It’s Never Too Late to Find a New Career (a Mile Above Your Old One)

“It’s Never Too Late” is a series that tells the stories of people who decide to pursue their dreams on their own terms.

Live music was no more. Patrick Milando could draw no other conclusion. But maybe he could pivot.

It was a summer day in 2020, a peak of the coronavirus pandemic, and Mr. Milando, a French horn player, had been driving through a locked-down, emptied-out Times Square. Then 67, he had spent nearly a half-century as a professional musician, from the Metropolitan Opera to over a dozen years with “The Lion King.” Now that musical, along with so much else, had shuttered. At an age when his peers were wrapping up their work, Mr. Milando found himself pondering a new way to pay the bills — 5,000 feet above his old way.

Patrick Milando preparing to fly at Lakewood Township Municipal Airport in New Jersey. The French horn player went from high notes to high altitude, making a late-in-life pivot to become a flight instructor. Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times

Mr. Milando, next to a Cessna 172SP, teaches people “to fly everything from a single-engine Cessna to a multi-engine Piper. “Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times
Mr. Milando runs through a checklist to ensure that critical preflight steps are carried out.Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times

Sometimes we leap happily to an all-new life. Sometimes we leap happily with a push.

Mr. Milando had begun flying single-engine planes before the pandemic, but purely as a hobby. (He had logged around 300 hours of flight time.) Now, he wondered, could he actually become a professional pilot? He was too old to fly for the major airlines (the cutoff is 65), but there was no age limit on teaching others to fly.

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