What is the highest age at which you can decide to become a pilot for a major airline, a pilot for a cargo airline, or a private pilot?

I'd like to know for Canada or France mainly. But I wonder whether these countries will have rules that are too different from the US and EU.


1 Answer 1


First up, commercial pilots (both major airlines and cargo airlines): It depends on the country and airline, but the retirement age for a pilot is generally 65 in most countries, and almost always somewhere between 55 (e.g. British Airways) and 65 (standard in much of the U.S.)

There is no set last age at which you could be recruited, so in theory it's just before those ages, but in practice you're unlikely to be hired by a company if you can't work there for at least 5 years.

If you're not yet a qualified pilot, though, you'd have to account for this time too (no company is going to hire you and train you just in time to retire). In practice, therefore, the likely realistic age is at least 10 years prior to the retirement age for the country/company in question, and likely 15.

And if we move into pure conjecture for a moment, I'd hazard that you'd find it quite hard to find a company willing to take on an untrained pilot much after their early-mid 40s.

As for a private pilot: As long as you can pass the medical you can fly and, indeed, learn to fly, at any age. There's no maximum age, although as you'd expect most (but certainly not all) people start to struggle with passing the medical sometime in their 70s. By 80, there aren't too many pilots still flying around.

  • $\begingroup$ The question also asks for private pilots, for which I don't believe there is a maximum age anywhere in the world as long as you can pass the medical. And just as an extra point, in Australia (and I think New Zealand) there is no mandatory retirement age for pilots. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jul 26, 2015 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ Good point re private pilots, although in Aus and NZ I believe most if not all companies define their own retirement age. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jul 26, 2015 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Concerning private pilots: I earned my PP-Glider rating with a man who first flew gliders over Europe...in the early 1940s. He was 85 or 86, I think, when he got the rating (taking an extra year or two compared to other students in our year who were in their teens). However, as he got older, he also made sure to never fly without someone else in the backseat. It's possible, especially for gliders in the US (self-certifying medical), but requires prudence. $\endgroup$
    – Marius
    Oct 18, 2017 at 14:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If he flew gliders over Europe in the early 1940s, I sure as hell don't want to be the person asking him to hand me his license $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStory Not all of Europe was actively engaged in WWII, if that's what you had in mind when writing the above comment. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 17, 2017 at 20:02

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