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42 Years Old, Second Career?

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Hi there,


I have re-posted my questions here as opposed to the "Employment section of the forum. I hope this is now the right place to post these questions?


I am a 42 year old male, living in Ontario Canada, I have a wife and two kids I recently sold my business of ten years and have been thinking about a second career.


I currently have about 200 hours of fixed wing flying and have been thinking about obtaining my commercial helicopter rating.


I am in a position in life where I could do all my training in turbines, what I was really wondering was at age 42/43 and a newly rated pilot, would I be considered "hirable" within the industry? We are willing to relocate, within reason in necessary. How much does age come into account in this industry? realistically how many hours would I require in order to land a job?


Thank in advance for your answers.





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Hi Micheal,


The fact is that entering this industy at your age will not change the general outcome. You still have to pound the pavement and get your name out there. You will still have to take a ground job and work your way up. I'm sure you already know this and are willing to do it but I want to make my answer as detailed as possible.


Your age is certainly a benefit because your business experience and maturity will set you above the younger guys. That said there is some stif competition out there because there and a great deal of low time guys and the minimum hours are getting higher and higher and our industry is evolving with the light twin market.


I suggest doing your research and picking a flight school that would hire you when your done. LR Helicopters is one of those. If you want to fly a news machine or teach it might interest you and will keep you closer to home if you want to move close to one of the cities that they operate out of.


Best of luck and keep us posted on you choice and journey!



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If it were 2005 I'd say go for it, but like ROTOR said customers are requiring a higher number of hours. Also being that age you are more than likely not gonna want to pick up and move your familly to Fort Mac where a house will run you about 600G to only make 35G (if you're lucky) a year. Rent in these places is just as rediculous (these type of places will be your only real hope of getting in the industry)


I myself would say put that 50-100G in the bank and go try something else. It is a great career but she's pretty saturated with qualified guys and completely waterlogged with low timers.


Good luck in whatever you choose.

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I'm a 42 year old low timer, so here's my 2¢...


R0T0R and Freck are pretty spot on. From my observation, it takes perseverance and dogged determination just to get into a ground position. As for whether age is a help or a hindrance, I think it can work both ways. I've had an ops manager who is a very high-time, very respected pillar of the Canadian helicopter industry tell me point-blank that I was too old to learn how to fly a helicopter (this was after I had my license and a couple hundred hours). In his opinion, a pilot's skill and reflexes start to go downhill at 35, so at my age I was wasting my time. Curiously enough, the owner/chief pilot of that same company called me up minutes later to tell me that he doesn't always agree with everything his ops manager says.


In travelling around and knocking on doors I'm sure my age raised an eyebrow initially - as in "can this old guy put up with 80 hour weeks of mopping floors and cleaning toilets?". However, once I got a foot in the door I think my bosses and co-workers came to appreciate my maturity, lack of entitlement, work ethic and "life experience" that comes with being a little older. So in short, YMMV.


What you might find difficult are the sacrifices you'll have to make to get started. Unless you land a lucky break, you will need to spend a fair amount of time and money pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and networking just to find an opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, attitude and work ethic. When you do find it, it will likely be in a place that starts with "Fort" or "Lac" - which means relocating your family or spending a long time away from home. It might be a few years before you get flying again, and -as mentioned - the money isn't great (but that's relative...). I work very long hours when I'm on shift and I currently only see my wife one week out of every month (which sucks, 'cause I actually LIKE my wife! :D). There is also the issue of ever-increasing minimum client minimum hour requirements - what used to be the domain of the low time pilot (pipeline patrols, some oilfield stuff) now requires around 1000 hours minimum. I've been told that the first thousand hours are the hardest to get, and it's proving true.


But, it's not all doom and gloom. After a couple years of pounding the pavement I find myself working as a dispatcher and ground guy for a straight-shooting company staffed by great people. I don't fly a lot, but if weather and timing work out I will have my PPC done shortly after I get back on-shift next week, and there is a turbine endorsement coming shortly after that. The pay is fair (but I'm coming from 20 years in the ski industry so it doesn't take much to impress me :D) and they honour my scheduled time off. There's a good give-and take; I bust my butt and give it my all (which is easy when you like what you do), and in return everyone goes out of their way to get me flying opportunities, teach me new stuff and generally help me along in the industry. I've learned a LOT about operational flying by being on the ground and in the dispatch office, and it will help me through the rest of my career.


In summary: Starting a career in this industry means a few years of little or no income, lots of time in remote parts of the country, and long days with little time off. This lifestyle does favour those who have relative freedom from family/spousal commitments and no financial burden... not a place that many of us 42 year old dudes find ourselves.


I ran a little long, but being the same age as youI just wanted to share my experience. Everyone forges their own path in this business, so - again - your mileage may vary. I'm not trying to discourage you at all - if you really want it and your family is on board with you, you WILL be successful!


Best of luck in whatever you decide,



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Excellent response Daz.


Gunnysnow, a couple of things from where I sit:


1. If you decide to train, I would NOT recommend doing all of your training on turbine. Waste of money. Get a JetRanger endorsement, sure, but do about 90% of your training on a piston machine. If you have cash to burn on further training spend it on operational stuff like longlining and/or an R44 endorsement.


2. You will be employable after your training, but not as a pilot. As mentioned, unless you get lucky, you will be employed as a hangar rat/cleaner/refueller/anything and everything required by the company. And you will be fighting with many many other 100hr wonders to get that ground position. You will not make much money and you will have to be extremely dedicated to your job to get flying. It is not uncommon for guys to spend 3-5 years on the ground before they get flying. Some eventually give in and never get flying.


3. Your age will be a factor for some guys (like Ops Manager mentioned by Daz, whom I disagree with) but not for others. I've known a couple of older guys who've 'made it' flying.


4. How many hours do you need to get hired? That's a tricky question. Anything above 100hrs helps. I'd consider 500hrs, 1000hrs, 1500hrs (due to Contrail requirements in AB) and 2000 hrs (BC Hydro requirements) notable 'milestones', each making you slightly more employable. Eventually it becomes not so much about how many hours you have, but what type of hours you have (longline/mountain/drill/seismic/ski/utility etc). Obviously the sooner you can start working on quality the better, but quantity is what counts initially. Again, with 100hrs you won't get hired as a pilot.


Ask yourself what you want to get out of flying. If you're burning to make it your career and your family is as aware as possible of the upcoming sacrifices that you and they will have to make, then go for it with eyes wide open (do more research, find out what you're earning potential will be as a lowtimer and as a hightimer, find out what a typical helicopter pilot lifestyle is, talk to more pilots, go talk to operators in your local area, etc). If you are happy to just go for a burn every now and again and have an interest in helicopters, perhaps you should consider just going the private route and leasing a machine or even buying one with a partner or two to split the cost.


Good luck whatever you decide.



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Jokes aside, now is a bad time for anyone to get into the industry.

Take Coastal's advice and figure out a way to fly for fun.

Invest in your kids.


Use your business skills to work for an aviation company (marketing, ops, accounting or stores etc), then get your licence and fly when you can

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