Becoming a pilot with an arrest record

Hi! I am 20 years old and I have recently been considering becoming a pilot, but have recently had a slip up. My friend and i thought it would be funny to sell a fellow college student, who was repeatedly asking him for cocain, a bag of sugar. Turns out, he was a police informant. The police (overcharged) us with felony criminal sale of a controlled substance and petit larceny (saying we tried to “steal” by selling sugar instead of cocain). The appropriate charge according to my lawyer would have been misdemeanor sale of an imitation controlled substance. The case ended with me pleading to disorderly conduct, which is not a crime but a violation in my state that is sealed with no conviction and no resulting record. I understand the FAA will ultimately see all of this, but i am wondering if i have ruined my chances of one day piloting for a major airline, since i will have to disclose the initial charges which look terrible. Can this be explained and overlooked, or will i likely be stuck at a regional forever, if even that? I will be graduating from college in roughly 3 years, so there will be some time between this event and applying for jobs. This has been my only run-in with the law, aside from a trespassing charge when i was 16-17 for being invited to a party that i didnt know was being held in a house the host had no right to be in, which was expunged as a juvenile offense. Let me know honestly if i should give up my aspirations in this field. Thank you for your time!


Honestly when you say things like “I was overcharged” and “this was my only run in, aside from…” you lose any credibility and if this were an interview you’d be done.

However, if you decide to OWN and take responsibility for your actions and keep yourself squeaky clean with no aside froms or buts, you could have a chance. That said there are no guarantees anyone will make it to a Major and you’re starting out in the negative.


Thank you for your response! I included overcharged not because i want to avoid responsibility, but to include the fact that this is not a normal level of charge for what was done (according to lawyers) so that any responses could consider that. I also figured that these companies would probably only consider 18+ records and dismiss juvenile offenses if not repeated, and is why i said it was my “only run in”, but thought i would throw it in incase it would be a dealbreaker that i didnt know of ontop of the adult charges. Anyways, thanks again for your time Adam and the lesson. I will be extra careful in word choice when addressing the issues in potential interviews if i take this route.

If @Adam could back me up on this, there are some disqualifying felonies, yours not being one of them. If my understanding of that is correct, then the felony itself will not immediately disqualify you. How you narrate what happened is very important here. Like Adam said, you have to take full responsibility for it. It may be true that it was all fun and games and you didn’t know what you were doing was a crime and you may believe that you were “overcharged.” That doesn’t matter. You were charged, you made a mistake, you learned your lesson, you are not that person anymore.

That said, the competitiveness of the industry will make it harder for anyone with a criminal history to get hired at the airlines. The regionals are hiring as many pilots as they possibly can, except now we may see them become more selective once the economy begins to recover. The major airlines are still competitive.


Thank you for your input, Tory. Your point about the regionals likely becoming more selective, especially against criminal pasts, is sobering. Looks like i might be better off doing something else.


I am not sure that this is a career killer. If you show that you learned from your mistakes, own them and have a perfect rack record moving forward, you can probably show that you have changed and that this was just an error in judgement made as a kid.

That being said, you will be starting at a disadvantage and will have to have an absolutely perfect track record moving forward.


I don’t necessarily consider this a deal breaker either, but I understand how hard it must be to move forward knowing what you know now.

Reach out to some airlines, Jesse. See what they have to say about it.