When someone is considering becoming a pilot at 30, they usually mean in a professional capacity and to be financially compensated for flying.
Therefore, in this article, we will outline the journey to becoming a commercial pilot at 30 years old.
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How to Become a Pilot at 30
If you have the dream of becoming a commercial pilot or even an airline pilot, you have to start like every pilot before you has started – at the very bottom.
Student Pilot Certificate
It all begins with a student pilot certificate.
While there are no requirements to get behind the cockpit and start flying lessons, a student pilot certificate is necessary to start logging solo flight time.
Logging these hours will enable you to get your Private Pilot License (PPL), which is a prerequisite in obtaining a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL).
A student pilot certificate falls under the category of a third-class medical certificate (if you want to fly solo). So you will need to pass an FAA medical, administered by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
The examiner will test things like your near, distant, and color vision, hearing, and see if you suffer from any disqualifying conditions (like substance dependence and abuse, bipolar disorder, diabetes requiring hypoglycemic medication, etc.)
If you pass the exam, you will then be issued with a third-class medical certificate that will allow you to fly solo and be eligible for a private pilot license.
Private Pilot License
To be issued a private pilot license, you must hold a student pilot certificate, pass a written knowledge and practical test, and complete at least 35-40 hours of flight time.
The hour requirements depend on whether you are enrolled in a Part 61 or Part 141 school.
Considering that you want a career in aviation, Part 141 is the better choice due to its more structured training.
Certain instrument ratings can also be added (and will need to be) to your PPL that will enable you to fly under instrument flight rules, lifting certain restrictions.
Many aspiring pilots never go beyond this point because they are happy with being able to enjoy the experience of flight without the restrictions of a student pilot license or other types of recreational licenses, like a sport pilot license or recreational pilot license.
These include flying their friends and family anywhere within the United States and internationally, as well as at night, without limitations.
Being in a financially compensated pilot role isn’t on their minds.
For everyone else, though, we need to move onto the next license in our journey to becoming a professional pilot.
Commercial Pilot License
A commercial pilot license can be quite the step up from a private pilot license. 190-250 hours of flight time is required, depending on the type of school you are enrolled in.
The good news is that the more structured path of the Part 141 is the one that requires 190 hours.
You must also hold a private pilot license, pass a written knowledge and practical test, and pass a second-class medical exam.
Compared to a third-class medical certificate, a second-class certificate requires slightly more stringent requirements.
Visual acuity will now have to be at a level of 20/20 for distant vision, with or without correction. If you are aged 50 or older, intermediate vision of 20/40 or better in each eye, with or without correction, measured at 32 inches, is also required.
The standards for hearing go up too (depending on which type of test for hearing is taken).
If you manage to pass all the above requirements, congratulations! You can now be financially compensated as a pilot.
Some of the jobs you can be hired for include commercial air tours, banner towing, aerial work like crop dusting and fire fighting, ferrying, and as a flight instructor provided you obtain additional Certified Flight Instructor certification.
Airline Transport Pilot License
The final step in many pilots’ journeys is to obtain an airline transport pilot license and fulfill their dream of being an airline captain for a commercial airline.
As you might expect, the ATPL has the most stringent requirements of all pilot licenses.
You must complete a minimum of 1,500 flight hours, pass a written knowledge and practical test, and have a commercial pilot license with instrument and multi-engine time.
There is also a restricted form of the airline transport pilot license called the R-ATPL. In this case, a minimum of 1,000 flight hours are required instead, and an ATP Certification Training Program must be completed.
This license allows you to be first-officer (co-pilot).
An ATP Certification Training Program (ATP CTP) must also be completed, which trains pilots to fly in an airline environment.
A first-class medical certificate is required for an ATPL or R-ATPL.
Vision requirements remain the same, but hearing standards go up (depending on which type of test for hearing is taken), and an ECG has to be taken at age 35 and annually after age 40.
So there you have it, a general overview of how you can become a pilot at 30. It may not necessarily be an easy task, but we can guarantee that it will be hugely rewarding.
3 Factors to Consider Before Deciding to Become a Pilot at 30
You might also want to consider a few other things before you embark on your journey of becoming a commercial pilot.
Flight Training Costs
It can cost upwards of $40,000 to go from zero to CPL – and more money has to be set aside to go from CPL to ATPL.
The following questions are all important ones that you should consider.
- How you will be able to support yourself?
- Do you have savings?
- Can your family help out?
- Can you only afford to take lessons part-time?
If you have to work, even at the very least on a part-time basis, to be able to afford flight training, it may take you a substantially longer time to log the necessary flight hours and obtain the necessary certification to progress.
We’re not just talking about the lifestyle of studying and training to obtain certification, but the lifestyle of a commercial pilot too.
Make sure you read up what the day-to-day life of a commercial pilot is like for a variety of job roles, as well as the life of an airline pilot. Some people are better suited to flying for fun – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Do you have a family to take care of or any other people you need to support? Will you and they be okay with you being away for days at a time, depending on your job role?
It’s important to consider these things and talk it over with all who might be directly or indirectly involved.
Should You Become a Pilot At 30?
Becoming a pilot at 30 is definitely an achievable goal. But the real question is should you, or is 30 too old to become a pilot?
At 30 years old, you might not have the same commitments that someone who is older does, such as a family and mortgage.
This puts you in a great position to be able to take a risk and change careers compared to someone who knows that financial stability and security are non-negotiable at this stage in their life.
Pilots are very well paid, but like most jobs, you’re going to have to take on the low-paying roles when you get started and slowly accrue the necessary experience to work your way up to the regionals and majors.
These are just a few of the things you should consider if you are 30 years old and want to become a pilot.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.