Is it possible for a non-professional pilot to pursue a post-retirement career as a professional pilot? Of course I'm not talking about airline jobs but what about bush piloting or missionary/non-profit work?

  • $\begingroup$ Can you pursue it, sure. Will you have the time to get to the point where flying is a viable second career for you? That depends on more factors than an answer here can cover. It would be a pretty unconventional path, certainly. Most people who pursue a career in flying start in their twenties, and many endure several years of pretty meager wages with a view to a few decades in the airline industry making it a worthwhile sacrifice. Starting in your 50's or 60's, your time horizon to make it financially worthwhile is far shorter. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Sep 20, 2018 at 4:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ From the tone of his question, I don't think he's worried about the financials. More - could I actually get some work? $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Sep 20, 2018 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloud I would even say - can I get a work that will actually pay me for doing what I love (being a pilot) rather than asking me to pay for it $\endgroup$
    – Ister
    Sep 20, 2018 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Ister He asks about unpaid volunteer work as a hint $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Sep 20, 2018 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ As you mentioned missionary, there's MAF, but I'm not sure about their age restrictions: maf.org/serve/serve-overseas/aviation $\endgroup$
    – Benjol
    Apr 8, 2019 at 8:27

2 Answers 2


It depends on your jurisdiction. A lot of places mandate a retirement age of 65 for scheduled commercial pilots (part 121 here in the USA). You are allowed to fly 91 and 135 (charter) operations over 65. While you state you don't want to fly for the airlines, it's worth noting that this retirement age causes a large influx of older out of work pilots many of whom still want to fly. As such there are plenty of high experience older pilots that are primed for flying 135 operations. These may be the people you are competing against for a job which as a low time, potentially inexperienced pilot would be an issue at the bigger outfits. In reality it will depend on a bit on if you are getting into it to make a living or just to fly and bring home some extra cash.

With that in mind there are plenty of commercial operations that seem to always be looking for people:

  • All of the flight schools near me seem to constantly be on the hunt for instructors. If you are willing to go that route I would think you should have no issue finding work.

  • There is a small charter op run out of the FBO I fly from. They run 3 King Airs and seem to always be short of qualified pilots. A lot of people use these as time building/jump off points so turn over is high. Presenting yourself as someone willing to stick around, has no interest of going on to the airlines, looks pretty good. There are lots of these smaller outfits, generally at local airports.

  • If your willing to move to somewhere potentially far far away mission flying is an option. This episode of Omega Tau covers it in great detail and is worth the listen.
  • If you are looking to spice up retirement, ferry flying can be high pay for the right situations.
  • Depending on where you are there is a fair bit of Ag Flying you can do.
  • If you are in or near a beach area and like to fly low and slow, towing banners is always an option.

It all depends on the kind of flying you’re doing but test you can continue to work professionally as a pilot doing Part 91 or similar work. I have a friend who just retired from UAL as a 787 captain and he now flies an Embraer Phenom 100 on the side.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your insight. It's much appreciated. After many years of working to "bring home the bacon", I'd like to spend my retirement doing something I enjoy. $\endgroup$
    – Shintaro
    Sep 23, 2018 at 9:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .