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Baby Boomer Takes Flight in Career Re-invention

Liz Merritt
October 24, 2016
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For many, finding that one passion or purpose in life that drives our dreams and propels our vision can be perplexing. For others, that gift is apparent from childhood. Jeff Perry fits into the latter category this Baby Boomer pilot’s career takes off.

While he hasn’t taken a direct route to live out his boyhood dream to be a commercial jet pilot, life’s layovers have helped shape this Baby Boomer as he works relentlessly to reinvent his career after 50.

Baby Boomer pilot

Baby Boomer pilot Jeff Perry in the cockpit of a regional jet.

As an information technology executive, Perry is no stranger to long hours and a more-is-better mindset. Chasing the corporate carrot for 30-plus years, Perry achieved significant success and accolades.

“Like all of us, we get caught up in the daily grind and strive to make money, make money, make money. We’re supposed to be satisfied with all that, but not so much,” says Perry. “I’m fortunate I am at a point in my career where I can actually break off and do what I love doing.”

Do What You Love

Perry left his corporate job and now focuses full-time on pursuing the passion tugging on his heart for a lifetime.

“I knew what I wanted to do by the time I was 10 and really had a desire to understand how airplanes fly. That’s when I started building models, and watching planes at the airport. Flying was my passion. Ultimately, I got my private pilot’s license in my early 30s,” he says.

But that thing called life had other plans. Perry married at 23, and three children followed shortly thereafter. “I had to put my passion on hold and focus on supporting my family, but I never lost sight of my dream to become a commercial pilot.”

Baby Boomer Pilot Builds His Dream

For nearly 20 years, Perry spent weekends working as a flight instructor, achieving his instrument ratings, and sharpening his skills. The dream lived inside him, despite life’s detours.

Perry’s first stop on the road to flying commercial jets landed with a job as a pilot flying feeder cargo for a leading global logistics company. His next airborne gig was as a corporate pilot flying CEOs aboard private jets. “I had enough flight hours after that to go into flying for airlines,” he says.

Jeff Perry - American Eagle JetMake it Reality

Today, Perry is a commercial pilot flying regional passenger jets for a major U.S. airline subsidiary.

He is living out his dream, and has one more big goal to achieve before arriving at his final destination. He wants to fly larger aircraft for a major cargo or passenger carrier.

“I love what I’m doing, but the wages for regional pilots are fairly low,” Perry says. “I’m working my way to the next step up. And I recognize that I will bump up against the mandatory retirement barrier in a few years.”

Perfect Timing

Timing may just be on Perry’s side. According to Aviation Week Magazine, as many as 20,000 jobs are expected to open for pilots at U.S. airlines over the next several years due to the mandatory pilot retirement age of 65. The theory is that regional pilots like Perry working for low pay will finally get the chance to move up to the big leagues.

“I believe I can leverage the pilot shortage to my advantage,” Perry says. “In the past, a 60-year-old would not have had a chance. Now, age is not as much of an issue.” Perry has five more years to make his dream a reality.

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