Real Answers from Real Pilots

Other than honorable discharge

Hello my name is Agustin. I received a OTH discharge from the USMC after 3.5 years of service for Misconduct for misuse of controlled substance. I am straight forward with everything I have done and do not wish to hide anything. I want to be a commercial airline pilot and eventually fly internationally. I am willing to commit my life to this but am unsure if there will be anything preventing me from reaching my goals. I also wish to know if there is anything I can do to better me chances.

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I am going to be honest here, I think that you will have a very rough road, if not an impossible road in front of you. I don’t know that the FBI is so much of an issue, but the airlines themselves. I suggest that you talk to an airline recruiter at one of the regional airlines, make sure that you explain your exact situation to them. The airlines take drug and alcohol convictions very seriously.


Hey Agustin,

I also ran into some trouble, mine before I became a Marine. I’ve spoken to a few regional recruiters individually and have explained my situation, omitting absolutely nothing. It has been about 10 years since my incident, which is something they say that is a good thing and they say that it does not disqualify me from getting hired. (the Majors is a different story, that may never happen) But just know that there are going to be pilots with no convictions. if i were hiring, I would pick from that pool first. Also, when you go for a FAA medical, the examiner will also ask you about any drugs or alcohol abuse. Your medical then may be denied by the FAA. Also, a regional wont hire you unless you have unrestricted access into Canada. A conviction will make you inadmissible for a certain amount of time unless you apply for a pardon from Canada or get a lawyer to do it for you. I’m not currently enrolled in ATP, I have just been through the medical process and speaking with recruiters. Just wanted to give you my 2 cents since i’m in a similar situation.


Thank you Carlos,

You obviously have researched this subject on a more personal level. I think you make a good point in that it’s been 10 yrs since you had your issue. Agustin you don’t give a time frame but I’m assuming it hasn’t been long? If that’s the case (as someone who participated in hiring) I’d want to see some proof you’ve learned the “error of your ways” before I’d be willing to take a chance on you. ie, a few years living and working without further issue.


My incident happened 6 months ago. I’ll have to investigate each step of the process to see how far i can get. Thank you for replying my biggest fear is not being able to qualify.

Could I still acquire a private pilot license? I was hoping I could get a job flying for some years, building a resume and experience before I attempt to go commercial.

That will really depend on the FAA. I suggest that you contact an FAA medical examiner and ask them as they can give you a better answer.

On another note, it takes at least a Commercial pilots license to be able to fly for compensation. A private essentially only allows you to fly yourself or your friends, you cannot accept any compensation when acting as a private pilot.


Just to further clarify when you go for your medical the application asks about substance abuse and any arrests, convictions, have you ever failed a drug test etc. Once you answer yes the examiner turns it over to the FAA for review. It’s completely at their discretion whether or not to grant you a medical. 6 months isn’t really a long time and I would have my concerns but as Chris said, your best route would be consult an AME.


Thank you gentlemen for the information, I expected to hear these responses, I can now only continue to investigate how far I may take my aviation career in hopes that one day I may fly commercially. Although some airlines may not hire me, if by chase I can become a commercial pilot I hope my perseverance is enough to land me a job.