Controller to Pilot Transition


New Member
Hi everyone,

I am brand new here. I am an air traffic controller working full time in Colorado. I have always had a dream to be an airline pilot, as many of you have as well.

I would appreciate any advice on how best to make this transition. I have a BS degree in aviation, and I have a private pilot certificate with instrument rating, but only have around 160 hours total time. I still need to work full time for about another 11 years, at which time I will be 45 years old and able to retire from the FAA.

I am looking for ideas as to how best to make use of this time---continue at the local FBO taking 1 or 2 lessons/week, eventally becoming a CFI and build time, or try to work out some other path. I also have a wife and children to think of at home.

There is a school in the Denver area called Global Alliance Academy of Flight that I have received some info from. They seem to have a program geared toward airline training that I feel would fit me better. Does anyone have any info on this school?

Thanks in advance for any information and insight.

Welcome! I'm not an expert in training matters, but I would say if you have eleven years to go before you're finished in your ATC job you have time to really enjoy your training. If I were you, I would maybe pick one new rating per year or whatever you can afford and just enjoy the time. Then when you become a CFI you can start working on the time building part. But until then you'll have lots of great experiences, I'm sure.

It's great to have a controller on here. I'm sure you have a lot to contribute to Jetcareers. Again, welcome aboard!
I am pretty much in the same boat as you, I started flying about 8 years before I retired from the Government, and worked not so hard at the ratings along the way.

With some effort and the local FBO you should be thru your CFI real fast, esp with the upper hand at understanding the system. you would be amazed at all the guys who have mic-fright.
Thanks for the advice. I would really love to just leave the FAA now and fly, but financially and morally I could not put my family in that position.

I will just keep plugging away at the ratings and build time and enjoy. From what I have been reading on here, age is not the issue it once was. Does the age 60 rule apply to corporate as well?

Thanks again.
Wow man! You are quitting ATC job to become a pilot at this time ?! Time to tighten the srews buddy...

Anyway... I'd say have the full go at the ATC career since it is closest to an airline pilot in terms of location and $$$. By the time take the off time for some flying and the multi ratings.

Since there isn't a set retirement age for corporate operators try your luck in it. Or as someone else told get into an Regional Airline and you can reach the peak if you stay there for 10+ years..Imagine yourself being a Chief pilot and flying Jets!

Anyway pal all the best for your plans
Welcome to JetCareers!

The instructor that took me through private and instrument is a Sup at FAT ATCT. He worked Center for awhile before transitioning to a tower. He will retire in less than 3 years. He was at the ATC or airline choice before entering ATC with a commercial-multi-IFR. Since becoming a controller, he has earned all of the CFI ratings, is one of the top instructors in Civil Air Patrol, has run a 135 operation along with a flight school, owned two airplanes, sold the flight school and two airplanes, specialized in Piper Navajos, and in the last year has purchased a Cessna 441 and just recently got two Citation Type Ratings. He's teaching 2-3x per week only, and flying his 441 along with the Citations for a local 135 operator. He's also an FAA Remedial Training Program Instructor with an hourly rate above $125, and that was 7 years ago!

One of my friends from knowing that instructor, is a member of C.A.P. He is not a flight instructor and doesn't want to be one. He gets his hours by flying many missions with C.A.P. and is looking forward to his retirement at the end of this year. He will continue flying in volunteer organizations.

Another will go to the airlines when he retires. He just finished his CFII certificate and will instruct on the side. By the time his desired airline is hiring again and he has the hours, he'll be retired. Already a local airline has requested his services as a ground instructor.

There is no reason now for a cram course that causes you to miss work, or waste vacation hours, unless you want to quit ATC and step into an airline cockpit immediately. Otherwise, keep doing what you are doing. Flying 1-3x per week at the local FBO, get all your ratings, flight instruct, ride along when you can and make friends with the crews, and step into an airline with a distinguished ATC career having made a positive impact on local flying safety. Unlike some captains, you will NEVER have a fear of the "FAA."

If you plan your finances right, the initial low pay years at an airline won't bother you. At 60 you have your choice of what you want to do, having the funds saved that will pay for the rest of your life. Keeping the first marriage and no balances on the credit cards really helps on the finances side.

Good luck with your decisions and flying. Participate here and on the other forums. We pilots can always use the opinions of the folks at the other end of the scope.

Jedi Nein