Encouragement to fly, even after 49 or 50 years old

Learn to fly at any age with minimal prerequisites… Jeanne Peterson did so after 49 years old.

Jeanne is a reader of my Flying Carpet column in Flight Training magazine. She boldly wondered what age was the ceiling that one could go about learning to fly. I explained anyone can, but that you need to keep motivated toward your goal in order to achieve it.

To help Jeanne out, I forwarded an encouraging email from my friend Linda Anderson, who recently earned her private pilot license at age 60. What happened next is a testament to why the pilot community is so strong. I’ll let Jeanne explain it in her own words…

Dear Greg,

Last November, I emailed you wondering if 48 [years old] was too late to learn to fly. At that time you forwarded me an email from Linda Anderson. I just wanted to thank you for that email. It was such an encouragement to me. I emailed her about her flying experiences and we have become friends. Whenever I’m discouraged, she encourages. We share more than our flying experiences, but it’s so important to be able to talk to someone about flying.

Linda and I have never met [in person], but are making plans for this summer … Since I first emailed you I have almost 40 hours in my logbook in a Cessna 152. It has been a difficult winter to get flying time in, especially with the bitter cold weather we have had in January… At times I have been discouraged thinking it is taking me so long to be able to solo, but then when I put it in the perspective that 40 hours is ONLY one week worth of work then it is truly amazing what I have accomplished so far. If someone would have put me in a plane on a Monday morning and told me that after five days of work, maybe by Friday evening I could fly that plane all by myself, I’m not so sure I would have believed them. CFI’s are so amazing and patient.

[I just turned] 49 this past week. I am still on track with my original goal of completing my certificate before I turn 50 next year. It’s a goal that I now see as obtainable through the encouragement from you, Linda and other pilots who are constantly asking me how my flying is going.

Thanks again,
Jeanne Peterson

As you can see, Jeanne is on track and headed toward her solo flight and her goal of getting a Private Pilot License.

I was so touched by Jeanne’s seedling enthusiasm that I wanted to encourage her further by asking some fellow “older” pilots to share their experiences. I wanted her to see, and you too, that you really can learn to pilot an airplane at any age, even into your 50s, 60s, and beyond.

I’ll post the resulting emails to Jeanne from my friends over the next few days. You’ll find them to be worth returning to read.

A question for you though… Are you considering becoming a pilot? If so, what if anything might be holding you back? Answer in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

About Greg

Greg Brown is an award winning flight instructor, pilot, author and columnist. In 2000, he was the National Flight Instructor of the Year. Greg writes the Flying Carpet column for AOPA’s Flight Training magazine and co-authored You Can Fly! with Laurel Lippert. His other books include Flying Carpet, The Savvy Flight Instructor, The Turbine Pilot’s Flight Manual, and Job Hunting for Pilots. Visit Greg Brown’s own blog at

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  1. Kevin
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    You’re never too old. I just earned my Private Pilot, Glider certificate last Fall – at age 49. Encouraged by my 16 year old daughter who earned her certificate on the same day, and who is currently doing dual X-C’s in power (and hopes to earn her SEL rating at 17) I will be starting power lessons this year.

  2. Dennis Roy
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Ms. Peterson:I too, began pilot training but at age 50 for my 50th birthday; it was a long haul with 3 CFI’s later, 3 different aircraft & 18 months (our flight school folded in mid-training)later I finally received my Private ticket. After that, 4 months later, I purchased a 1968 Cherokee 180 that had less that 3000 hours on it with a mid-time engine. It was one of the most happiest times of my life & a great personal accomplishment. So to answer your question & assist you in completing what you’ve started as a road to happiness, you’re NEVER too old to learn & do something new. Congradulations with persuing your dream & happy flying.

    Dennis Roy
    McLoud, OK

  3. Posted March 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words Jeanne and Greg! I too am glad Greg gave my name to Jeanne. It has become a very special friendship bound by aviation and faith! And now that we have met face to face, it has really been fun talking and emailing.

    Flying thankfully has no age limit, and my husband and I both enjoy our Cessna 172. And as I tell all newer pilots, never stop learning! We stay fresh by reading books about pilots, Flight Training Magazine and AOPA Pilot, plus we watch every video we can find to hone our flying skills.

    The aviation community is a special group. We have met many people who have now become friends!

    Thanks again! Here’s to favorable winds and clear skies!

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