Real Answers from Real Pilots

Can I become an airline pilot with a dui?

Hello all, I’m completely new here so I apologize if there is another thread for this already. The story is that when I was a young high school boy; I was going through troubling times and was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. I was only 17 at the time, but was charged as an adult. After going to court, I was assigned court supervision and was told if I completed court supervision, that it is not a conviction and that it would not show on my record. My license were suspended while I wasn’t on court supervision, because I was given a drug test when arrested for the dui which caused the suspension. I have a strong desire to become a commercial airline pilot, but I am concerned that I will spend a significant amount of money on pilot school and not be able to find a lucrative job once I graduate. I am 24 Years old now and about to earn my bachelors in business, and I have not been in any trouble since the arrest at 17.

With all of that said, what are my chances of becoming a comercial airline pilot with a “non-conviction” dui at the age of 17? I work extremely hard and will do whatever it’s takes to obtain my goals, but I am curious about the effects of this dui. Please don’t be afraid to be blunt with me, honest advice is my desired outcome.
Thanks in advance for reading this far, and responding! Much appreciated

Carl,

I’m always blunt. 17 is not a young high school boy, 14-15 is. At 17 you’re a year or less away from being able to move out, join the military etc. The FAA and the airlines will not ask if you were convicted nor if your DUI was a non-conviction. They will ask have you ever been arrested and was it drug related? The answer to both is YES. A few years ago I would have said you were done but fortunately for you the Regional airlines are desperate and will (provided EVERYTHING else is squeaky clean) allow ONE. That’s enough for you to start your career and if you put enough years of good behavior between you and the DUI you’ll have a decent shot at a Major. That said there are no guarantees. I have a very good friend who’s on the hiring board of a Major US airline. His brother was killed by a drunk driver. If you happen to find him on your panel not only won’t you get hired you’ll probably get chewed out as well.

Adam

2 Likes

Adam,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post. Unfortunately, I am afraid I left out another time I was arrested at 21(due to the fact that it was all dropped immediately), but I do realize the faa cares about any arrest. Well, when I was 21 I was pulled over for posseing of 2 grams of marijuana(class A misdemeanor), and there was also a fith of alcohol in my back floorboard I didn’t know about, so I was also charged with illegal transportation of alcohol. There was no dui in this situation, as I was completely sober, but I was still dumb enough to be driving around with it. My lawyer immediately got it all thrown out immediately, and I just had to take 10 hours of community service in exchange.
I am aware that i made some very stupid mistakes, mistakes that disqualify you of worthiness in many opinions. After my arrest at 21 I quit smoking and drinking and have been clean ever since, and enrolled in college. I’m afraid that the combination of the DUI and second arrest will classify my as a hazard and be a major road block. Would you agree that is the case? Again, thanks a ton sir!

Carl

Carl,

Based on your repeated history of arrests for drug and alcohol possession, I do not feel like you have any possibility of getting a job at any airline, ever; regional or major. You have shown a repeated, consistent disregard for the law and the airlines operate in a highly regulated industry. Honestly, I think you would have a hard time getting any kind of job with the airlines, let alone a pilot position.

Chris

Understandable, I will just have to drop the idea of becoming a pilot. Thanks for the responses guys!

Just curious to all who replied to this guy with the DUI, wouldn’t those charges prevent him from getting a first class medical to begin with? Correct if I am wrong, it’s just my belief that if you can get a first class medical, your background check would be the same and acceptable to the regionals. In other words, if you can obtain the medical, you are hireable

Robbie,

I agree that the individual in question would have a very hard time getting a first class medical, but let’s just say that he was somehow able to. Even with a medical, an airline is of course free to apply their own standards and no airline will higher somebody with a repeat history of drug offenses. Period. What you are saying is equivalent to saying that an airline should hire anybody who has an ATP, or a trucking company shoukd hire anybody who has a CDL. All companies are free to apply their own standards and drug and alcohol issues are career killers, even if a first class medical has been obtained.

Just say no.

Chris

Robbie,

Short answer no. First if you have a DUI the FAA will defer your medical until they do further research. They’ll check your background to see when this was, was this a single event, etc. Provided they don’t feel there’s a pattern or other cause for concern they will issue a First Class. That said while with a First Class you’re definitely “hirable”, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be. The pilot shortage is real and right or wrong, there are many pilots getting hired who would not have in the past. Things can and do change and if/when the airlines catch up trust me the scrutiny will return (it’s simple supply and demand). In addition a person with a DUI already has a “check” in the negative box. I recently heard of a pilot who was fired for being too drunk to board his flight back from training. He wasn’t working the flight, simply a pax in the back. I believe if this was a “first offense” he may have gotten away with a slap on the wrist BUT he had a DUI on his record and the airline concluded there was a problem and let him go. All that money and time wasted…

Adam

:+1::+1:

Carl,

You need to buy AOPAs premium account and talk to one of their aviation lawyers to see if you’re required to discuss that 2nd arrest to the FAA, Medical Examiner, or airlines (you might not have to depending on the circumstances).

I agree the pattern will red flag a lot of jobs as it should. Depending on if/how you have to disclose that 2nd arrest will determine a lot I think.

Another thing people forget about a DUI and some other crimes is that you are not allowed in Canada (so passport is restricted) which cuts off jobs until you take care of that with a Canadian TRP.

You can get a 1st class medical directly from Examiner with a DUI and it is NOT automatically deferred to FAA for review. It is that Examiners decision (If you get it The FAA reserves right to review it still).

Best advise anyone can give is to talk to AOPA lawyer (or any aviation lawyer), be 100% honest and go from there.

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I agree with the need to speak with an attorney for an official answer. However, if the airlines ask “have you ever…” that is not a question of what is on your record, it is an honest question that requires an honest response of what a person has or has not done. If you lie and the airlines find out, which they will, that is grounds for termination.

I agree. The AME and FAA are based on what the regs require you to disclose.
Should be honest with employers if/when it comes up.

It will come up. I have filled out a lot of airline applications. It is asked every time.

“Should be honest if/when it comes up”.

Trust me it WILL come up. Again the question is a simple one, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ARESTED? Simple question with a simple VERY simple YES or NO answer. There is no grey area. If there was a mistake made then have proof and explain but again there is only ONE answer.

Adam

Very interesting material. In similar situations, what is the likelyhood of becoming successful in the private sector or other sectors not concerning commercial?

Jay,

The odds are the same. Corporate flight departments all carry insurance and would have difficulty insuring somebody with that kind of background.

Chris

The input is appreciated. Say a guy has his record expunged prior to even acquiring a private license, what does that do for a potential aviation career?

Jay,

Please read the posts above as this is discussed. The bottom line is that an “expunged” record is never really expunged, not when it comes to the federal government. Also, the airlines and the FAA do not ask if you have a clean or expunged record, they ask “Have you ever been arrested for…”

Chris

Jay,

I’ve seen people with DUIs and other issues hired as pilots. The ONLY ones that I’ve seen FIRED and literally thrown out of class are the ones that believe their records have been sealed, expunged etc and answered “no” to the questions “have you ever been?”. We’re talking about the airline industry #1, you know, one of the LARGEST industries in the World that’s HIGHLY regulated by the Federal govt AND we live in the information age where NOTHING can’t be found.

Adam

Carl, Adam, Chris,

Apologies for my immaterial response to this thread, i see it has aged a couple years. However, as i just stumbled onto this site/your convo, felt the need to jump in and say thanks for all the info and insights shared.

Like Carl, i have a DUI on my record-- I was 19 (30 now) as such, i never even bothered looking into realizing my kid dreams of being a Pilot. Recently, due to life/transition events, I have the opportunity to chase a new career, or stay in my current one (Finance Technology) and honestly couldnt think of anything worse i wanna do everyday lol. Anyways, i started to apply around for inlfight cabin crewmember positions, not near actually flying, but thinking its the closest i can get.

Starting sometime in early April, my Background has been ‘accepted’ and as far as Canada is concerned i do have a TRP document thats valid for another 2 years, only reason i have it is due to my last job and biz meetings etc. however dont think ill need it with my new airline, its currently not flying there, only situation i could possibly see is if one of my legs had to ‘divert’?

Carl, im curious if youve tried anything further, lawyer perhaps? or just dropped the dream/idea of it?