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5 Answers

Too old?

Asked by: 5847 views Commercial Pilot

So I'm 55. Got my private a year ago. Have 200 TT, halfway to the IFR (passed the written, have a second class medical), did a long solo cross-country from CA to OK and back in a 172. Want to go as far as I can. Have no illusion about working for an airline or anything major. But...I want to get professional quality training. What do you think about going to a place like ATP and doing their airline career pilot program? Although extremely intense--and I would be way older than anybody else--seems like I'd get a lot more value for the time and money invested. For instance, you get all that multi time, plus a very structured program geared to creating professional pilots. Would I end up a better pilot for the time and money invested? And if I did decide to pursue some kind of professional work, would there be any hope of finding any at my age? Need a reality check here. Thanks in advance for your candor.

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5 Answers

  1. Paul Tocknell on Feb 06, 2011

    Short answer:  No, you are not too old. 

    Long Answer:  If you want to get professional quality training and want to get it done in a shorter span of time, I think a place like ATP would be great.  Although I haven’t been a student there, I have heard great things about it from their former & curent students.  As far as your professional career options, obviously being a full time flight instructor would be an obvious choice but not the only one.  You could also work as a pilot for any part 91 operator.  I used to work with an aerial survey pilot who was in his mid 70s at the time (he’s still flying there) and I had a hard time keeping up with him.

    Although you might criticize yourself for your lack of flying experience in relation to your age, your life experiences are every bit as important as the total time in your logbook.  Flight instruction is only partly about teaching flying and mostly about teaching people to think and make critical decisions.  Your wisdom and experiences would be of great benefit in teaching the later. 


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  2. Matthew Waugh on Feb 06, 2011

    So I agree with Paul – I have done the short courses at ATP, and it’s good structured training. I have heard stories about the professional pilot programs, and it’s probably pretty good training for a professional pilot, including the constantly changing schedule, flea bag motels etc., etc.
    As for doing professional flying. You’re going to be entering the industry at the bottom, with the subsequent wage scale. If money isn’t an issue then you can certainly find work and have a good time down pretty mucn any path. If you need to be able to make living wage then you’ll probably need to look into the company aviation departments or charter groups, and in those places it’s nothing to do with your skills and experience and EVERYTHING to do with your contacts – so start working on them 🙂

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  3. skyboyCFI on Feb 07, 2011

    I hate to disagree with Paul cause he might kick me off of here, but ATP sucks. They pump their students through like a meat factory. Find a ‘quality’ school that’s local. There is no added benefit in any one school.

    But regardless where you go, it’s 99% about who your instructor is. Not any program. Even some of the good schools employ low quality instructors. Even Embry Riddle.

    Do more research. And save money by doing it local. ATP is all marketing. Trust me. I’ve seen the crap they produce.

    Sadly some of them go on to the airlines, and the Colgan flight 3407 is a good example of poor quality training and learning.


    Happy, Safe & Affordable Flying!!


    You’re never too old to fly. As long as your healthy. I know many great pilots in their 70’s.

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  4. Heather McNevin on Feb 07, 2011

    I am very excited to hear your attitude towards training.  First off, your age is not a factor.  My oldest student was 71 when he got his license.  I’ve never been a student at ATP, but I would imagine they have a good program.  I am curious though, if you don’t have aspirations of getting into the airline pilot program, why the accellerated courses.  You can get quality training in many locations.  Perhaps, you could take a cross country to an airport and get your tailwheel training.  Or maybe an emergency upset course.  Go take a mountain flying course in Idaho or fly gliders in Nevada.  If your goal is just to get some great training and experience, seek it out.  Visit a FSS, an ATC tower, and a Center.  Partake in the FAA Wings program.  If you don’t have to drop a ton of money to get a whole bunch of training in a short period of time, you might want to consider other options.  You can still be a pilot that is a professional without taking a professional pilot course.

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  5. Kent Shook on Feb 08, 2011

    At 55, the only thing it is really too late for you to do in terms of professional aviation is to fly for a major airline. There are MANY other opportunities in aviation. Depending on where you are, you may be able to find a nearby airport with an amazing mix of traffic. My home field has airlines, military, corporate, flight training, etc… And I’ve seen a lot of different things that professional pilots do who come through: Air ambulance, banner towing, aerial mapping, we even had one of the MetLife style blimps come through. And, of course, flight instruction. What kind of flying do you want to do?
    However, I don’t think that an ATP-style program is what you’re looking for. Their target market is young people who are going to the airlines, and they’ll give you the drink-from-a-firehose style training that gets the ratings done, but gives you very little depth of experience, assuming that’s something you’ll pick up in the right seat of a regional carrier. I’m guessing that the opportunities you’ll have in commercial aviation are going to be of the single-pilot variety and you’d do well to get more “real-world” type of experience. For example, you might want to check out Morey’s West Coast Adventures to finish up the Instrument rating – You’ll not only get it done quickly, you’ll get a ton of valuable real-world experience. http://www.ifrwest.com/ 
    From your CA-OK cross country, you surely learned a lot – That sort of thing gives you excellent experience too, so keep doing it – Better yet, transition into a high-performance and/or complex airplane and go somewhere in that. Seek out other training, such as tailwheel, upset/aerobatic training, mountain flying, etc. while you’re working towards your ratings – It will all make you a better pilot, and give you a much better depth of experience to draw from when you become employed, and the confidence and knowledge you’ll need to execute the missions your employer needs.
    Good luck!

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