Real Answers from Real Pilots

Prior DUI

So I was arrested while I was in the Air Force on March 2020 for a DUI in and was convicted in September 2020. I took the breathalyzer on the scene and blew a 1.5 after talking to a family member on the phone I refused the blood test at the station. looking back the refusal was also a huge mistake and they did it anyways with a warrant. I’ve completed all of my requirements from the court. I have no prior education or certifications in flying. wanted to start working towards my degree in aeronautics through Embry-Riddle. I was wondering if there’s any hope that I can still be an airline pilot? Thanks!


Your biggest hurdle os going to be obtaining a FAA First Class Medical. My understanding is that the FAA will be somewhat tolerant of a first offense, but not of a second. You should consult a FAA Examiner for a final verdict on this. I would expect the FAA to have several questions and the process might take a while.

On the airline side, most airlines will not consider an applicant with a DUI in the last five years, between 5-10 years they will look at the situation. The major airlines like United, Delta, etc might be a tough sell, but the Low Cost Carriers like Spirit are generally not as stringent on this. I recommend contacting the recruiting departments of several airlines and asking them directly.



I agree with all Chris said. I just want to add that all the above is contingent on you remaining squeaky clean between now and then. One DUI can be looked at as a poor decision. Get a second (or some other issues) and you’ve got a problem. So to answer your question whether or not you can be an airline pilot is very much in your hands.

I’m more interested in your interest in Riddle? While ER is a fine institution it’s VERY expensive and takes far to long. You’re looking at 5yrs min at ER (4yr degree plus time building) vs 3 with an accelerated course like ATPs. Should you decide to proceed I’d suggest you do some research as to the options available.


For future questions, many have been answered already and can be found using the search function. Here is my response to one from last year. I wrote a paper on airlines and criminal records for college and here is what I picked up talking to different companies and airlines back in 2018.

Im no lawyer but I think you will have 2 issues.

  • The Refusal, and BAC of .15, both of these put you in a higher risk category with the FAA. So an AME might not be allowed to give you a medical & would be deferred to FAA (6-12m delay, + a lot of extra money for possible doctor and lawyers fees), also no guarantee they issue you a medical.
  • Canada. That’s atleast another $2000-$8000 with no guarantee.

Your best bet IMO is do your research, call some regionals, be honest & humble, consider $160 AOPA membership to talk to Aviation Attorney, and then decide. A lawyer might want to know what Blood Test showed BAC was btw (if it’s lower than the .15 it could help you) I think all of us here believe it’s possible but will not be easy.

Chris F


The airlines will want you to show that you are of good moral character. The best way to do that is to not get into any more trouble.

As previously mentioned, your first hurdle is obtaining the 1st Class Medical.

If you’ve made it that far and are successful in flight training, the airlines will want you to be able to fly to all of the destinations they fly to. Chris F gave good info on Canadian restrictions. You will need to do some research to figure out what you will need to do in order to gain entry. Essentially, less than 10 years from conviction will require a permit.

So, while I think you have a chance, you have some extra work to do. The major airlines is a big question mark. None of the majors that I’ve reached out to about this question have been willing to provide any insight on how they handle applicants with a DUI or DWI. Because the majors aren’t willing to volunteer any helpful info, no one can make any promises that you’ll fly for one, but if you make it far enough in aviation I certainly wouldn’t let that stop you from trying.


Adam I appreciate that you took the time out of your day to reply, and I hope you can maybe educate me on something I do not know already. I’m interested in EM because of getting a degree while getting flying certificates. Which is a plus because I want to fly for UPS and you need a degree for that. Also my GI bill will pay for all of EM whereas a school like ATP will not.


I totally understand the desire to have the government pay for all your training. There are 2 things to consider. First, seniority is everything at the airlines. It determines your schedule, aircraft, bases, vacation, literally every aspect of the job. The sooner you’re flying, the sooner you’ll build your time, the sooner you get hired for a feeder for UPS, the sooner you have a shot at UPS. More important is pilots have a finite amount of time they can work as mandatory retirement is 65. The longer it takes to get to an airline the less time you’ll have there. Senior Capts at UPS make $400k. Over the 2yrs you’ll lose that’s $800k you’ll never see which is quite a bit more than the cost of tuition.

Now if you wanted to expedite things as soon as you’re done with you service you could complete all your training with ATP in 9mos. Another 1.5-2yrs to build your time and you’re on your way. You could then use your benefits to get an online aviation degree from ER but they would give you credit for your licenses and ratings cutting a good year off college and all being done while you’re flying for a Regional or feeder building time and experience.

In the end it’s really up to you what works best for YOU and again ER is a fine school. I just know I wish I would’ve started flying sooner. Something to consider.


Thank you, Adam you have been very informative and helpful. When you were talking about all the perks of seniority you said something about bases. I was wondering if there is a list of all the bases somewhere that I could take a look at. I’m single and I did just recently separate from the AF so I could really work anywhere, just thought it would be interesting to see what all there is out there.


Happy to help. Here you go!