I've turned my life around... but is it too late?

I read other posts here about people with less-than-perfect backgrounds, and I have done some research on my own, but it seems to be pretty case-by-case, so I would really appreciate any guidance on my situation.
I will try to be as detailed, brief and honest about my situation as possible and I would appreciate the same feedback.
-I was arrested for Marijuana and underage alcohol possession when I was 17 (2012). I had an expensive lawyer and that is supposed to be expunged, though I don’t know how effective that process really is for something like an FAA background check.
-Two weeks before my 21st birthday (2016), I got a dui. I was definitely guilty. Nobody was hurt but it was a single vehicle accident and I admitted to everything. Once again, a great lawyer, but you don’t get off the hook for DUI’s these days.
-I went to rehab for a meth addiction at the end of 2018. I couldn’t be more grateful for any experience in my life and I’m truly happy to have gone through the horrible addiction, because that led me to the beautiful recovery that is shaping my life into something more than I ever thought it could be (if I never got hooked on hard drugs, I would have basically been the big lebowski for the duration of my life-passing that threshold is what it took to ‘wake me up’). I never received any drug charges besides the one Marijuana charge when I was 17. I am lucky to have escaped that lifestyle with no felonies or barrier crimes.
I have always had very positive work performance and have accumulated glowing references. I no longer drink at all, and drugs are completely out of the question. I know I have not been clean for long enough to convince anyone that I will stay that way, but if there is any chance that by the time I have completed school and training to become a pilot that this history may be acceptable, then that is where I am going to start investing my time and resources. I would be looking at 6-7 years of sobriety by the time I finished.

If im hopeless, please let me know! I really enjoy the current trade I work in as a machinist and they do NOT care what kind of background you come from! Aviation would be a dream come true, but if I have already run too far off the rails, I can still be happy with my collection of drones and r/c’s.

Thank you in advance to anyone who reads this and responds!


Welcome to the forums. Now I want to be clear here, I am not an FAA doctor, nor am I an airline recruiter, so it would be best to check with both of those sources for more definitive information. What I can tell you is that most airlines will not even give you an interview if there is a DUI conviction within five years, let alone drug convictions or stints in rehab. The issue here is that you have shown a pattern, from 2012 until 2018, of willfully breaking the law in regards to drugs and alcohol. I suspect that you would not be able to receive a medical certificate from the FAA, but again, it would be best to check with a FAA doctor on this. After that, I would check with an airline recruiter.

By the way, most of us would consider meth a “hard drug”.

I do appreciate your honesty and candor and wish you the best in your recovery.


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As Chris said there are no absolutes nor are we AMEs but your first hurdle is going to be getting a medical. If you would have had issues early or at a specific phase of your life, that would be one thing, but you have a history of addiction spanning your entire adult life. At the very least you’re going to have to get a HIMS Dr involved and that means time and money again with no guarantees.

Provided you get your medical the next obstacle will be the airlines themselves. What to need to understand is how much airlines are in the public eye. As a machinist if you have a bad day at work chances are you won’t end up on the 6 o’clock news or a major headline. Pilots do and the public has a very clear perception of who they want sitting up front. The fact is should you ever suffer an emergency, even if you do everything right, your history will be part of the story and the airline will have alot of explaining to do. That’s not good for business.

I don’t want to rain on your dreams but honestly I don’t believe it looks good. Perhaps after some time and as Chris said I’d talk to a recruiter.


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First off let me say I am happy to hear you are sober and turned your life around.

*I’m not a Doctor or Lawyer- take with grain of salt.
1 Major Obstacle, 1 Limiting Obstacle.

  • Medical, An FAA AME would not be able to sign you off. Your case would be sent to FAA HQ and you’d be evaluated by HIMS AME, as well as possibly psychologist. This will likely last a few years and be thousands of $, with no guarantee.
    To look further into this seriously I would get AOPA premium membership and contact their Medical / Legal dept to get more accurate details. 1st Class Medical is what you need in many jobs, but a 2nd or 3rd class allows certain for hire operations and flight instructing.

  • Canada, Your DUI means you are not allowed in Canada without obtaining a TRP or Permanent Rehabilitation Status. Entry to Canada is required at almost every airline and many corporate flight departments.
    These cost a few thousand $ and also not guaranteed. The TRP needs to be renewed for a fee as well. Both are harder to obtain today then they were 5yrs ago.
    Pre-Covid all but 2 Regionals required 5yrs since DUI to even get an interview.
    Best bet, Call and ask when hiring starts back up.

  • Before spending $100k on flight training, lawyer & medical bills I would suggest first asking if you can be happy in other forms of aviation besides airlines & also if you can be happy making as little as $40k/yr & survive.
    If yes, then do more research to see if you can get the medical. If so then its your choice to make. I think it will be an uphill battle, many different careers can make a person happy, take your time and you’ll figure out what’s right for you.

Chris F

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