Could i become a successful pilot with a criminal background

Hy everyone,

I’m looking for some insight into my particular situation regarding my felonies(2) and misdemeanors(2). In 2007(i was 18 yrs old) I was tried and convicted for 2 auto thefts(felonies/non-violent) and 2 misdemeanors for unlawful caring of a weapon(wasn’t registered under my name) and burglary of a vehicle. Since then, I have been keeping my nose clean for over a decade.

I’m currently an owner-operator(2 Semis) and HAZMAT CDL Driver. Also, a certified diesel technician/mechanic. I’m a bit familiar and informed with TSA rules and regulations since I had to obtain my HAZMAT endorsement and TWIC card through them.

I’m aware that I have multiple non-violent convictions from the past, but I was hoping to maybe after some years had elapsed I could fulfill my dream and goal of becoming a pilot? Realistically could I become a pilot and find employment? Any useful information would be appreciated.

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That really depends on your definition of “successful”? There are of course no guarantees but if you’ve put some time between yourself and your offenses I believe you should have a decent shot at being hired by a Regional. The problem will probably be when/if you attempt to move to a Major. Flying for a Major is the pinnacle of our industry and they can and are very selective. Major airlines are incredibly mindful of their image since anytime anything happens we end up on the 6 o’clock news. If you should suffer a bad day at work and the news reported “the airplane was piloted by a convicted felon” it would not play well.

That said you could have a very nice career as a Regional Capt making low 6 figures and there I can’t 100% say you’d never make it to a Major but the odds are against you. Your decision if that would qualify as “successful”.



I am going to disagree with Adam on this one. I do not think you have any realistic chance at being hired by any airline, regional or major. The primary issue is that you could very well be criminally inadmissible to Canada, which certainly will not work for an airline.

Beyond that you could have trouble even obtaining a first class medical from the FAA or being issued an ATP license as that requires one to be of “good moral character”.

But, don’t base your career decisions on my thoughts. I suggest you try applying for a first class medical and talk to the recruiting departments of several regional airlines to see what they think.


I would look into AOPA. If you get their premium membership it includes consultation on Medical concerns which includes a lawyer. They will likely take the time to answer many of your questions.

I think an AME and HR / Recruiters can see past 10yr old mistakes given your current responsibilities and attitude. But it will be uphill, and depend on IF its a disqualifying offense where HR hands are tied.

2 years ago I did a survey of Regional Airlines about how they handle DUIs. On avg it required a clean record for 5yr and proof of entry to Canada.
Most Majors seemed to allow 1 DUI from distant past.
Expect these to get stricter now that pilots are expendable. Already see airlines and Corporate adjusting their hiring standards to this “new normal”.

Canada will likely be your biggest hurdle. A Temporary Residency Permit allows entry but has a high bar to receive. 5yrs after all court sentences are completed you can apply for Permanent Rehabilitation Status. Either of these would require assistance from a specialized Attorney and approx $1500-$3000 each time. This cost does not guarantee anything, only that they will review your request.

There are other opportunities for pilots besides airlines. I have 2 friends making 100k flying medical supplies in PC12s at night. 5day/wk overnight job, home almost every day, weekends off. So there are options with a good network of friends and interview skills.

Given your age of Approx 30, do a spread sheet on your net worth at age 65. One column for keep doing what youre doing, and another for transitioning to pilot. (Loss of income from time commitment, Cost of training, CFI wage, Regional FO wage, Regional Capt wage, ect) Expect 2yr training, 2yr CFI, 2-5yr Regional FO, Regional Capt, etc.

Its a huge decision with a lot of moving parts. Act like your favorite dispatcher and take the time to plan it out as accurately as you can.