What Are the Age Restrictions to Becoming a Pilot?


The debate on pilot age restrictions has been around for ages. As early as the 70s and 80s, we had national, regional, and global aviation councils discussing what constitutes the right age for a pilot. In 2006, for example, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) voted to change the upper age limit from 60 to 65.

The following is a summary of the age requirements in the US to help you plan your pilot career accordingly.

Minimum Age for Entering Pilot Training

Technically, any person that understands training materials and who can follow procedures and understand flight instruments can fly a plane. As such, young, aspiring pilots, even in their early teens, are not prohibited from flying a plane. As long as the individual exhibits higher-order skills and can learn and apply rules as well as make the right decisions, they can fly an aircraft.

Legally, however, a few rules; and, it depends on the country. In the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows for student-pilot licensing from 14 years. As early as 14, one is allowed to obtain the Glider or Balloon license.

It is only when you reach 18, however, that you can begin training for a Commercial Pilot License (CPL). Remember that “commercial” here only means that you can now fly for money. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can fly for an airline. At this point, you’ll have what is known as a “frozen Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL).

Once you accumulate 1,500 flight hours during the training, the ATPL is unfrozen. You must, however, be at least 21 years old.

It’s important to understand that the ATP license issued at 21 is restricted. Restricted ATP license holders are only allowed to fly as First Officers and not Captains. It is only when specific requirements are met that you can get a full ATP license and start working as a command pilot. The ATP is the highest level license a pilot in the US can achieve.

Can One Be Too Old to Start Pilot Training?

No. You can commence training at any age. There’s no written rule barring individuals of a particular age from entering training. The only test you may fail as you grow older is the FAA’s requirement that all pilots maintain the class one medical certificate.

That said, however, it would be best to enter training at a younger age as it gives a longer “shelf life” as a pilot. If you were to begin training at 40, you might only enjoy about 15 to 20 years as a fully licensed pilot.

Maximum Age for US Pilots

The maximum age issue can be a bit confusing. As we mentioned earlier, the ICAO, in 2006, set the maximum age for pilots at 65 years. Indeed, it’s 60 years for pilots flying alone or where the co-pilot is older than 60. The 65-year limit only applies where there’s a co-pilot in the cockpit who’s no more than 60 years old.

However, a few countries don’t follow the ICAO regulations, while others only follow them partially. In the US, for example, as long as you can maintain your medical class 1 certificate, you’re allowed to fly under the FAA’s Part 135 Regulations. Some members of the United Flying Octogenarians, for example, have flown as a pilot in command after their 80th birthday. Nevertheless, most airlines follow the ICAO recommendations as physical and mental problems are common after 60.

Start Early

Hopefully, these guidelines have provided insight to help you plan for your pilot career better. The key takeaway is to start early.

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