Job opportunities for older pilots
If you are an older pilot who has just obtained your private pilot certificate and have an insatiable desire to progress further, your passion, determination, and persistence will be the most important factors in achieving your goal. Surprisingly enough, maturity can be a bonus as you hunt for a flying job. You will have to start at the bottom like anyone else, but you have a lot of history and experience on your side to assist you with the process.
As you begin your job search, remember that no one needs to know how recently you received your certificate or how long you've been flying. If you act like an interested, accomplished, and ready-to-learn pilot, you'll find lots of help and respect from fellow aviators who figure you must have more time than your logbook shows. If you're serious about getting into aviation on a full-time basis, you know it's not going to be easy, quick, or cheap. You will need determination and persistence to prove you love aviation and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay involved.
When considering some of the possible careers, flight instruction is a good first step to give you a salable skill. For someone who really enjoys the teaching process, it's an honorable, long-term profession with many day-to-day rewards. Don't forget ground instruction as a good precursor to flight instruction. You can get started in the business once you complete the ground instructor knowledge exams. Use your social and professional contacts within the local community to drum up new students and use your new passion as an excuse to network and advertise your aviation skills.
Learning the ropes at an FBO is another good way to stay involved. If you have specialized skills such as accounting, computers, marketing, or sales, you might be able to widen your aviation knowledge by using your skills in an aviation setting. If you don't have a marketable skill, plan to acquire one using the apprentice system or by taking some classes. During my stint at an FBO I worked in customer service, accounting, maintenance, aircraft sales, and public relations. Express your desire to learn each one or pick a field that interests you and volunteer your time, perhaps in exchange for FBO services, to get acquainted with what's required for each. And don't forget line service; it's a great way to meet future employers.
Aviation is very accepting of a wide range of ages. You need only demonstrate your sincerity, and you'll find many ways to stay involved.
Capt. Karen Kahn is the author of Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot and a career counselor. A Master CFI and 30-year airline pilot, she flies the Boeing 757/767 for a major U.S. carrier.