Recently we were asked if thirty is too old to start learning to fly. This person had a goal to become an airline pilot. Learning to fly when you’re over 30 and becoming a pilot is totally achievable.
Getting your licence
Let’s say you’re thirty. You can complete your flight training in two years or less. Most flying schools don’t expect you to complete your training full-time, so you’ll have plenty of flexibility to fit in your flying hours around your other commitments.
With your licence in hand, you can become a flight instructor or charter pilot. In either position, you will be able to gain flying hours, which will be your main goal if you are to continue to pursue a career as an airline pilot.
First steps as a new pilot
There’s really no need to rush to complete your hours or your training, but you should aim to be consistent. If you let the time you were spending getting some flying hours in drop, you risk losing some of your knowledge and technique. You’ll then need to put added effort into getting back on track.
Luckily, some great rewards lie ahead of you. When you have done enough flying hours you will be in a position to apply to work at an airline. It may have taken 3-5 years to complete your hours by working as a flight instructor or charter pilot and you might be 35 or 37 by now. You will still have about a 30-year airline career in front of you.
Becoming a captain
As you break into your new career you might be offered a position as a first officer of a regional airline. It would be a good goal and a realistic timeline that you work as a first officer for 3-7 years before you receive a new title as captain. Amazingly, you could do all this and be just 40 years old.
Becoming a captain of a regional airline is a huge achievement. Any pilot in this position will have ample cause to feel proud of their diligence and success. Some may feel content in their current position, or they could direct their sights to work at a major airline one day.
Working for major airlines
If you want to be hired by major airlines 750-1000 hours of captain time at a regional airline will be required. Let’s say you reach 1000 hours by the time you’re age 44. You will have over 20 years left in your career (maximum retirement age at Cathay Pacific is 65 for all new hire airline pilots).
You’ll also have an important choice to make. You can either stay at the regional airline and enjoy being a captain and all of the seniority that you have earned, or you can apply to the major airlines and start over as a first officer.
Realistically you might not have enough time to become a captain at a major airline, but as a first officer, you will get to fly wide-body international trips. There are benefits to both careers and it is a choice that only you can make.
Have fun and enjoy the journey!
If you’re over 30 and thinking about learning to fly, you can hopefully now feel confident that this is a great time to get started.