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Career advice please!

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New member
May 3, 2002

I am a 40 year old...with an established career...ROTC in college...eyesite went, decided not to take navigator slot. Finished business degree...been working since. Always wanted to be a major airline pilot.....well, at 40 I know that the prospect with my little PPL is dim. What is a reasonable career path if I were to go full bore on my training...instr. multi, instructor ratings, instructing, commuter route? I have a good amount of money saved up... enough for any advanced training (ie. jet rating).

You know, sat in the cockpit of an A-340, years ago before 9/11, on Air France...captain let me stay there for landing! What an incredible experience...once in a lifetime and glad that I had the opportunity...never forget it!

If it is OK to email you back, please say so!

Thanks for the help and my hat off to you for sticking with your passion!

Joe [email protected]
Life begins at 40 . . . sometimes

I was approaching forty when I went for aviation. I started flying when I was 31 twenty years ago because I always wanted to fly. Six years later, there started to be news about an impending pilot shortage. I already had most of my ratings. I asked aviation people I trusted if I was too old to start a professional aviation career. They said no. Two people I knew who were just ordinary guys like me had gotten on with commuters. I figured that if they could do it, I could do it. All I ever wanted was a commuter airline job.

I finished my ratings, applied to commuters and freight, and got nowhere. I had 1000 hours and 50 of multi, but this was during the mid-to-late-'80s hiring boom. I finally got a job at ERAU as instructor. All the while, I was applying to commuters. I did so primarily because I saw that commuters were picking up Riddle instructors whose only experience was flight instruction. I received few responses, and those I received were polite little rejection postcards. I built up enough time to meet the commuter mins of the day, which were 1500 total and 500 of multi - less than the commuters require today - and still received few responses compared to my paper output. I did have five commuter interviews, but was never hired. A recession and the Gulf War hit, which essentially stopped hiring. Before then, people nearly half my age and with fewer quals were getting the commuter jobs. I blame age discrimination in large part for my not getting a commuter airline job. I also discovered that there is no pilot shortage, nor has there ever been a pilot shortage.

I write all this in hopes of giving you some perspective. The long and short of it is, well, you got it right, don't expect a job with the majors. You might hear about folks past forty getting on with the majors. The truth is these are extremely experienced and qualified pilots who started young and have flown for years for military, corporate, freight, frax, and regionals. You need regional experience to get Part 121 time to be competitive for the majors. You get that at the regionals and, based on my experience, I feel that regional airlines practice age discrimination. Their conehead recruiters evaluate by the numbers, and older persons who are obvious career changers don't fit the profile. Once again, I base my opinions on strictly on my experience.

Having said all this, there is still plenty that you can do in aviation. Nothing wrong with being a career instructor. Aviation needs dedicated career instructors. My Chief Instructor at Riddle was a career Navy man before he went for aviation. You can fly Part 135, freight if you like it, tours, fractionals. Set reasonable goals.

You can finish your ratings any number of ways. Most people go for their Instrument after their Private. Then Commercial. A very good way to do it is to knock off your commercial cross-country requirements in a single. Then go for Private multi. Then Instrument and Commercial multi. Getting your Private multi relatively early in your training lets you log multi PIC, which is extremely important. After finishing your Commercial-Multi-Instrument, you can add on your Commercial single in a fixed-gear airplane, such as a 172. Then you can get your CFI ratings. Some people take their initial certification in the multi right off their Commercial-Multi-Instrument. They get MEI and CFI-I. I like that idea, because you're fresh off your commercial rides and the knowledge is still fresh, and it makes your expensive multi time cost-effective.

Hope these thoughts help. Good luck with your plans.
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Sorry to burst your bubble but if I were you, I'd stick with aviation as a hobby. I started at 29, got my CFI at 30 and all the other ratings you can imagine within the next two years while instructing. If that's what you want to do, instruct, then go for it... trouble is there's very little $$$ in it. At age 42 I'm facing the third layoff in a 15 month period, all from different airlines, and If I didn't have the help of my spouse to support my aviation habit I would have had to get a real job long ago. Now with all those highly qualified pilots on the street (5000+) chances of landing a good flying job are that much harder... and its all networking. I've got at least 10 guys at other airlines bugging their HR dept.s to get me an interview and I'm still waiting... That said, if I had to do it over again, I would... but I would have started MUCH earlier. Every year counts. To start an aviation career at 40 is just not realistic. It's possible, but it's not realistic. Good luck anyway.
On the other hand...

It just might work out that by the time you finish your ratings and build 1,000 houirs, the economy will have picked up, and those 5,000 pilots will have gone back to work or moved on.

Enter: you, with lots of recent experience, and no rust.

Could be a winner.
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It depends on your perspective and goals. If you are in this for money I would say no. Set broad goals like being a jet captain, if you are flying left seat in a CRJ in 5 years cool and if timming and luck have it and you are sitting left seat in a 737 a little further down the road then it will taste even better.

After flying for 5+ airlines, props to jets and three furloughs in the past, all I can say is "BE READY FOR ANYTHING, AND I MEAN ANYTHING"

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Some of those replys were pretty good at bursting your bubble. Why do you want to do this kind of career change? Is it for the $$ at the major airlines or is it just because you have to?

I was a non-flying officer in the Air Force and I got out to fly. I got all my ratings (Comm, Inst, ME, CFI, CFII, and MEI) by the time I was 34. That school was going to hire me but we had to move (my wife was still an active-duty officer). All the schools that I went to in Ohio did the "we like to hire our own grads" routine and I finally got an instructor job that got me 50 hours in six months. Since my wife was getting out of the service, I had to pursue other career paths to support a growing family.

At the age of 37, I said I have one final chance at it and I am going to take it - I had to fly. I got my Flight Engineer ticket and managed to get on with a 121 carrier. Not a path that I would recommend now with the glut of pilots and the retirements of 3-person aircraft. Thing is, while I was waiting with my FE ticket, I picked up an instructing job at American Flyers and I was going to instruct my way to a flying career. I was not going back to a "normal" life.

I am fairly low total time but I've sat at a window seat for over a thousand hours up in the flight levels and I can tell you - there is no job like it in the world. I will not give it up.

You don't have to make the majors. A job at one of the regionals has a great future (I hope to be there soon) or most of the supplementals can lead to fulfillment of your dreams.

I guess, point is, if flying for a career is what you want to do - really want to do - go for it. And don't give up when other people say you're too old or there is really no future in it. Aviation as a hobby is nothing like aviation as a career.

Good luck.
Career Advice Please

Hello fellow pilots...Bobbysamd, BigFlyr, Timebuilder, AAFlyer, Tri-holer...

Your kind and thoughtful responses are really appreciated. Offering your time and experience is something that is a gift. We all seek satisfaction and a precious life experience while we are here on this "Leg of History" ...a blink really. I guess that being true to ourselves concerning the experiences that we desire for ourselves is of the utmost importance....living with the consequences of those choices are more wonderful if they return what we strove for and we are more able to "be at peace with ourselves" if they don't as compared to not having worked towards a dream.....

Thanks again for your forthcoming kindness, Jose-Luis:)
Go for it, there are other flying jobs out there that pay well, like flying for some federal, state or local government entity. Also there are corporate jobs too which are competitive, so hey do what you want to do accept the challenge and you will be better for it. I remember two people on my new hire class who were over the age of 50, no military background, but they flew their lips off for many years, so hey it can be done. Good luck!
I've always wondering, if people have "always wanted to fly", how could you end up being 40? If flying has truly been a life long dream, you would have decided to take the plung much earlier. You may make excuses, family, finances, etc... but the bottom line is if you have always wanted to fly you should have started a long time ago.

I've always wanted to fly, so I started at 15. And I went in to massive amounts of debt getting my training and degree done. But it was all worth it.

For some it is a midlife crisis type of thing. they get all excited about it but don't realize everything that goes in to it. Are you willing to take the HUGE paycut that you will take when you start in aviation? CFI's don't make much, first year regional pilots make even less.

That doesn't mean you can't enjoy flying. If I was your age, and for some reason or another I never acted on my dream to fly and I was 40, I would get training done and buy a plane if I could afford it. That way you can enjoy aviation on your terms.

I have seen (and instructed) 40 year old guys that wanted to start a flying career. It can be done, but is very difficult.

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