Dear Capt Lim,
I would be very grateful if you could help me with a query. I am currently employed as a senior avionics technician/ maintenance shift manager within a British military helicopter squadron. I am approaching the end of my 22 year career engagement with the military (terminal date is Jan 2007) and for some time I have harbored a burning ambition to seek a 2nd career as an airline pilot, as I will be 40 years of age on completion of my engagement and still have many useful working years ahead of me.
I have been researching several training providers and am worried about the expense, the basic course seems to be approximately £60,000 plus accommodation and when this is added to the fact that I would be in full time training, and therefore not earning a salary for the duration of training (12 to 14 months), the overall financial impact would be close to £100,000, and no guarantee of a career on completion of the course.
As a married man with a young son and a mortgage, I am not sure that I am prepared to accept such a huge financial risk to chase my dream and maybe let my family down.
While I have no doubt that I possess the requisite personal, academic (I have a 1st class BEng degree in Electronics & Electrical Engineering from the University of the West of England) and life skills for selection and ultimately successful completion of training, I am concerned that on completion of training I will be 41 or 42 years old and that a potential employer may not be able to look past this hurdle to see what else I can offer. Is the issue of age a large barrier to a newly qualified pilot seeking first time employment?
Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter.
My apologies for the late reply (there are still 26 emails on the queue!)
Your query - Is the issue of age a large barrier to a newly qualified pilot seeking first time employment? My personal opinion is that, at around 40 years, your desire to seek a second career as an airline pilot may have come a bit late in life, but if you think that you would get satisfaction out of this job rather than the financial reward, then go ahead. Remember, without a sponsor, your investment is very high and there is no guarantee of an airline career (maybe a lower-paying general aviation job) at the completion of your course.
I know the aim of most pilots in general is to get into a major airline, fly the latest Boeings or Airbuses (and earn big pay checks?) Even if you have the required qualification, I must say the selection process is quite tough.
Anyway, after you have acquired your basic license and flying hours, and are unable to secure an airline job in the United Kingdom, a good alternative would be to try and secure a job with Emirates Airlines (they have the largest A380 orders in the world!). Recently, they have been recruiting First Officers from all round the world and I are even prepared to hire co-pilots as old as 48 years old. At the moment, they are looking for Captains up to a maximum of 56 years.
Asian airlines would prefer hiring younger pilots (except expatriates over 55 years) but in the West, the philosophy is different. They prefer to employ pilots of various ages to avoid the massive retirement levels they are experiencing now and over the next 10 years. Some airlines regard pilots in the 40 - 50 age group as stable, believing that they are unlikely to apply to other airlines than younger ones.
I must remind you that pilot hiring is cyclical. Sometimes, the window of opportunities may be closed by the time you are ready with all the qualifications. It can be frustrating especially for one who starts late and seeking employment in this field for the first time, unless you have great patience (I know it is not easy when one has already invested so much money on this profession!)
Having said that, the choice is now yours to make whether you would want to launch into this new career. (You have an excellent academic qualification - First Class Electronic & Electrical Engineering. You could have been a Captain on the Boeing 747, 777 or the Airbus 330/340 by now had you taken up this career 22 years ago. Ah... that is another story I suppose)
Wish you all the best in your future undertakings.