get!"

Steve would, if he could even FIND a job as an attorney, start by making $30,000 a year. There was actually one firm in Boston recently that offered to pay new associates $10,000 a year. Guess what? They got 50 applicants.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/more_tha_50_have_now_applied_for_10000-a-year_boston_law_firm_associate_job/

And it doesn't stop. While you're trying to service $1,500 a month in debt, you're making under $30,000 a year. Oh and the first 5 years you practice you're basically committing malpractice every time you speak to a client. So maybe after 5 years of practice (which is 8 years after even starting down this new career path), if you've worked REALLY hard, you MAY be able to find a new job where you can work 80 hours a week, probably make some decent coin (into the six figure range), never see your family, and die alone in your office at 55 when you stroke out.

So is it really that different? As far as I see things now (and I didn't used to see things this way, I thought the same way as you), by becoming a pilot you have a smaller investment in education, a shorter period of time of making almost no money, and there's huge upside potential. You don't need to go to the Harvard of the Skies, graduate top of your class, and then sell your soul for 8 years just to get to a reasonable place in this career. ATP will finish you up after your private pilots license for $50,000. You can get that done in 90 days. Then you instruct with them for a year and whammo, you're sitting in the right seat of an RJ with 2 years into this gig. Sure, you make $19,000 first year, but if you went to law school you'd still be PAYING $40,000 a year for the privilege of experiencing some bizarre academic hazing ritual that doesn't actually teach you must of anything. By the time you hit year 2 or 3 at a regional with the amount of movement we're going to have, you can make $50,000 a year, probably hold down 15 days off per month, and not really be in too bad of shape.

Now does that mean I think it's ok for us to make $19,000 to fly an RJ around first year? No, I think it's a scam. But lots of reasonable careers are scams when you get moving. For lawyers, the people that will be successful are the ones that will win at all costs, and press through to make their careers happen against all odds. Pilots are the same way. Do you need some luck? Sure! But you always do. But luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and if you network well, and make a name for yourself as not being a hack of a pilot, you'll MOST LIKELY land on your feet. Hell, even ZapBrannigan has been able to make things work pretty well after getting knocked off his horse more times than a dude in the rodeo.
 

jskibo

Done
Any chance you can get your ratings using cash, then add your hours instructing?

Adding a bunch of debt may not be the best way to go.

I'm the same age, got my PPL back in 1995. Right now I'm finishing up my Instrument, Multi, Seaplane and the hours needed for Commercial without racking up any debt. Goal is for CFI/CFII/MEI by next spring, however I'm doing it more to line up a part time job and for something to do when I retire.

Good Luck to you, whatever you choose!!


And for Jtrain, good put on the lawyer thing. My better half went to Loyola for her JD. Did it while we both worked for Boeing and they paid the whole deal (except it was taxable income), they cut back that program 2 years ago. And while she has her JD, there's no way she wants to take a $90K paycut to start at the bottom and work twice the hours that she does now. It does come in handy in her role now though....
 

TowJoe

You really Schruted that one
You probably get this type of question a lot. I'm 46. I am a high school math teacher, but I am currently out of a job. I have had the desire to become a pilot for nearly all of my adult life. I actually took a serious look at becoming a pilot back in 1998 (got a bunch of information about schools and finance, actually visited a flight school, ran the numbers etc) but for a variety of reasons (a young family, concerns about finances, homeschooling my kids etc), I didn't go for it. Now, 14 years later (I can't believe it's been that long!) I'm taking one last look at the possibility of becoming a pilot. If I'm not too old, I suppose I have some other questions as well. I'd also like to know...

1. Are airlines hiring right now and what is the hiring outlook for the next couple of years?

2. I get that pay is real low at first, but just how bad is it and how fast does it go up (the family is older now, but they're not completely grown up yet... at least not the youngest ones).

3. Any other constructive advice, comments or opinions about anything that I'm not asking but SHOULD be asking would be greatly appreciated as well.

Thanks.

P.S. I want to thank Doug Taylor and everyone else who works on this great website. I first became aware of it during my research into becoming a pilot back in 1998.

1. These sites are pretty good sources for hiring: pilotjobs.com airlinepilotcentral.com

2. My first year pay was somewhere in the realm of 1500-1600 a month take home (after insurance/taxes etc) I am in my second year and make about 2100-2200 a month take home. The per diem really makes a difference IMO as it is not taxed for the most part (sometimes it is)

3. The best of luck in whatever you do-the following is all my opinion.
-Have you done a demo flight? If not call your local FBO and get up in the air or if it has been a while go do it again.
-As previously asked: Is your family on board?
-Forget about holidays/family events/having weekends off, for the most part
-With the teaching background flight instructing would probably be very rewarding and if you live near a busy flight school could be a good job that has you home everyday
-Sign up for AOPA, at least for the free 6 months of online access and magazines
 

HerrGruyere

Well-Known Member
The lawyer comparison is excellent. I used to work at a law firm and would always see the lawyers in the office. They would work from home after being in the office all day. Sure, they were home all day, but they also worked all the time. All of them were married but only one had kids because her husband was a stay at home dad for the most part. The only time off they had was like seven hours on a Sunday. This happened every week.
 

moxiepilot

Well-Known Member
How about taking baby steps. You said you're a high school teacher, but you're not - you're unemployed. And now you want to take on more debt?

Not too smart IMHO no matter what your background. Go get your private certificate first and see if you like the amount of time you have to put into it and if it as rewarding as you think it will be. That will probably only set you back $5000 or so.

Once you take that step ( and perhaps take on a PT job in the meantime ) it might be better to continue this conversation then.

Welcome to JC.
 

GX

Well-Known Member
The thought I keep having in reading your post, is "Man, your margins are tight." You're 46. Not a lot of time to miss opportunities. Bounce a checkride, fail a test, etc. It'll set you back weeks if not a month or two. They add up. We haven't met, but please believe me when I tell you that I'm not being Negative Nancy on you. It's do-able, but will require intense focus, and commitment on your part.

You're naturally inclined to be a teacher. Go for the CFI ratings and start there. You may find that you LOVE sitting in the right seat helping others advance, and get their ratings. It's a natural step into something better should you want to do that. The pay at the CFI level is comparable.

You're 46, not doing what you love. Find a way to pursue what you love. I spent 36 years trying to chase my dream. For a number of reasons, I wasn't able to pull the trigger until 36. For 5 million a year, you couldn't get me to do anything different, especially take a job in a cube. I'm just not cut out for it. I encourage you to seek your passion. Find a way to make it work with your family. You're in a tough place and it won't be easy, but it will be the most rewarding thing you ever accomplish, and you'll be happier, and more content inside. Your family will reap the rewards of that. Good luck.
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
I don't disagree with you in principle, but there's another side to this, and that is that starting over in ANY new career has the same pitfalls.

Let's use an example of something that we're both way more familiar with than we'd like to be. Let's say that this was lawyercareers.com, and somebody came on here saying at 45, they wanted to become an attorney!

The discussion would follow the same form that it does here. First, people would say, "NOOOOO!!!! You're going to spend $150,000 to get your law degree!!! You will, quite literally, not pay back that debt while you're still alive!!!!" This would likely be a true statement.

But then the guy would say, "But what about the return!? I've gotta make some money now!"

Then the forum would scream, "NOOOOOOO!!!!! There aren't any jobs! Steve over there was a bar tender for three years after law school, and has been doing document review in the evenings because he's desperate for any kind of work he can get!"

Steve would, if he could even FIND a job as an attorney, start by making $30,000 a year. There was actually one firm in Boston recently that offered to pay new associates $10,000 a year. Guess what? They got 50 applicants.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/more_tha_50_have_now_applied_for_10000-a-year_boston_law_firm_associate_job/

And it doesn't stop. While you're trying to service $1,500 a month in debt, you're making under $30,000 a year. Oh and the first 5 years you practice you're basically committing malpractice every time you speak to a client. So maybe after 5 years of practice (which is 8 years after even starting down this new career path), if you've worked REALLY hard, you MAY be able to find a new job where you can work 80 hours a week, probably make some decent coin (into the six figure range), never see your family, and die alone in your office at 55 when you stroke out.

So is it really that different? As far as I see things now (and I didn't used to see things this way, I thought the same way as you), by becoming a pilot you have a smaller investment in education, a shorter period of time of making almost no money, and there's huge upside potential. You don't need to go to the Harvard of the Skies, graduate top of your class, and then sell your soul for 8 years just to get to a reasonable place in this career. ATP will finish you up after your private pilots license for $50,000. You can get that done in 90 days. Then you instruct with them for a year and whammo, you're sitting in the right seat of an RJ with 2 years into this gig. Sure, you make $19,000 first year, but if you went to law school you'd still be PAYING $40,000 a year for the privilege of experiencing some bizarre academic hazing ritual that doesn't actually teach you must of anything. By the time you hit year 2 or 3 at a regional with the amount of movement we're going to have, you can make $50,000 a year, probably hold down 15 days off per month, and not really be in too bad of shape.

Now does that mean I think it's ok for us to make $19,000 to fly an RJ around first year? No, I think it's a scam. But lots of reasonable careers are scams when you get moving. For lawyers, the people that will be successful are the ones that will win at all costs, and press through to make their careers happen against all odds. Pilots are the same way. Do you need some luck? Sure! But you always do. But luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and if you network well, and make a name for yourself as not being a hack of a pilot, you'll MOST LIKELY land on your feet. Hell, even ZapBrannigan has been able to make things work pretty well after getting knocked off his horse more times than a dude in the rodeo.
Oh I agree - I was talking more about leaving an established career where you have equity, you're not miserable, and you make a decent living. It's very easy for someone who's been laid off or makes minimum wage to take the plunge. Much harder when you're already established in a career and you're going to spend 2+ years preparing for a new job where you'll start at the bottom.
 

Jet

Well-Known Member
1. Are airlines hiring right now
Overall yes but not much in the United States. Some regionals are hiring but majors are not at the moment.

what is the hiring outlook for the next couple of years?
As long as we don't have another catastrophic event to offset the economy I would say the hiring outlook looks pretty good for the next couple years. A decent amount of 65'ers will be kicked out of the majors, new rest rules will require another 5% staffing and pilot supply is down since nobody can afford to (and/or wants to) train these days.

2. I get that pay is real low at first, but just how bad is it and how fast does it go up (the family is older now, but they're not completely grown up yet... at least not the youngest ones).
I'm on first year pay for the second time and the least I will make first year is $27k before tax but I will easily break $30k at the rate I've been flying (this includes a $5k hiring bonus I was paid). But you should plan for the worst and say $23k first year and $31k second year before tax.

3. Any other constructive advice, comments or opinions about anything that I'm not asking but SHOULD be asking would be greatly appreciated as well.
The job is easy but it was a hard road getting here. Expect to get furloughed at least once and have to start at the bottom again. You will spend about half of your nights sleeping away from home and always work weekends/holidays. With all that being said if I could do things all over again I wouldn't change a thing. You only live once and don't be that 75 year old guy walking around always taking about what if I had....

If I'm not too old
Nope, we had two 50+ year olds in my new hire regional class. Go for it if you want it but know what you're getting into and whatever you do..don't commute! Good luck with whatever you decide.
 

Airmann

Well-Known Member
Overall yes but not much in the United States. Some regionals are hiring but majors are not at the moment.



As long as we don't have another catastrophic event to offset the economy I would say the hiring outlook looks pretty good for the next couple years. A decent amount of 65'ers will be kicked out of the majors, new rest rules will require another 5% staffing and pilot supply is down since nobody can afford to (and/or wants to) train these days.



I'm on first year pay for the second time and the least I will make first year is $27k before tax but I will easily break $30k at the rate I've been flying (this includes a $5k hiring bonus I was paid). But you should plan for the worst and say $23k first year and $31k second year before tax.



The job is easy but it was a hard road getting here. Expect to get furloughed at least once and have to start at the bottom again. You will spend about half of your nights sleeping away from home and always work weekends/holidays. With all that being said if I could do things all over again I wouldn't change a thing. You only live once and don't be that 75 year old guy walking around always taking about what if I had....



Nope, we had two 50+ year olds in my new hire regional class. Go for it if you want it but know what you're getting into and whatever you do..don't commute! Good luck with whatever you decide.
I cannot stress to you strongly enough to go after your dream if in fact that is what you want to do. Like the great Satchle Page once said, " how old would you be if you did not know how old you are". If money is a concern as far as paying the $85-110k it will cost to get to a situation where you would be able to work for pay, or earning the low wage initially that you might make, then I would suggest to take a long hard look at it. However, if you have the ability to get your training paid for or have the resources to have it paid for and the initial low wages are no big deal, then you need to go for it.
I am older than 55 and under 60, I obtained my PPL the middle of 2011, I have just obtained my instrument rating. I need only my Commercial if I wanted to get paid for flying. There are plenty of jobs availble to instruct. If you want work flying, there is no doubt you can get the work if you apply yourself. The instrument rating is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but, also one of the most rewarding. There are right seat jobs in Alaska availble for low time pilots newly commercial rated, paying only $10.00 an hour to start, but, when you get the required hours, taking 3-9 months, you move into the left seat of a 207 or right seat of the BC1900. I have a friend that is my age and has only 150 hours more than me, but, he has his Commerical rating, got hired on with a Regional and started class 3 weeks ago. So, it can be done. the very best to you.
 

granlistillo

Well-Known Member
You probably get this type of question a lot. I'm 46. I am a high school math teacher, but I am currently out of a job.
You got 18 years to play with.
The way the rules are changing vis a vis airline requirements you would have a minimum of 2-3 year time just to get the hours to qualify for the regionals. Would you enjoy teaching in aviation? Being a instructor with 1500 hrs and your teaching experience might get you nicer job in aviation education than the regionals. Also, unless you have a black eye Math teachers is a shortage area, no?
 

Krieger

Well-Known Member
If you decide to go the pilot route start off with your PRIVATE rating first. Whatever you do, DO NOT give a large amount of money to someone without testing the waters first. You may hate it.
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
If you decide to go the pilot route start off with your PRIVATE rating first. Whatever you do, DO NOT give a large amount of money to someone without testing the waters first. You may hate it.
Or whether you can keep a first class medical.
 

drunkenbeagle

Gang Member
1. Airlines aren't the only game in town when it comes to flying. Given the likely hiring minimums by the time you would be ready, plan on doing something else for 1,000 hours.

2. Compared to a teacher's salary in most states, the pay isn't terrible, but it isn't that great either.

3. It is a lot of money to put up for very little return to become a pilot, being unemployed, and having a family to support.
 

HVYMETALDRVR

Well-Known Member
Honestly...

Not telling you not to do it but, with the recession and everything else it took me 11 yrs from my first flight lesson to right seat in a 48,500 lb jet making about 2000 month with per diem. I also went the college route and it took longer... It's a demanding job and exhausting and I'm single I couldn't imagine it with a family. That said there's plenty of other routes in aviation that pay better I wouldn't recommend starting the airline path to anyone over 30 or with a dependant family.

Good luck in your decision.
 

Jet

Well-Known Member
It is a lot of money to put up for very little return to become a pilot
Yup. A lot of business jobs aren't much better. What else is there?

Pilot (assuming you don't go to college which is recommended)
Year 1 -$60k investment at ATP flight school for zero to hero. (270 hrs TT)
Year 2 -Flight instruct and make anywhere from $10k to $35k depending on how busy the school is. (900hrs TT)
Year 3 -Repeat (1500 hrs TT)
Year 4 -Start at a regional and make $23k
Year 5 -$30k
Year 6 -$35k
Year 7 -$40k
Year 8 -$40k
Year 9 -Upgrade $65k
Year 10-$70k
Year 11-Get hired by a major if you're lucky. Pay is back down to $50k and you're back on reserve.
Year 12-$70k
Year 13-$85k From here upgrade is at least a decade, maybe two.

Business

Year 1-$20k investment college
Year 2-$20k investment college
Year 3-$20k investment college
Year 4-$20k investment college
Year 5-Get your first job in management, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. $35k-$45k
Year 6-$45.5k
Year 7-$46k
Year 8-Promotion $55k
Year 9-$55.5k
Year 10-$56k
Year 11-$56k
Year 12 $56k
Year 13-Promotion to manager if you're lucky. $90k-$110k with your bonus and work 50-60+ hours
 

CFIT99

I'm probably commenting ironically...
Yup. A lot of business jobs aren't much better. What else is there?

Pilot (assuming you don't go to college which is recommended)
Year 1 -$60k investment at ATP flight school for zero to hero. (270 hrs TT)
Year 2 -Flight instruct and make anywhere from $10k to $35k depending on how busy the school is. (900hrs TT)
Year 3 -Repeat (1500 hrs TT)
Year 4 -Start at a regional and make $23k
Year 5 -$30k
Year 6 -$35k
Year 7 -$40k
Year 8 -$40k
Year 9 -Upgrade $65k
Year 10-$70k
Year 11-Get hired by a major if you're lucky. Pay is back down to $50k and you're back on reserve.
Year 12-$70k
Year 13-$85k From here upgrade is at least a decade, maybe two.

Business

Year 1-$20k investment college
Year 2-$20k investment college
Year 3-$20k investment college
Year 4-$20k investment college
Year 5-Get your first job in management, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. $35k-$45k
Year 6-$45.5k
Year 7-$46k
Year 8-Promotion $55k
Year 9-$55.5k
Year 10-$56k
Year 11-$56k
Year 12 $56k
Year 13-Promotion to manager if you're lucky. $90k-$110k with your bonus and work 50-60+ hours
My business plan looked like this:

Year 1:$25.00 library membership- Learn the streets and basic Chemistry
Year 1(later on): $250,000

of course the product is Meth and PCP...so just saying
(I may or may not have been watching Breaking Bad lately)
 
Top