When it comes to taking flight, is there a specific moment to spread your wings? That’s a complex question. Let’s start with this: What’s the best age to embark on a flying journey?

Here’s the deal: The answer isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It all hinges on why you’re drawn to the skies. Is it a long-held dream? Are you considering a career shift? Or maybe you’re eyeing your first professional venture?

If we’re talking about a young person, we’ve got to consider their age. Sure, you can snag a glider certificate at 14, fly solo in a powered aircraft at 16, and nab a private pilot license by 17. But just because you hit those milestones doesn’t mean you’re ready to handle the responsibilities of piloting. Plus, teens today are swamped with commitments. Between school, sports, and extracurriculars like band or robotics, diving into flight training lessons might not be the wisest move. It takes focus, and that’s hard to muster when you’re juggling so much.

Since flying skills can rust if left idle, it’s smart for teens eyeing powered aircraft training to schedule lessons a few months before their 16th birthday, or when the weather’s on your side. You don’t want training to stretch out forever. Still, I’ve worked with 14-year-olds who earned their wings as a reward for academic excellence. Straight A’s might grant you access to the cockpit or ground school, but you’ve got to put in the effort once you’re there. And when their birthday finally synced up with their training progress, they earned their stripes.

For those contemplating a career switch, the question shifts: Can you spare at least 10 hours a week to master the art of flight? Don’t forget to factor in study time and travel to and from the airport. Take a good, hard look at your adult responsibilities—balancing a current career and family duties—before diving in.

Even if you opt for a fast-track program, expect a solid two years of training before you’re ready to take on the skies professionally.

Bucket List

Now, if flying has long been a yearning in your heart, take heart. There’s no expiration date on chasing your aviation dreams. For a sport pilot license, your driver’s license can stand in for a medical exam. And if you’re aiming for a private pilot license, as long as you meet the requirements for a third-class medical certificate, age won’t hold you back. In fact, as a retiree, you might finally have the time and means to pursue your passions. Plenty of folks take to the skies when they pivot away from their primary career and embrace new horizons. You could be next.

Aviation, as a mode of travel, is an industry where safety is paramount. Pre-flight checks are the foundation of safety in aviation, and the best practices associated with them are indispensable. They form the first line of defense against potential risks and ensure that an aircraft is in optimal condition for the journey ahead.