Considering United Aviate in my 40s

Old Apr 7, 21, 12:59 pm
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I'm a regional pilot. I've been at one of the largest regionals for over 18 years.

I did a career change at 27. Second best thing I ever did. We see plenty of older guys come into this career. Chances are if you've been successful in your former career you'll be successful here. It's not difficult, it just requires decent amounts of study. Realistically if you are going to do it, you should throw yourself into training fulltime. In 6 months you can have your Instructors license and then start building time. If the recovery goes smoothly there should be plenty of jobs by the time you are ready. I'm not familiar with the Aviate program, just keep in mind in a seniority based job you effectively reset every time you go to a new seat. So from Regional FO to regional CA to mainline FO to mainline CA. If you'll need the money to sustain a lifetime then you are probably looking at being junior in your seat for the rest of your career.

And this is the main crux of the question I would say. When you are junior you get crappy overnights, 4 day trips, redeyes, minimum days off, work holidays etc etc. So what is your family stage of life? Young kids at home? OK with missing Christmas and birthdays? Ability to relocate? If you are not living in base, then add the stress and time of a commute to get to the start of your trips. All that is a young mans game.....

On the other hand, if you are set financially and don't have to chase the upgrade, things can be great. I turned down my chance to go to the majors because I didn't need the money. Because I stayed at the regionals now I work 8 days a month, never do an overnight and take the trips I want. But my earnings suffered which I can afford because my wife makes good money (marrying her was the best thing I ever did).

The other option if you are making lots of money is to buy yourself a nice airplane for private flying and enjoy aviation that way. Landing a plane full of pax in a strong crosswind and heavy rain is still a thrill for me but you may find that offset by endless nights away in average hotels will take the edge of that pretty quickly.

Any specific questions, ask away. As I said, I don't really know much about Aviate except that it sounds expensive :-)
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Old Apr 7, 21, 2:50 pm
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There's a podcast called "Airline Pilot Guy" which I listen to occasionally, they often discuss this topic, IE should I change careers to become a pilot.

Last edited by escapefromphl; Apr 7, 21 at 3:18 pm
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Old Apr 7, 21, 3:01 pm
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I would say just be realistic. Given your age, you will most likely only be able to experience the bad side of an airline pilot's career and won't be able to stick around long enough to enjoy the good side. In other words, if your goal is to be the Captain of a UA widebody working longhaul international flights, that is almost a mathematical impossibility (especially if you also want weekends and holidays off).

If you are fine with that, great and good luck; but at least be aware of what you are getting into.

Also, you say you are "in your 40s." 41 is a lot better than 49 for what you want to do.
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Old Apr 7, 21, 4:29 pm
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If you can afford it, go for it. I have thought about it before. Instead, I'm trying to get paid enough that I can afford to fly my own hours (I hold a CFI/CFII/MEI certificate but have no time to teach) and then when I reach the point where I don't need to work anymore, I'll try to do some corporate/freight flying. My current scheme is to buy a powered parachute and fly around in that thing enough to get me up to 1500 hours, and then go get an ATP certificate. An airline would laugh at the powered parachute hours so I'm glad that isn't my goal.

My other current scheme is to retire somewhere that I can have my own grass strip, and I'll keep a Super Cub in a barn out back...
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Old Apr 7, 21, 7:06 pm
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I’d say it’s likely a poor financial decision considering you’re already setup in whatever you’re doing now, training is expensive, and there’s a hard retirement age for ATP. Plus the (uninsurable?) risks of maybe losing your medical and therefore your certificates and job.

But not everything in life is a financial decision...

Last edited by TravelerMSY; Apr 7, 21 at 7:15 pm
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Old Apr 7, 21, 7:11 pm
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You have to start at the bottom and work for peanuts with a regional airline or even smaller. If your goal is to make $25,000 a year with crappy benefits for at least a few years and never seeing your family, then you have to plot out if you can actually make it do a decent position before mandatory retirement. I would say it's a really bad idea at your age but that's just my opinion, since it's an outside shot you would land a job as a commercial pilot at this point.
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Old Apr 7, 21, 8:09 pm
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I don't know if United is the right choice here, unlike American who has Piedmont, PSA and Envoy, and Delta who has Endeavor, United doesn't "wholly own" their own regional carrier. They could honestly pull this program at any time and tell everyone to get lost.
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Old Apr 7, 21, 8:31 pm
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I have a number of friends that left tech jobs making $200k+/year to fly as first officers at regional airlines and have never been happier (even those 40+). The old adage saying if you find a job you love you'll never work a day in your life is absolutely true for pilots who want nothing more than be in the air. I wouldn't worry too much about your age, but do consider the impact on your lifestyle. For the first few years, the job will absolutely take over your life--you'll spend a lot of time on reserve, making relatively little, so your time at home will be unpredictable. It's not terrible, but it isn't easy.

If you have a decent nest egg and really want to fly, then go for it. I'm not sure if Aviate is the right path--it may be worth doing your training and researching the heck out of the market because the experience varies significantly based on airline--but it doesn't seem like a terrible option for sure. But only do it if you're doing it because you have a passion for aviation ... it'll take a long time to pay off financially (if ever).
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Last edited by Sykes; Apr 7, 21 at 8:38 pm
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Old Apr 7, 21, 8:43 pm
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People who are talking about the money such just don't get it.

There are so many people out there living their lives of quiet desperation, unwilling and / or afraid to take risk. Instead, the plod along, day after day doing something that matters not beyond the paycheck that it generates. Some of the happiest people I know have changed careers MULTIPLE times. Part of the reason is that they are focused on the why behind their work and find new and creative ways to live their why in different industries or roles.

If someone has told me on my first day of medical school that at the ripe old age of...ahem...thirty-four (that's when I stopped counting) that I would be traveling the world helping organizations become better versions of themselves and not practicing full-time medicine I would have told them they were nuts. When I walked away from medicine full time I was angry, scared, uncertain, you name it. Thirteen years later I could not be happier. In fact, I was so happier that I returned to medicine part-time and am loving it...on my terms.

Go chase your dream. If it doesn't work out, go chase the next thing!
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Old Apr 7, 21, 11:02 pm
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Once upon a time, I with with similar thoughts. I had graduated with my commercial/instrument/multi and a management degree, and ran right into the Gulf War which ended my career before it began as one of the major airlines that promised to hire me, went Ch7 and was gone - as were countless jobs across the industry, so I needed to pivot away from what was my dream. It was not easy.

Fast forward, and while having a full time career outside aviation, I decided to look into the Gulfstream Airlines program where you paid about 25K to fly right seat, and I was going to be very happy doing that part time on my own terms (since I was paying for it), and I could keep my regular work and fly at the same time - then came Colgan, and everything changed overnight, and that option was gone before I had a chance to try it. I regret that missed opportunity to this day, so if you really love this line of work and can make it happen in a responsible, well-planned manner, with a realistic outcome that you're comfortable with, I would encourage you to do a lot of research and follow your dream.
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Old Apr 9, 21, 4:48 am
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A friend went through a pilot academy program (not United). Just be aware of what financial commitments you are getting into, and what happens if things don't work out as expected (ie. you leave to join a different airline). I would also check how long it takes before your partner/family starts receiving benefits (free flights etc) so they can enjoy your career too. Otherwise good luck !!
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Old Apr 9, 21, 8:56 am
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So there is a show from BBC called “worst place to be a pilot”. Its about people getting their pilots license and flying commercially in Indonesia.

A couple dudes in their 40s chucked it all to to go fly there. I am in my 40s, and if I were to dump it all to be a pilot, I’d probably do it in Indonesia (or China, or India, or Kenya or some other foreign market). I would not want to fly in the states.

Hell, if I was truly financially secure, and my wife was onboard, I’d chuck it all and go live VanLife, or go Euro VanLife, or Africa Vanlife. (My wife is not down with VanLife).

I guess what I have to say is, “you have options man, and if you are going to chuck it all to go flying, do it somewhere where you are not having to fly FAT-SMF when you live in DesMoines”.
You can find episodes on YouTube
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Old Apr 9, 21, 3:01 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
Plus the (uninsurable?) risks of maybe losing your medical and therefore your certificates and job.
Pilot medical loss insurance exists.
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Old Apr 9, 21, 3:30 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Pilot medical loss insurance exists.
Good to know. Would be awful to lose your lifetime earnings as a a pilot due to some disqualifying condition later in life.
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Old Apr 10, 21, 6:31 am
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Mid-life career changes are tough and starting out as a professional pilot is tough when you’re a young person. When you take on two tough challenges at once you’re asking for trouble. Sounds to me like a bit of a mid-life crisis, I think you and your family are likely going to be happier in the long run sticking with your established career. The romance of being a professional pilot will fade after a few years of character building schedules combined with the low pay typical offered to entry level professional pilots.
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