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Careers: Flying & Aviation/Re- Starting a flying career at 47


I started flying at the age of 18 and received my Private License and continued to my Commercial and then C F I in 1987. I started flight instructing and later obtained my Multi-Engine Instrument rating. During this process I accumulated about 875 hours of P I C
flight time in various airplanes including reciprocating twins. I left flight instruction and began a career being self employed. I am now in a place where I want to begin again I have a current medical and have obtained financing for the ATP flight school of my choice. I do not have a College degree. Should I proceed and realize that the worst case scenario is that I will only be a Flight Instructor?

Hi, Mark:

It is nice to hear from you, I will try to assist!

At 875 hours of flight time (for which I assume you have some documentation such as a log book and other information about where you flew....), and the various certificates and ratings that you indicate (Commercial, MEL and CFI-A), it appears to me that you have quite a number of qualifications to build upon.  The key thing in the near term is to build your flight qualifications and, at some point, earn a college degree.  Keep in mind that a college degree is not absolutely mandatory, depending on where you want to end up.  But, it would help in terms of being competitive.  But, the larger driving force for you might be time vs. money vs. your career goals (what is it that YOU want to do with flying---where do YOU want to end up???).

In the near term, flight time is key, for example, especially if you want to end up at the airlines.  Remember, as of Aug. 1, 2013, you will have to have 1500 flight hours to work in the right seat of an FAR 121 airline cockpit.  And, keep in mind that the current law allows you to fly for an FAR 121 airline until age, you have 18 years from now to build your hours and then go to work for an FAR 121 airline.  

So, you are 625 hours from the minimums required by the FAR 121 airlines, and, 1500 hours is probably going to be a good minimum to shoot for no matter which direction you want to hear with your career (corporate pilot, charter/FAR 135 pilot, or airline).  The question is:  How does one get to that minimum flight time?  

One way to get  up to 1500 hr would be to incorporate it within a college degree.  An aviation-related college degree might also be one that would give you some elective credit for the aviation certificates and ratings that you already have.  So, with that credit and any college courses that you might have already taken, you might be closer to a college degree than you expected.

And, if you were able to pursue a college degree (either in person or on line degree format) you could also do flight instruction, either as an employee of the institution you were attending (if brick and mortar institution) or in an independent flight training company (while you were doing an off campus or on line degree in aviation or in another major).  The university I work for, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, offers off campus programs in Aviation Management in California, and in North Carolina, for example.  Other schools like Embry Riddle offer them all over.....and then there are on-line programs, too (generally more expensive).

There are other ways to build flight time, too, but, first, you will have to get current and the fastest way to do that is to get started on CFI work since you have already done it.  If you can, get a job at a location where you can also do some charter work in addition to the CFI work....that sometimes helps build and broaden your experience.

But, once you get the 1500 hours, to answer your question posed on AllExperts, I would think that working as a flight instructor is a key FIRST STEP but, then, after 1500 hr total time is earned, you will have some options to pursue additional career paths in the aviation business (airline, corporate, NetJets, Citation Shares, charter or whatever).  Also, keep in mind that, to get to the ATP, it looks like you will need to build a certain amount of multi engine time and to get to an job at a larger airline (United or Southwest, etc) you will have to have multi engine, PIC time in a turbine aircraft---probably 500 to a 1000 hours minimum.  So, usually, pilots will spend time at a regional airline, or at a charter company or at a corporate flight dept, etc, to get that sort of time before moving on.

I hope that helps!

Best of luck to you,

Dave NewMyer

Careers: Flying & Aviation

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David A. NewMyer


Can advise people thinking about beginning and aviation career and espcially those thinking about an aviation university program. Can also help with aviation scholarship questions. I am particularly strong in questions related to starting a flight career, choosing a university flight or aviation management program, aviation internships and aviation scholarships. Also, I can assist with questions about airport management and planning careers and oveall aviation industry employment questions.


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Prepared In addition to aviation education, I work at a major university, I have worked as an airport planner preparing airport system plans, airport master plan and environmental assessment reports for the Chicago area in general and for several individual Illinois airports.

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