View Full Version : Too old for training??

3rd Jul 2001, 17:24
At 36 with a PhD and ten years in pharmaceuticals I've just decided to change course entirely and embark on an aviation career. For me this means the modular route over the next year or so (I'm only at PPL level at present). On broaching the subject of age, OATS and every other provider I've spoken to so far have said it's no problem. However, if possible I would like the opinion of professionals already in the industry (those who know the score AND haven't got a vested interest in taking money off me) and those of others embarking on the same journey. I will be nearly 38 upon completion but I'll have less than 300 hours in total. I don't at present know what I can reasonable expect in terms of a future career. I know I won't walk into a shiny outfit like BA at the start but is it ever going to be likely starting this late? Any views most welcome.

3rd Jul 2001, 18:25
Here we go again! Sorry, but this subject does crop up incredibly regularly. If you do a search using the keywords 'too old', you'll find many, many guys like yourself asking this question.
There is, of course, no definitive answer. It largely depends on what you wnat to achieve, and how single-minded you are about achieving it. There is no doubt that you could make it to a major - our own Capt Pprune started (as an IT chap) in his 30s, and is now flying 757s for one of our larger charter outfits. BA and Virgin will recruit people well into their 40s, if they have appropriate experience (say 1000-2000 hours including some jet time), so it's up to you to get that experience!
You must take each stage in turn as your primary goal, without ever losing sight of the eventual aim. Work your socks off; GAPAN aptitudes, PPL, IMC, night, ATPL groundschool, hour building, multis etc, etc, until you are in a position to start looking for jobs. Air Taxi work, instructing, commuters, who knows? It's all valuable, and it all builds into a CV a jet operator will appreciate.
The downside is that it will cost you a great deal of money and time. 50k is not unreasonable, and 2-3 years' hard work. If you have a supportive (emotionally and financially) partner, brilliant. But warn them it will be a hard struggle, and there will be setbacks. How much do you want it?

3rd Jul 2001, 18:35
Thanks for your reply. Fortunately I have an incredibly supportive family and I want this more than anything and they know what's required as we have been over and over it. It's not a sudden decision in truth. I failed to get into the RAF after uni and couldn't afford to fund myself for commercial flying. When thinking about what career would suit I've always tried to think what else could I do? I've always known what I really want to do. It's taken a long time to just say 'sod it' I'm going to make this happen but I'm here now and set to do just that. Thanks again for your input.

3rd Jul 2001, 18:45
Oh yes, I forgot..... Best of luck!

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Deputy Dog
3rd Jul 2001, 20:41
Welcome to the club !!

I am 37, 3 kids + mortgage, MSc, JAR PPL,IT (software dev) in city. Just looking at distance learning courses. Don't like having to shell out initial 400 for class 1 medical (having already got a good class 2 AND a class 3 also !!). Still at the will I, won't I stage.

3rd Jul 2001, 20:58
...well you know what my suggestion would be. But I guess you have to talk it over with your partner too. Mine is extremely supportive and wants me to be happy in my work (which is fantastic). Unfortunately she doesn't share my enthusiasm for flying and just see's it as a way to get from A to B.

Anyway, whatever you decide good luck. Just think about how you're going to feel in another ten years if you don't though. Whoops sorry.. that's going to do you no good at all. Good luck. Whatever!


4th Jul 2001, 02:40

maybe we need a new forum on here for wannabees who think we're past it... i'm just about 30 and with a few years in the IT industry am considering the same question as you ... I've had an incredible amount of encouragement from the PPRuners , I think that's what it takes to give us that final nudge ... I'm currently only 6 hours PPL but after that it'll be CPL/IR, ATPL ... etc etc... good luck !

429 CJ
4th Jul 2001, 06:56
Great advice scroggs et al.

Don't get too stressed about your age, guys and girls. I didn't start flying until I was twenty six and only then for fun. Late last year (read 31 y.o.) I got serious with it and got a CPL AND my first job through another contributor toTHIS WEBSITE!!!

So, yes, it can happen for you as well, just work hard at it, and stay focussed on your goal.

P.S. Don't forget to keep your partner involved (in the loop) if you know where I'm coming from...., mine is, and she has been incredibly patient, and together the world is ours!

'Gravity' is just a myth that the earth sux.....anon.. (or was I just drunk again?)

4th Jul 2001, 23:07
I am 36 and as scroggs said if you want you can do it. I am near completion of my ppl and next year I hope to have every bit of paper and qualifications I can get my hands on. Oh yes your other half is vital. I was lucky that a captain allowed both of us a jump seat ride in an Airbus, crystal clear night into Stanstead. I think that convinced her plus the social side of things is quite good at my AD.

Best of luck and see you there.

PS I am in biotech, but would rather be....


4th Jul 2001, 23:52
Ok, another lamb to the slaughter !

36, IT Contractor, Good Salary (better than I ever imagined) and totally miserable.

Over a year ago I got my Class One with the ambition of getting my PPL re-validated after a period working abroad and then navigating the ATPL/Modular route. Got seduced by the high salary of working in IT and let it slip. After spending the last year watching the jets on 27 finals at Heathrow I have decided that there must be more to selling your soul to IT !
At the end of the day if you want it bad enough you WILL achieve it.
Maybe we should start an over 30's club ?

Good luck one and all...keep in touch.


5th Jul 2001, 07:23
I wish you the best of luck, guys, but do remember that your final aim is to get a job, not just to gain the license. If you are 30+ and have the same experience and aptitude as a 20 yr-old then most employers will go for the latter.

You will be well-advised to figure an FIC rating and at least a couple of years' instructing into your calculations. By the time you have gained 1200 hours then most airlines might offer you an interview.

It is a long haul but IMHO still worth it in the end

You know when you've been CHF'd!

5th Jul 2001, 13:26
In reponse to ChuffBaby.. I think what you say is reasonable. However, I would imagine (some of) the airlines to be interested also in people that have proven they can handle situational and people management. Although we may not be as young and fit as the integrated route 21 year old OATS graduate, many of us have other experience aside from flying that will surely be of potential value?? Or is this just wishful thinking???

I think this is a reasonable point to debate and would hope to provoke numerous responses.

5th Jul 2001, 14:43

I started flying with 33 after spending hours and hours on the weekends at the airports and spotting planes. After the first few hours of flying a C172, "the virus" spread all over my small brain and I decided to go for the frozen ATPL (CPL/IR/ME all included)but also on the modular route. It took me three years to complete everything paralell to my job and ended up with 230 hrs total including 50 ME on a Seneca. Turning 36 I submitted my application to CROSSAIR in Switzerland, was invited and GOT THE JOB !!
Now I am in the type transition course on the Embraer-145 as a first officer being on line somewhere around the end of August this year. It is JUST GREAT and I never want to do anything else again !
I have a MSc & PhD in materials engineering and spent several years in industry gaining "life experience" which is very valuable for airlines.
On the first day at Crossair one of the instructors told our class (16 of us) that Crossair has had very good experience with "older" F/Os (&gt;30).Maturity and life experience also are taken into account. It is not only the hours in total which count.
Also consider the fact, that at 30 or above the chances are quite good to start the first airline job without any debts since you could save some money to pay for all training. This really makes you sleep better (at least I do !)
However, I tip my hat in front of the younger guys out there who have quite some high debts but really "the right stuff" and a lot of courage for the first airline job. By taking such a high financial risk (from my point of view) they really show a strong dedication for their first job !!
Finally, I think there is no golden rule to get a job in an airline. If you really want it, you will get it. You certainly need some luck. Combine this with desperate will and dedication, you will be the winner !
I was very lucky and got a job right after finishing my training. Thank god for this !

Stop talking about age, if you want to fly, DO IT and you'll get it !

Wish you all the best endurance and luck !


5th Jul 2001, 14:53
That's excellent! I think it would be great to get any job after training. CrossAir would be cool for me though as I would doubtless get to fly my old boss who's a senior manager in a big Swiss pharma company(here's a clue; it begins with Nov and ends in Artis). He would be soooo jealous...

Send Clowns
6th Jul 2001, 21:46

Have just finished ATPL(frozen)/CPL/IR at SFT and lots of people your age and older. Cabair told us when I considered them that they get students up to mid forties.

Just do it, it's well worth it, and best of luck!


6th Jul 2001, 22:16

I too am in the pharma industry and a couple of years out of my PhD. I'm pushing 30 also and cannot understand why I didn't realise earlier that I wanted to fly. Just wanted to wish you all the best. I hope to accumulate the cash some time over the next few years to make the leap from a job that although pays well, just seems to bore me. I guess it's because I know that I want to be doing something else.

Again, the big question for me is post training job opportunities. Feedback here suggests that persistance and luck are the keys. Right now I am very envious of anyone staring out on this new and exciting journey. Please keep us posted on your progress.

Best wishes,


7th Jul 2001, 20:07
NigelS and all the others,

I'm in a similar situation - 34 with 10 yrs of a strong career in the media behind me, but it's time to acknowledge the urge I've had since uni. I hope to start training in Sept'. I know these posts seem to crop up every 2 mins on this site, but from my research to date, airlines are very interested in those who have strong experience in business and management. There are many qualities that map across from our previous careers that can make you stand out from the crowd in the selection process - qualities that will not necessarily be learned during training. So good luck - I'd like to hear how you progress.

Pilot Pete
7th Jul 2001, 21:21

Do be a little cautious thinking your previous experience will make you 'more attractive' to the airlines. I don't wish to be offensive, just give you the advantage of hindsight from someone he's been there. Airlines are interested only in flying experience i.e. how many hours have you got at the controls and how big was the aircraft you were flying and weather you have command hours amongst these and what type of flying were you doing.

Your management experience etc will be excellent for discussion at interview where the interviewer is looking for three things from you - Determination, Responsibility and Flexibility. These three headings cover all the qualities that an airline want from a pilot. Unfortunately, passing the interview is not the hard part, getting the interview in the first place is by far the trickiest task you will be faced with once qualified, just read the numerous threads from people desperate to secure even one positive reply from their hundreds of CV's. People do get interviews with low hours once qualified, but even they will agree that they are the exception, not the rule, so it's all hours, hours, hours.

Best of luck anyway.


7th Jul 2001, 21:23
Air travel is expected to double worldwide over the next 2 decades and as such will result in major amounts of hiring by all airlines so you have chosen to embark upon an aviation career at the right time.
There are considerably more opportunites now then back in the early '80s when the RAF gave you the red light. The great majority of pilots recruited by the majors used to be from the military but now it is from the civilian sector.

8th Jul 2001, 06:03
Pilot Pete,

I understand your point - I do not think for one second that "non-hours" experience in other areas could be a substitute for flying experience and that certainly was not my point in my previous post. I was only passing on feedback from quite a few sources that suggested experience from other careers and professions would not necessarily be a complete waste in the whole mix. Those qualities are still positive ticks in boxes, even if small ones.

Pilot Pete
8th Jul 2001, 13:09

yeah, point taken, maybe it was just the way I read it that made it sound like the emphasis was on non-flying previous experience. You're right to look at it as part of what you can offer prospective employers and certainly any previous experience which fulfils the '3' qualities the airlines look for is a tick in the right box.

Good luck


ps If you want a little inspiration for what can be achieved by us 30+ers my story was received quite favourably first time round. Click here http://www.pprune.org/cgibin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=2&t=008009 to read all about it.


[ 08 July 2001: Message edited by: Pilot Pete ]

8th Jul 2001, 18:12
Pilot Pete,

What an incredible story. Well done to you - and your family. Thanks for pointing me to it.

9th Jul 2001, 21:29
I am 35 now and started to learn to fly at the grand old age of 33! I had prevously been in the RAF but not as a pilot. I had taken the tests and fallen down on my eyesight since I wear contacts. I was gutted at the time, but at 18 had all the time in the world.

I spent the next 15 years sitting down the back of Nimrods and AWACs aircraft being thrown around the sky by people doing MY job!!

By the time 1999 arrived I had a mortgage, a little girl, and a very understanding wife who had realised that I would eventualy give up the safe life on a huge gamble of becoming a pilot.

Its great, that check rolling in every month and the bills getting paid, not a worry in the world. October 1999 all that changed, my bank account started to hemorage at the seams as over the next 18 months 50K was sucked away on an ab-initio course at Oxford. I lived on campus since I didnt think that I could do the course and all that it involved and have a family life. I was right!

I was not prepared for the sheer volume of work that was required, a pile of books nearly as tall as me and having to stuff 75% of it into my tiny brain over a period of about 8 months. I set to it and spent about 4-5 hours a night studying and eventualy it all paid off with a pass in all the ATPLs.
Only the flying to do now!! Ho Ho!Hour after hour spent sitting in a PA28 staring at little needles flicking this way and that. I knew they were telling me something, but to start with, what? Each test brought the illusive license that bit closer but each time you worried if the next test would be the grand hurdle. A few guys did struggle but with persiverance eventually passed as did I.

On the 16 January this year I was given my 50K piece of paper, saying I had passed the IR.

I thought that was the hard bit over and done with, back to having a family and a pay check again!How wrong was I!

I compiled a list off all the UK companies that I could find and rang every one of them to ensure that the CV went to the right person (There is a link in the archive to the list if you would like it). 57 CVs later and all I had to show was a pile of PFO's, and only those from the airlines that could be bothered to reply, come back with 1000+ hours was the best they could do. Still I was at home for a change and earning, 52 a week dole!!

Its not all been a downer though since I was lucky enough to be called for an interview arranged through a contact at Oxford for a job flying 737's. To cut the story short I got the job and started to fly the beast a little over a month ago.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Is it easy? NO!!!!

Whats the hardest bit? Being away from the family ALL the time and trying getting a job at the end. There are lots of low hour guys looking for a break and they deserve it after all the hard work. I was VERY VERY lucky.

Would I recommend it? Just see the grin on my face as I take control release the brakes and open the throttles.

Are you too old? I dont think so, but you do realy have to commit yourself and have a goal to work towards.

The very best of luck to you, it can be done despite what other people tell you.

[ 10 July 2001: Message edited by: batty ]

10th Jul 2001, 13:53
Thanks for your message. When I originally posted mine I wanted to canvas opinion from other wannabes and professional pilots alike. I have done that now and am satisfied that the journey ahead, while hard, will not necessarily be fruitless. You and I can look at the various experiences described herein and be heartened by them.
I'm now fully committed and have embarked on the journey. If you decide this is definitely for you then I wish you all the luck in the world.



10th Jul 2001, 16:09
Get a Class one medical before anything else. :eek:

10th Jul 2001, 16:13
There are some great stories, and some excellent points have been made, on this thread. I'd like to pick up on one aspect which caused a little bit of discussion earlier, and is very relevant to you 'older' chaps who've a successful career in another field behind you.
Your experience is important, and potentially very valuable, in your search for a job, in a number of ways. Firstly, unless you've been very lucky or you were in a totally unchallenging environment, you'll have experienced many occasions where you've had to fight your own corner to get something done. You'll fall back on that experience many, many times in your near future...!! Secondly, when you finally come to the interview for a major airline, for whom aircrew are more than just drivers/airframe, your experience will most certainly give you an advantage over someone with equal flight hours but less life hours. BA is the prime example of an employer that sees its pilots as management in aeroplanes, but there are others.
Sure, it's true that the small operators just want someone to pole their punters around the skies, and they don't care if you have a Nobel Prize in astrophysics as long as you turn up on time, every time. But I assume that's not where you want to end up? Experience is never wasted.....

10th Jul 2001, 16:23
Thanks for that Scroggs, you're a STAR.
Your wise words should give us all hope.

I thank all those that replied to my original message. I'm very satisfied now and looking forward to just getting on with it.

But first... I'm off to book that Class 1 medical.

Best wishes and kind regards everyone


11th Jul 2001, 17:33
If it is any help I was 30 when my PPl was issued , with no intentions of flying professionally . Got made redundant 8 years ago and ended up doing a BCPL and AFI rating just for the hell of it . 3000 hrs later i'm flying for an air taxi company . Even with 3000+ hrs and an ATPL I still haven't had an interview with airline big or small , guess it must be my aftershave . I firmly believe that it doesn't matter how many hours you have and what ratings you hold if your C.V. is at the top of the pile when they need a pilot then you are in with a chance . Good luck ....

Deputy Dog
12th Jul 2001, 14:13
I think you need to have that assurance from time to time from others to 'keep the faith'.
For instance, I started getting in to this ATP Academy scheme document last night, thinking it would be a good idea, then BANG ! on the top of page 4 "Pilots under 34 or under ...." S**T. You just start thinking about your age again (is 34 the secret cut off age??) etc.....

12th Jul 2001, 15:30
Stuff the age,

Think supply and demand. Remember, it was not that long ago the cutoff was 28.

Also, remember that maturity in life you only gain with age, and some operators look for that.

Just because ATP choose 34, well so what? Take a look at it in 12 months time, and I'll put money on it, that it'll be diferent.

Age - think of it opening other doors that are not open to the youger ones. Same apply in reverse.

Keep going. I'm over 40 and still recon I'm in with a chance.

PS :cool:

12th Jul 2001, 15:44
I'd just like to throw in another nugget that you might like to consider, mainly in response to the last post.
The maximum age for pilot recruiting is directly proportional to the difficulty in obtaining qualified pilots. In times of economic plenty, there aren't enough pilots to go round and so maximum ages rise. In times of economic hardship, that maximum age will reduce (and maybe other qualification hoops can be introduced to filter out all but the best at the earliest stage).
Right now there is a shortage of highly-qualified, type-rated pilots. That filters down the food chain, so that it is relatively easy to get a job at the moment. Note that I say 'relatively easy'. There are still many more Wannabes than suitable jobs, but the age window is as wide open as it's ever been at the moment. There will still be many, many disappointments.
If you read the business pages of your newspapers, and the news pages of Flight (try starting at the front for a change!), you will be beginning to get the idea that all is not as wonderful as it might be on the economic front, and that there is no sign yet of any improvement. As the downturn continues, companies will rein in their transport and air-freight spending, which will inevitably impact the airlines and their expansion plans. This, of course, will slow down the jobs market and will lead to more restrictive specs being placed on pilot applicants. Age may well be one of the factors that is tightened up - most training organisations recognise that it is easier to teach younger people (ie the failure rate is lower). That's why the RAF, RN and BA are very restrictive on age - they can afford to be.
It's not all doom and gloom; this is still a long way from being a recession. But it is a factor you should bear in mind.

12th Jul 2001, 16:00

I understand fully where you are comming from and agree with you, but I'd just like to make the point that a prediction is just that, or someones view on the future etc.

Sure, the popular belief is that we are heading for a recession, but to balabnce the argument, there is another opinion that recons that air travel will double in the next 10 years. Now I know which one I would like to subscribe to, but I'm convinced otherwise.

Now, if I could predict the future, rest assured I would not be reading this forum, or any other, or looking to fly for a living etc etc etc.



13th Jul 2001, 23:06
Definately too old. Dont do it.You are wasting your time and money.

14th Jul 2001, 00:44
yes, predictions are a difficult science! While I'd like to believe those that say air travel will double every 10 years (or whatever), I can't help feeling that they're the same folks who 'predicted' that internet and tech stocks would go on rising! I think that the reality is somewhat less blindly optimistic. That's far from doom and gloom, but even if all was well economically, no-one's building the infrastructure to support this expansion. Our own government, in initiating the latest aviation review, suggested that the question was not 'how we enable aviation expansion', but 'whether we should accept any expansion at all'. Makes one think, eh?

[ 13 July 2001: Message edited by: scroggs ]

Norman Stanley Fletcher
14th Jul 2001, 04:24
I may be able to share some personal experience here. I started a CAP509 course at 36, and was fully supported by my wife who has been a star. I was very fortunate and got a job straight away for which I am exceedingly grateful. I am now nearly 42 and have just become a Line Training Captain on a regional turboprop. I have also just been offered a job flying A320s and A321s which I have accepted, and I start in September. I am not saying this to boast in any way but to show you that if you are good and dedicated then age is simply not an issue.

Our company actively seeks out FOs in their 40s because they think they might stay! I love my job and still have to pinch myself that I have the opportunity to do what I love doing. Some of the posts on this thread are simply wrong. There are now many FOs seeking their first job who are late starters. As I now train others, it is a fascinating insight into the talents of the various people who we recruit. In addition to a small amount (and that's all you need) of talent, there are 3 qualities required to succeed - dedication, dedication and dedication!

I am nothing special and I have had a lot of knocks along the way. I have come home from bad days and just determined to learn from the experience and get back on the saddle the next day. To all those people who say it cannot be done, I say it can. As the advert says, 'just do it!'

Pilot Pete
14th Jul 2001, 05:01
Well said Norman Stanley,


14th Jul 2001, 17:15
Norman Stanley,

Good to read your post. Accurate, informed and realistic. It seems these boards abound with those looking for blanket assurances or guarantees. This is strange, as such guarantees do not exist anywhere else in business or professional life! Your points are both realistic and encouraging - thanks

Norman Stanley Fletcher
15th Jul 2001, 18:26
A couple of people have e-mailed me wanting to know which company I work for and also if others would look at them. I have obviously taken an interest in this sort of thing and the following companies have all taken older people (35-45) for their first job:

ScotAirways (Dornier 328 - ultra-modern turboprop)
Channel Express (F27 very old turboprop)
Emerald Airways (HS 748 - very old turboprop)
City Flyer Express (ATRs - reasonably modern turboprop)
British European (Dash 8s - reasonably modern turboprop)

Like all jobs, there is a lot of competition. The more hours you have (particularly multi-engine hours), the greater your chances. Like I said before, though, if you have a modicum of ability and loads of determination then you are in with a shout. Do not worry about your age - for many people it is simply not a factor.

All the best to one and all in their search.

[ 16 July 2001: Message edited by: Norman Stanley Fletcher ]

brain fade
16th Jul 2001, 07:27
If you're looking for folk to talk you out of it, you couldn't have come to a worst place! get on with it and stop yer feckin procrasternashing! (yeah, and good luck to yer also) :confused:

Deputy Dog
16th Jul 2001, 14:00
Thanks Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have made my day !!!!!!!!!!!



16th Jul 2001, 14:24

You've made an old (in aviation terms, not life) man very happy.


Do I get the feeling that we agree, but cannot say so?

Best regards to all


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