You’re Never Too Old to Live Your Dream!

Editor's note: If you appreciate posts like this and want ANC to continue publishing similar content, become a paid subscriber for as little as $1.35 a month.

Life can get in the way of achieving our dreams. After a certain point, or age, many of us figure it’s too late to grasp that brass ring. But after speaking to a few octogenarian pilots at a FAA Safety Team (FAAST) training seminar I attended this past weekend, I’d say age doesn’t have to be a stumbling block.

While the large majority of the pilot attendees were over 55, many were over 65. Five were 80+, and most of them were still flying.


For those who may not know, there is an international group of older experienced pilots called the United Flying Octegenarians. Founded in 1982 by a group of 31 aviators over the age of 80, this international non-profit group now boasts a membership of over 1,400 men and women from all over the world, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Argentina, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom.

From all accounts, many of the older pilots attending the seminar had flying in their blood from an early age.

Jack Kilpatrick, owner of the Redding Jet Center, has been flying since he was nineteen or twenty, when he flew for the Air Force.

Flying is one thing he’s indulged in, says Kilpatrick, and at 86 he still flies at least 2-3 times a week. Among the “fun” planes he owns are an Aeorostar twin engine, two Russian L29 jets and a 1917 replica of Eddie Rickenbacker’s Spad plane.

Kilpatrick loves to do acrobatics in his former military training plane. One of the benefits of being older and having hardened arteries, he said, is he can pull more g’s than most people. He’s still awake in front while everyone in back has faded away!

Audrey Schutte is another octogenarian who’s made a life of flying. After getting her pilot’s license in 1956, her husband told her to get a job to support her expensive habit. So she became a flight school flight instructor for a number of years. Later, Schutte worked with the NationalTransportation Safety Board as an accident investigator for eight years, then transferred to the FAA as an inspector. When she and her husband retired and moved to Redding, she took a job at Hillside Aviation “in my retirement! Twenty-three years later, I’m still trying to retire,” she said.

For some, it’s taken some time to finally catch the dream.

Dick Wilkinson came late to flying but has loved it ever since. Now almost 84, he got his pilot’s license in 2008 – twelve days before his 77th birthday! It began when a friend taught him how to do landings during a flight together. He ended up doing his first unassisted landing after 3 hours of instruction!

Another seminar participant said he got his pilot’s license at age 60. After he had bypass surgery, he decided it was time to live his dream. Now, 12 years later, he says to anyone thinking of flying: “Give it a try. It might change your life!”

Jack Rochette has had his pilot’s license for 50 years. Much of that time, he’s flown ultralights on his ranch. But recently he found the plane of his dreams – a 1946 Cessna 170. Rochette says now it’s time to learn to be a better pilot to fly this plane. He passed a recent physical for his license with flying colors, the only pilot of a group that day that did.

Goes to show that at 72, or any age, it’s never too late to do what you love.

To reach Debra Atlas, contact her at or via her blog at

A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable or
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

10 Responses

  1. Avatar Ginny says:

    Just shows age doesn’t have to be a limit. Good for these “young” people.

  2. Avatar Clark says:

    I love hearing stories like this. I had a friend who always wanted to get his license, but didn’t try until his mid 50s. Ten years later, he’s loved every minute of it. You’re never too old to take to the skies.

  3. Avatar Joel Brightbill says:

    My first flying lesson was in 1949 at the ripe old age of 14, had to wait till 16 to solo, which I did in a Luscombe 8a, got my private license in 1956 after a stint in the USAF, am an aircraft owner (Cessna 177) and still flying at 80 yrs old, I dread the day that I will have to give it up.

  4. Joel,

    If you haven’t yet joined the UFOs, do it now. You’ll be glad that you did … and so will we. Here is the link to our website

    Charlie Lopez
    United Flying Octogenarians
    VP of PR

  5. Joel,

    If you haven’t yet joined the UFOs, do it now at You will be glad that you did and so will we.

    Charlie Lopez
    United Flying Octogenarians
    VP of PR

  6. Avatar Hurant Karibian says:

    A couple of years ago, at the Crystal River (Florida) Fly-In, the man sitting behind me exchanged his private pilots license for the sport aviation one to get away from the FAA hassles. (I know about that) He was a week away from 97.
    Which begs the question: In three months and a week I will no longer be an octogenarian. What are we, then ???????????

  7. Avatar Nancy Warren says:

    Debra, thank you for your article on the UFO! I have been a member for over 6 years…am a colleague with Charlie Lopez on the Board of Directors. I realized my dream to fly in 1985 and flew until October, 2012 when I reached 84. Flying was the best thing I have ever done for myself! Joining the UFO comes in as a close second!

    I encourage senior pilots everywhere to join this great organization that recognizes and values our contributions to the world of aviation!

    Nancy Warren
    Executive Vice President
    United Flying Octogenarians

  8. Avatar Jack Kilpatric says:

    I first soloed 1966 got my private license 1978. I’ve flown Cherokee 140, Cessna 150, Cessna 172. Cessna 182, and love flying my clubs cherokee 180 at age 82. and belong to U.F.O

  9. I have had my private pilot’s license since age 78 and enjoy flying from North Idaho to Central Coast California to see my children and grandchildren. I fly alone between north California and North Idaho.
    Such fun in retirement!
    Also enjoy being a member of United Flying Octogenarians and going to as many meetings as I can all over the Northwest and in California.

  1. October 24, 2014

    […] here to learn what these older pilots had to say about how and why they went after their dreams and […]