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An Age Old Question ????

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Aspiring 135 pilot
Nov 25, 2001
I'm sure you have all read this before, but I couldn't find it posted here. What I would like to know is what are the chances of a 37 year old getting an interview with any outfit (not necessarily an airline)? Then with all things being equal, what are the chances of getting hired on?

I have heard before that the airline industry, especially in the cargo feeder branch, is not so much driven by age. I have been led to believe that the various outfits are more interested in experience and skill. Is this too good to be true?

Again, with all things being equal, what are the chances of progressing on to a corporate or frac position in my early 40's? I don't mean in any way to say that these are ages at which people should be looking to head out to pasture, but I was just wondering how that works in aviation?

Any and all constructive comments are welcome.

Thanx Much,
Age discrimination

Along with the the thread that Ali set up for you, let me comment further on the age question. I do so because the thread was started by someone who is a little younger than you, so a somewhat different response is in order.

I was 36, which is about your age, when I decided to change careers to professional aviation. I had been flying for five years and had earned all of my single-engine ratings. I started hearing about an impending pilot shortage and wondered if I might have a chance. I discussed this with credible people in aviation. They thought I was still young enough, so I decided to go for it. This was in late 1987, when there was a wave of hiring, with many low-timers being hired.

I finished all my multi ratings, and with something like 900 hours and less than 50 of multi I first tried the commuters. Also tried freight. I was frustrated, but I knew that published mins for most commuters were 1500 total and 500 multi. Some, like Mesa and SkyWest, asked for 1000 total and 100 multi, so I didn't feel I was that far away.

Finally, I landed an instructing job at ERAU, where I built time, got my ATP, and ripened into the published mins. Even exceeded the mins for some commuters. All the while I had been sending tons of materials and filled out many application forms. I updated, and updated, and updated. If I received any responses at all it was those polite little "your application has been received and you will be called if a position appropriate to your qualifications is open" postcards and form letters. By the summer of 1990, I started getting interviews. In all, I had five interviews, although the fifth and last was just a massive cattle call. It was a complete waste of time. I was never hired. I was 40 by then.

I went on to other instructing jobs but continued to update. I updated with some commuters for six years. I never heard from another airline. There was a recession and war, just like now, and hiring had about ground to a halt. Those who were hired included flight instructors just like me, but who were nearly half my age and with fewer quals.

I realize that all this isn't entirely on point, but I write it as background to warn you that you could very well experience age discrimination. I am convinced that did.

Your chances might be better if you stay away from airlines. I say that because airline pilot recruiters only look at numbers and not at the person. If you go corporate or elsewhere, chances are your resume will go right to the person who could appreciate your qualities and you won't have to deal with some myopic H.R. airhead who knows nothing about people. It has been that corporate jobs are hard to find and may take years to get. Much depends on if the majors are hiring, because major airline hiring drives hiring elsewhere in the industry.

Sorry for the length, but some things need to be said. I'd get going if I were you. Good luck with your plans.
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Of course, I have to chime in on this one.

Bobby is right. If you network, and get to know corporate pilots and their bosses, you have a better chance, as I did. I may stay at my 135 outfit, or move on to Netjets when they start sending out apps again. By spring, I should have about 700 hours of jet time, the ATP, and maybe the type, too. In addition, I'm talking with all of the frac pilots I can, and finding out about the companies from an employee perspective. In other words, experience and personal contact are the best tools for the "older" pilot.

I'm not hanging my hat on a commuter or "major" job, since I don't fit any "desirable" category, such as female, non white, alternative lifstyle, etc. Being a white male over forty is a negative to the airlines. On the other hand, who does a fractional owner want to see in the cockpit of his plane? Someone who appears to be an older, experienced pilot. Use that desire to your advantage.

One Netjets pilot I talked with while in Bermuda said a friend called him and said how happy he was flying for the company, so this former Navy pilot, obviously older than myself, came out of retirement to fly for Netjets. He says he's having a great time.

I gotta agree somewhat with Bobby. If you are 37 now and really just starting out as a student, you have a long journey ahead. By the time you get all your certificates and some flying experience, assuming you have the resources to finish without pausing, you will be in your 40's. That assumes you did not just turn 37 today and includes six months to one year to get sufficient ratings and a couple more years to start accumulating 500-1,000 hours a year.

The stories you hear about guys getting hired by the airlines in their 40's and 50's are true but these individuals were probably flying in some other venue for a long, long time. I know that some interviewers want to see a lifelong commitment to a flying career. Your total time divided the number of years you've been flying is one indication of a dedication to the lifestyle. Making a lateral change in careers is not very favorable to HR departmetns either due to a perceived lack of commitment.

Fractionals or corporate will be your best bet after you get to that stage. If your heart is really set on this career goal, then here's what you need to do. Get your ratings, gather time and experience, network-network-network. It's hard to predict in this business but if you work hard, you could be flying something decent by the time you are 43-44??? King Air, BeechJet, Citation, etc... It also depends much upon your personality. I don't want to discourage you but if you don't basically live at the airport from now on, you don't want it bad enough.

Good luck
To answer your question

Your chances are good with a Frax or Corper if you work hard and accumulate quality training and experience. Give yourself 5 years from the time you started to really get somewhere. If you can do it in less time than that, my congratulations in advance.

Most Frax look for lower experience levels to qualify for the interview. Most good corp jobs with fortune companies look for a little more time, experience, and ratings. As stated before, a good personality helps much.
I once met a captain at my airline that said he took his first flight lesson at 40. He was wondering about the Fedex feeder I used to work for, so he could fly a Caravan after 60. It's only too late if you don't start now. I waited a long time, and now I couldnt' be happier. Don't worry about your age, if you want it, there will be a pilot job for you somewhere. If you don't do it, you will always have regrets.

I would sugges the book "I could do anything if I only knew what it was," By Barbara Sher. It tells you how to find your dream, and how to justify leaving your "safe" job to do it. It also helps you see that there is no such thing as a safe job anyway. Good luck and I hope this helps you.
But, it's not that easy

Well, I really wanted it and did everything that was recommended, and got nowhere.

Networking doesn't always work. For example, I tried for six years to get a job at SkyWest, beginning when I was below their mins to the point where I more than thrice exceeded their mins. I had updated and prepared new apps for SkyWest sooo many times that you'd think they'd give me an interview to (1) reward my persistence or (2) stop me from bothering them. It would have been no skin off their noses to meet with me. I would have paid my way to St. George. I even had a former student who was hired there walk in a fresh app to H.R. To be sure that my file hadn't fallen through the cracks, I attached a check for another application fee, although I had already paid the fee. My check was returned, so that told me they were aware of me. I never was called. My former student, who has since moved on to FedEx, was disappointed.

How old were you, Jim, when you got on at your regional? The regionals do hire people who are under 40. They generally will not if you're over 40. Nationals, turbojets and majors hire over 40. But, as CL60 stated so well, these new-hires already had many years of quality experience. Moreover, military people do enjoy an advantage, even if they were not military pilots.

Once again, all pilots and especially those who are older and are career changers need luck and timing. You absolutely, positively, must be in the right place in the right time.
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Hey everyone, good discussion.

nufft is looking for his best chances at a flying career. Specifically, he requested info on frax or corp. I'd have to say that the airlines, although not impossible after 40 will be a lower percentage avenue for him anyway partly due to his age and also his background.

Also, from my experiences on this end of aviation, he will probably have a better quality of life with the time he has left in his flying career if he goes corp.. Starting corporate pilot salaries are much better than starting regional pay and he won't have to standby in a crash pad somewhere.

Another reason relates to a friend of mine who got on with AA at 44 years of age. Unfortunately, with all the recent trouble, he won't make Captain for quite a while now and when he does, he won't have much seniority before he's forced out at 60. He's living his dream but won't get to enjoy many of the advantages of his younger counterparts in the years to come. He says he'll just try to stay an FO for as long as he can. Not too fulfilling a career but he's just happy to be there.

nufft, keep forging ahead and never give up. When you do finally make it, you will be happy you selected this life, it is the best. If you need help with corp or frax advice, just let me know.
Many Many Thanx

Really Really Good Discussion!!

Thank you all very much for your great advice & words of encouragement. I cannot even begin to express how greatful I am for all of your replies. I am very glad that I took the time to post my question here.

I'd like to know if anyone has any advice or opinions on how hard it would be to get on with a FedEx or UPS type feeder at 37 years old?

Thanx again everyone.


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