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AirportOPS
Topic Author
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:45 pm

Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 9:09 pm

Hello all, I'd like some opinions on an idea I've been tossing around lately. I have a successful career in airport management which is decently compensated with good benefits. I often find myself starting out the window looking at all the jets depart and think how much I'd like to be flying one instead of a desk and a truck. I'm almost 40 so I know what type of commitment it will take to get into a turbine cockpit in the future. I've had a PPL since 2004 and still fly occasionally. I've been kicking around the idea of starting over and attending a fast track course at some place like ATP and trying the flying thing. I've been in aviation for almost 20 years and had the opportunity to fly multiple types of aircraft throughout that time. I've always taken the "safe" route previously as I've witnessed several downturns hurt my fellow pilots. My soon to be ex-wife was on with XJT until they folded, now with a 135 operator. She was accepted to United's Aviate program so has to keep getting jet time to stay eligible. What's everyone's opinion about possibly starting over at this point in life? I realize that making a huge life decision shortly after being hit with life altering news (divorce) isn't wise. But I also feel that this might be the perfect time to just completely start again.

Thanks
 
smokeybandit
Posts: 1573
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:24 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 9:12 pm

I can't help with the life event advice, but flying desks and trucks sounds cooler than flying jets.
 
Italianflyer
Posts: 753
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:06 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 9:33 pm

I'm not good on giving life advice but let me share this story. The man who was the GM of our regional airport authority (SDF) for 10 years retired, converted to Catholicism and is now my parish priest. He is a civil engineer by trade and he and his wife are still married and have grandchildren (yes that's allowed if you are married before taking Vows).

Moral of the story is.... your calling is your journey. I wish you all the best on your next chapter.
 
WidebodyPTV
Posts: 640
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2019 9:06 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 9:59 pm

Follow your heart, but be aware of the risks and rewards. Risks may include financial, age discrimination, etc. Age discrimination may be illegal, but is notoriously impossible to prove. FYI- I’ve heard thousands of employers declare their desire for a younger candidate. Rewards may include doing something you always loved doing. You have plenty of working years left!

Plenty of people successfully make career transitions at 40. One of my doctors worked as a grocery store produce manager for nearly 20 years before starting college in his late-30s and becoming a doctor in his mid-40s. And my own relative was banking nearly $300K a year as the director of a local nonprofit agency before fulfilling her lifelong dream to be a $55K nurse... at age 50.
 
glideslope900
Posts: 186
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:27 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 10:02 pm

Do it
 
Sokes
Posts: 2773
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:48 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 10:25 pm

Is airport management so boring? It sounds like you have a lot of responsibility. Others probably envy you for that job.

Then there is lifestyle. Some people like to be on the road, some like it best to work in their garden.

If it's flying that tempts you, a small plane is I guess more fun to fly.

I advise you to read Khaled Hosseini "And the mountain echos". There are different characters who made radical different life choices. What do they feel they have missed out?

Image
Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/sore ... ard_105030
 
Murdoughnut
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:27 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 10:31 pm

Do you have kids? If you're not responsible for anyone else, and you absolutely hate airport management, I'd say consider the jump (more on that in a sec). I'm a private pilot and work in airport management. I don't love workingin airport management right now, but that's a function of the airport I'm at and the culture, and that could change with a change in leadership. The last airport I worked for was tremendous and the job was exciting. I'm now at an airport that's run like city government and it can be soul sucking at times. But the job pays a stupid amount of money, and I have a wife and kids to take care of, so I press on.

If you do the pilot route, stay in your current job and join a flying club or go through mom & pop schools. No reason to rush it, particularly if you can pay as you go rather than take on debt.
 
JoseSalazar
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 3:18 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 10:40 pm

If I were in your shoes, kids vs no kids would make a big difference. Especially with a wife/ex-wife who flies also in the picture. Having both parents be airline pilots would be a no go for me.

Assuming that is not a factor, would I do it in your shoes? I wanted to fly my whole life. Went the mil route. Didn’t think I’d get a flying slot. I did. Didn’t think the airlines would be a great career after watching so much destruction to the industry/profession (RJs, 9/11, age 65, bankruptcies, etc). So I planned on not doing it. Then things started turning around and this pilot shortage rumored to be approaching for decades looked like it might actually happen, and things were looking up for the industry. So I gave myself 2 years to test the career out, and if it didn’t work out I’d go get a real job, having checked the airline box and scratched the itch. At least I’d know. Well, I am still here. Then covid hit, and I was kicking myself because it’s such a cyclical industry and what’s old is new again, and I should have known better than to mess around in this industry trying to feed a family. Part of me wishes I had stayed military a while longer. Or just got out, got a real job, and just bought an RV-3, RV-4 or RV-8 or something fun like that to scratch my flying itch.

The airline job looks fun. Grass is always greener though. I wish I was home every night. Living hotel to hotel away from your kids is a grind. The job becomes boring and routine and repetitive just like any other job. Even fun overnights in vacation destinations can get old. The views are good though. Some people you work with are good. Some aren’t. There’s still drama (a lot less if you go cargo). You do meet interesting people though. You do have some time for side projects (especially if you have no kids). You’re not beholden to a cell phone or email on off time. Commuting is terrible…especially to a regional or to reserve. If I didn’t commute, my life would be infinitely better.

All that said, I know a lot more people who quit good “normal” jobs to come fly than people who quit flying to get a “normal” job. I’d rather try it and not like it or have it not work out than be in my 70s wishing I had given it a try. If in 5 years it doesn’t work out, you can always go do something else. Only you can figure it out for your situation though. Good luck!
 
MSJYOP28Apilot
Posts: 469
Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:09 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 10:55 pm

I would advise against it. Best it would be age 42-43 before a regional will even hire you. Then likely 45-47 before you can upgrade and build 121 turbine PIC time. You will be probably closer to 50-52 before a major airline will hire you. Upgrade times at the major are 5-8 years for narrowbody and 10-20 years for widebody. At 65 is retirement. There are hundreds of pilots ahead of you in their 20s and 30s waiting for a number at a major.

Seniority is everything. This means base, schedule, aircraft, and job security. Your age limits you in terms of seniority. If quality of life is important, the best you can do is a regional or LCC lifer. If 3 weeks away from home at a time and irregular schedules are your thing then you might like the supplemental cargo or corporate lifestyle. If flying for a major airline is your goal then you are way behind the seniority curve at age 40. You will never be a widebody captain at a major. Unlikely a narrowbody either.

One thing to consider is that major retirements drop off considerably starting at the end of this decade. Maybe sooner if there are more early retirement offers. Thus things will stagnate more in terms of upgrades and hiring at the majors. The older you are, the less time you have for things to not go according to plan. Age 65 is only 25 years away from age 40.
 
LH658
Posts: 1287
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 7:35 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 11:09 pm

I'd say do it! You live once and fulfill your dreams if that makes you happy or if that is a career/educational goal you want to achieve.

My father started out managing our family farm before attending University, graduated with Master's in Mechanical Engineering traveled around the World doing projects for big energy companies, then decide to do his MBA and started working on the Finance side of the Energy business, quit that end up making a dramatic career change and got his Masters in Eastern Medicine and opened his own clinic and became self employed. While obtaining more certifications to provide more services to his patients. This was all done before age of 47.

I'd say do it, you don't always have to fly pax planes, you can also do private/charters, or cargo as well.
 
AirportOPS
Topic Author
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:45 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 11:39 pm

I appreciate all the responses. Sent info into all the Ab-Initio programs just to see what they look for. Thankfully kids are not in the picture so not a burden on anyone but myself. Just trying to pick everyone's brains on the subject. I've taken the safe route throughout things and been rewarded with a good career. Although being on call 24/7 and having to respond to incidents at all hours and holidays isn't too far off from being away in a hotel. I've met wonderful people on both sides. Also had the unfortunate luck to work multiple fatal accidents and assist the NTSB in sorting through and removing debris/remains. Seen multiple sides of the industry, just looking to possibly scratch the itch of another..
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 20761
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 11:54 pm

I did what you are considering, taking my first flying lesson when I was forty.

It was a risk, of course. I took out most of retirement savings and trained up from zero to CPL over a few months in Florida. It took me a couple of years to get a job, but I now fly the A330 and A350. In the US, of course, going directly to a widebody would not be possible. I was fortunate to live in a place where it was.

The industry is in a bit of a mess right now, but eventually hiring has to pick up. Flying abroad is possible and offers many possibilities if you are willing and able to consider it.

I would recommend doing your training in chunks and not spreading it out with a flight or two per week. You'll get much better value for your money if you take a couple of weeks off at a time and train intensely, e.g. doing your PPL in one go over three weeks, then coming back and doing your IR over 10-12 days.

The first thing you should do is get a Class One medical. You don't want to start spending money if there's a medical issue that precludes you getting one, or if you need to address some underlying medical issue first.
 
AirportOPS
Topic Author
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:45 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Sun May 02, 2021 11:59 pm

Previously had a class I with no issues, just let it lapse to a class III due to not needing it. Already have a PPL so I'm pretty much only considering the fully blown programs of knocking out all ratings in the shortest amount of time. ATP flight school, CAE, flight school, etc. I did the mom and pop start stop thing for the PPL and was discouraging and took forever. I know my study habits, either all in or not interested. If I do anything It'll be all in. I've got multiple industry certifications through the airport management industry, AAAE CM, AAAE ACE, etc. Just need to pull the trigger on the life change if I'm to do it..
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 20761
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Mon May 03, 2021 12:16 am

I went to Sunstate Aviation in Kissimmee, FL. They specialise in full immersion, intensive training. I went from zero the CPL in less than four months after having done the PPL theory at home beforehand. I flew 2-3 times a day, every day, and studied between flights.

Sunstate is not a big name school (not Mom & Pop either) and the atmosphere is relaxed, but they take safety and flying seriously. Obviously, things might have changed since I was there but I'd recommend having a look.

https://www.sunstateaviation.com/
 
Woodreau
Posts: 2128
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2001 6:44 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Mon May 03, 2021 2:31 am

Being 40 means you have less time to keep starting over.

Going the airline pilot route in the US means a minimum of starting at the bottom of a seniority list twice - once at a regional and a second time (and hopefully the last) at a retirement airline wherever that may be...

You need to get 1500 total - I don't have an idea of what is going on at the regional airline level these days - but right before COVID it was fairly easy to get hired at a regional airline - the major legacy/LCC/ULCC airlines were hiring regional FOs fairly consistently... and regional airlines are (were) just looking for warm bodies to put into the FO seat and in one airline if you had your 1000 121 SIC was displacing FOs into the Captain seat because the qualified FOs refused to upgrade to Captain.... but before COVID - 121 turbine PIC was not a prerequisite to get out of a regional airline... now that hiring is picking up again - you probably most likely will need turbine PIC to get out of the regionals right now - but that may change again in a few years when your flight training is done.

After you get to the regional it becomes a waiting game for the next airline... legacy, LCC, ULCC... depends on how many years to have left and what you want to do...
lots of regional pilots holding out for their dream airline to call - being 40 - maybe 43 when you are at a regional airline - you're probably going to go to the first one that calls and offers you a job - you won't have a dilemma unless you have two airline job offers leaving a regional.

At 40, you're looking at 25 years left of a career including any flight training that you need to do to get the entry level requirements done. At the single fleet LCC/ULCCs once you're in, youre locked into to the type of flying and aircraft for the rest of your career - domestic narrowbody with some short-haul international sprinkled in... At the legacies, you have the same domestic narrowbody career, but also have the international widebodies - but with this pandemic, you'll probably never see captain of an international widebody doing the mid-life career transition at 40. the best you can do is FO international widebody if you have any desire to do that... so at best you're looking at retiring as a domestic narrowbody captain if you do the transition at your age now.

Looking at the pilot pay tables you're looking at topping out at 12th-year Captain pay $280/hr at AA/DL/UA - $260-270/hr at WN/AS - $250/hr at F9/NK and multiply that by 1000 gives a rough ballpark as to your annual earnings...

There is also cargo FedEx/UPS that are pretty decent careers there as well - your chances of doing international widebodies is better at the cargo places (but that is just my impression - i could be totally wrong)
and also the second tier cargo Atlas/Kalitta - lots of ACMI carriers as well.
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 20761
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Mon May 03, 2021 3:38 am

That 1500 minimum in the US is a massive hurdle. If you have any possibility to work abroad you may be able to bypass it. Like many of my colleagues, I started working with a few hundred hours.
 
stefanJ
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2016 12:48 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Tue May 04, 2021 6:36 am

I was in a similar yet different situation not too long ago.

Grew up always wanting to be a pilot, for some reason at 18 enrolled at a hotel management school, built a ton of connections, graduated and had very decent jobs across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Would travel quite a bit for work and for leisure and would still be in awe of planes. The moment of truth came when, two years ago, on an EK 77W flight from VCE-DXB I visited the flight deck after landing. Had a talk with the flight crew, walked into the terminal and knew that I have to make a career change and become a commercial pilot.

Now I'm just 60 hours into training after starting about a year ago (thank you COVID), hotels and my old career seem like a distant memory now...at times it is difficult as i remember the perks I used to have, the decisions I was able to make on the job, compensation and the lifestyle...but I remember that I absolutely hated the thought of doing that job for the rest of my life and having a voice in the back of my mind telling me "you could've/should've/would've become a pilot".

It's tough especially going into the unknown aka the world of job openings in aviation after COVID, but it's worth a shot - you don't have children, you'll be on your own, worst case if for ever reason it does not work out - at least you can say you tried.

Who knows, we might even fly somewhere one day! :)
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 20761
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Tue May 04, 2021 6:48 am

stefanJ wrote:
worst case if for ever reason it does not work out - at least you can say you tried.


That's more or less what my wife told me. "If you don't give it a shot, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 8078
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Tue May 04, 2021 7:45 pm

Because, if everybody is thinking the same, nobody’s thinking, I’ll go counter the thread. Entering your 40s is time to start retirement planning and saving. The 40s and 50s is the time to pay off large debts, like college for kids and mortgage, it’s the years of one’s highest income potential. Starting a chancy career in the middle of a pandemic is risky; we don’t yet know what direction airlines will go. Will leisure travel come back strongly? Will corporate travel, which generates profits, return? What will international travel do? Is COVID the new normal?

Flight instruction is expensive, with little income during the first 18-24 months depending on savings to fill the gap. Do you have employment to self-fund training? The Pilot mills are expensive and no income during the courses. Can you fund a year “out of pocket”? With a divorce, there’s an income source gone. Then, the hard part—getting from 250 hours to 1500 hours on a CFI pay check or dropping skydivers. Is a regional jet career sufficient to fund your lifestyle and retirement? Can you return to civil engineering, if it doesn’t work out? Seniority and the ladder climbing required has always made flying in the US a young man’s or woman’s game.
 
IADFCO
Posts: 270
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Tue May 04, 2021 9:56 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

I join those who are recommending against the idea. My first thought was: "If he really really really wants to do it, he should take the chance". But the second thought was: "If he really really really wanted to do it, he would be posting about advice on how to do it, not if", e.g., which flight school is better, what kind of operator would be best for someone in his position, etc. Not whether it's a good idea.
 
shamrock137
Posts: 414
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:10 am

Re: Mid-life Career Change

Wed May 05, 2021 4:27 pm

AirportOPS wrote:
Previously had a class I with no issues, just let it lapse to a class III due to not needing it. Already have a PPL so I'm pretty much only considering the fully blown programs of knocking out all ratings in the shortest amount of time. ATP flight school, CAE, flight school, etc. I did the mom and pop start stop thing for the PPL and was discouraging and took forever. I know my study habits, either all in or not interested. If I do anything It'll be all in. I've got multiple industry certifications through the airport management industry, AAAE CM, AAAE ACE, etc. Just need to pull the trigger on the life change if I'm to do it..


Can you take a leave of absence from your work? ATP is really a does what it says on the tin, ratings in x amount if time, but there's a massive burden on you for home study, large payments and with very little CFI support for ground school. Depends a little on the campus you're attending though. Since you have your PPL, have you thought of breaking training up into some smaller buckets? There are plenty of places that offer online ground school for free, and accelerated fly courses that give you your instrument or commercial in about a week of flying, or less. Gives you the chance to do say your instrument ground school at home, then go somewhere to fly for a week and get the rating, without committing 90k to ATP. This way, if you say "its just not for me" maybe you come out with your instrument, or single engine commercial, and are still working your ops job.

What part of the country are you in? There are plenty of operators that offer decent pay with alternate schedules. Places like Planesense, Wheels up/Gama, Tradewinds or Cape Air offer bases in different parts of the country, and hire relatively low time pilots. There are junior 9K captains making close to 100k by picking up open time or incentive bids. Not bad for flying a C402 for a few hours a day and being home every night.

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