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2nd Career in Aviation?
James Lee
1 Posts
I'm in my early 50s.  In my 30's I started flying lessons, but had to stop due to family, career, and money.
Now that the kids are grown, career is well established, and my financial situation is such that I can afford to fly, I'm back in lessons and am targeting to get my PPL in the spring.
I'm also pretty burnt out with my 30 year career in IT.

I love flying.  Always did.  As a kid I devoured kit plane magazines.  In retrospect, I should have gone to school to be an ATP, but that plane has departed.

So, I'm considering a second career in aviation.  I have a few years before I'll consider early retirement (daughter needs to get through college) and am looking for options in a aviation based career.  I'd love to be a pilot in some capacity, but that is not the only thing I would consider.

However, I don't want a full time job.  I figure if I can bring in 30k a year, that would be a nice supplement to my retirement and fund my flying.

I've been professional trained as a mechanic (not A&P) and have strong electronic skills (hobbyist). I'm not opposed to going back to school to earn a cert of some sort and was thinking maybe avionics tech would be good.  I don't want to be an A&P as that is probably too physical demanding as I age (I already have some back issues).

I'd also considering becoming a CFI, but I'm not sure the work would be steady enough.

If I can't pull in about $30k a year, I probably have to keep at my current career till full retirement age.

Maybe this is a pipe-dream, but I'm looking for ideas!


7 Replies
Hoss At AOPA
169 Posts
Hi James,

I'm hoping some A&Ps or avionics techs weigh in on that part of your question, because I don't know enough about the training required to get you across that finish line.

As for flight instruction, making 30k a year part time might be possible, but it would depend how much time you're willing to devote to this part-time job. Working on the weekends may not be enough to meet you mark. Weather and student availability will dictate your paycheck a majority of the time. It may open the door to other commercial work though.

Can't hurt you to do some fact finding at your local airport to see if this is a viable avenue for you in your area. Hopefully others will add to this discussion as well.
Gary Sobek
3 Posts

Not sure where in the country you are located but there are schools with classes to get your A&P.   Typically the FAA requires several years documented work on aircraft under supervision or so many hours (use to be 1973 hours) in an A&P school to take the test for the license.

I earned my A&P license by going to school part time at night while working a full time job but that was over 20-years ago.  I am now retired and only wrench on my own airplane or friends.

With an interest in airplanes and mechanic background, you could work for a repair station installing avionics and have work signed off under their repair station.  At 50, that may not be something you want to do.

I have friends that have gotten their A&P license without going to school by using experience.  One friend, after getting FAA approval to take the test, did a weekend prep course before taking the actual test.

I have two friends that also wanted out of IT job.  One is running a website for himself and doing part time contract flying using Commercial privileges.  

Another IT friend of mine that had built his own homebuilt airplane, was able to sorta quit IT and become tech support for an aircraft kit manufacturer.  He also took care of the IT for that company. IT was not his primary job but he was the go to guy for IT at the small company.

Another IT friend worked for a bank that outsourced the entire IT department.  He moved on to working for local power company working with keeping power transmission functioning.  Yes he sat in front of a computer but IT became someone responsibility.

Sorry I do not have a solid plan for you but hopefully I may have given you some ideas.

When this virus is under control I expect within a few years things will be as they were in 2019, a very high demand for pilots. I would work towards getting your ratings and then build time. There are ways to build bulk time with banner towing, instructing, towing gliders and so forth. I think you would probably want corporate where you can start as a copilot and work your way up. I really thought about going into the regionals a few years back. I could do consulting engineering and fly as a copilot on a regional plane and be sound financially. But when I really thought hard about it the idea of living out of a suitcase at 58 just wasn't appealing. The flying is great but other things must be considered.

I was in law enforcement for about 36 years.  When it was time to retire, I already had a plan in place about two years before retiring.  I had my Private and instrument rating years earlier.  I enjoyed teaching, so I pursued my commercial and CFI rating.  I started instructing in 2013 and retired from law enforcement in 2015.  Today, I have about 4000+ hours total time with 2000+ hours working as a flight instructor.  I have averaged about 300 hours per year as an instructor.  Which has been a nice retirement income. I’ve had the great fortune to teach a variety of aviation skills, including student pilots, seaplane, tailwheel and Backcountry.  There are challenges to instructing, but have enjoyed the challenges, and in the end, I believe I’m a better aviator.  I have two websites: and  Best of luck to your future in aviation.  

You are me.
I have minimum of 3 years before early retirement.  In the meantime...working on ratings and expect to instruct, ferry, banner etc as well as pick up additional ratings.  Tailwheel, Seaplane, Aerobatics etc.  A nice charter company or FBO job looks appealing.  Economics should be viable.  Just goals.  Somewhere in there A&P/IA would be nice but now we're talking a whole 'nother amount of hours and effort.

Wish you the best.  
I can speak to the mechanic stuff.  To get an A&P just doing practical training requires 18 months experience for each one, or 30 total months for both.  You can attend a part 147 school, Aviation Institute of Maintenance, some colleges (Liberty University, Southern Illinois University) which varies.  AIM is about 20 months full time, and the universities can get you out with an AS or BS in maintenance with the certificates.  

If you want to go pure avionics, you don't have to have anything as you typically work under a Repair Station certificate not your own.  Of course an Airframes ticket will let you do avionics work as well, but no instrument repairs/overhauls.  To be more marketable, you can get some certifications from National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT),  They have aviation electronics technician, standard, which is a generic sparky.  They have other endorsements for communications & safety, dependent navigation, autonomous nav, and even some more generic skills.

Good luck,