Real Answers from Real Pilots

Becoming a pilot with misdemeanor charges

(g21) #1

So let me start out with a little background I am 27 and have been in the aviation industry for about 5 years, I’ve got a whopping 9 hours flight time. I’ve worked the regionals and mainline as an a&p mechanic. My goal was to get a good enough job where I could afford to learn to fly, and work my way from the wrench to the yoke. Well with all the work as a mechanic I lost sight of what I wanted and stopped pursuing my goal. Recently I was convicted of a few misdemeanors indecent exposure and evading. I was rightfully terminated from a legacy carrier and in my off time here in evaluating my life I’ve been thinking. Yeah I made a huge mistake and had a terrible lapse in judgement. But I’ve learned just how important judgement making truly is, and I know exactly where I would like to go with my life. My debt to society is just about paid and my charges should be expunged but there are still news articles related to this and my dmv record which can’t be expunged. My question is, is it even worth it anymore to pursue becoming a pilot? Will a regional carrier hire me with this record let alone a mainline? I guess I’m just looking for some career advice anything would help. Thanks in advance.


Hello Nicholas,

I have to be honest, this is a tough one. While I hate to be the guy to squash someone’s goals (particularly when this is really speculation on my part), you definitely have a few obstacles in your way.

The first issue is can you even get a First Class medical? One of the requirements of an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) is “of good moral character” and in recent years the FAA has made a point of demonstrating they’re serious about this one. In the past, on the application, they would ask about any traffic violations but now they want to know about ALL arrests, convictions and charges. If it’s really minor the AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) can make a judgment based on certain criteria but anything like multiple issues they must submit to the FAA for review. I’m not an expert so first I recommend you talk to an AME and they could better advise you on how successful you’ll be (or not).

Assuming you can get a medical the next issue of course is can/will you get hired? Different airlines have different requirements but ALL again will ask about any arrests, convictions, and charges. You say you’re record will be expunged but the internet is a wonderful and terrible thing and you will be Googled. You also were fired from an airline and that info is readily available. If you answer “no” regarding your record and it’s discovered (and it will be) you’re def out so you’re best off being honest. Problem as I see it (again I’m not an expert) is you have multiple “recent” offenses, you’re weren’t 16 (so the silly kid excuse won’t fly), and again you were working for an airline when it happened which shows poor judgment and disrespect for the industry.

I would talk to an aviation attorney who’d obviously know more than me but I’d be lying if I said your chances were good.




I am going to second Adam on this, I think you should talk to an AME and an aviation attorney. That being said, I do not see where an airline would be willing to hire you. What were you convicted of is some pretty serious stuff, that in addition to be fired from an airline means that you have a really steep, if not impossible hill to climb.

I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but I also don’t want to see you spend a large sum of money on training that you will not be able to apply.


(g21) #4

Thanks guys for all the feedback, I will take your advice and seek legal advice and will find out if I’m able to get a first class medical.



Anytime. I would be curious to know what you find out. Please update us if you don’t mind.


(Rodney H Mindrup II) #6


What about misdemeanor more than 15 years old? Do they even need to be disclosed?


Rodney you need to answer the questions honestly.

The FAA asks “have you ever?” and ever means EVER. The airlines may ask within the last 10 yrs. If that’s the case then no. We live in the information age and there are no secrets. A few years ago I was teaching a newhire class at ExpressJet when someone from HR came in and asked to speak with one of the pilots. He stepped out and didn’t return. Later I inquired and he had lied about a past offense on his application. Fact was it was a minor infraction and it was years ago. He was removed because he lied and now in addition to the offense he has a termination from an airline for lying on his application to deal with. Definitely didn’t help his cause.


(Eric) #8

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Agreed, if it was a small offense that was some time ago that you learned from then odds are you can overcome it.


It really depends on what the nature of the offense is. There is such a wide range of what is considered misdemeanors.


(Rodney H Mindrup II) #10

Thanks Guys!

It was a minor offense, and never repeated. It has been some 17 years now. Adam I understand the clarity of the question and reciprocating response on the application. I had no plans to hiding it. It is a blemish that has come up before in my past at interviews, and I agree with all of you. Honesty is the best policy! I may even be able to get this removed from the record. In that case, should it still be disclosed? As Adam points out, This probably depends on the wording of the question. If states, “arrested”, Then of course I would answer all questions honestly.


(Eric) #11

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(g21) #12

In response to what Eric just said, That is another question for the industry what does the FBI actually disclose? I paid huge money to a top criminal defense lawyer and from what I understand the FBI only releases sealed records on an as needed basis, I was told only law enforcement can unseal records for use on employment and a few other uses like military sector and when working with children. But it is unclear what is discloses as pertinent information to airlines post 9/11. I am no lawyer and my attorney specializes in criminal law. So once I get a definant answer from a aviation lawyer I will update. Also how do I go about seeking the information from the medical examiner? Again thanks for all the responses this is very helpful.



We all agree none of us are experts. What I find curious is are you saying you don’t feel potentially being at the controls of a $250mil machine that weighs 1/2 a million pounds, carries 300 people and (as demonstrated 15yrs ago this week) is capable of mass destruction is something the FBI wouldn’t deem appropriate to disclose? Part of the hiring process is in fact an FBI background check. Again I’d check with an attorney but I’m not sure you appreciate how the government views commercial aviation? And rightfully so.

As for the medical, you can do a search on the FAA website or simply Google AME in your area.


(g21) #14

Adam don’t get me wrong I completely agree with you yes it’s a huge responsibility. I get the gravity of how airlines view these sorts of things I’ve worked for a legacy carrier and even on the a330 you are flying. Shoot there is a chance we have been in the same cockpit just in a different capacity me as a mechanic and you as a pilot I do know the responsibility placed in pilots hands I’ve taxied your Hawaiian a330 in lax and yes I have a great measure of respect for what pilots do and just as much respect for the machine. I know I’ve messed up and I own it I’m just stating I don’t know what is allowable by the fbi and what’s not there is a list of offenses that I know are disclosed to airlines, as a mechanic we are held to the same fbi check as pilots as referenced in 49 CFR 1542.209. And I have since cleared a background check. Nothing ever completely disappears so a 20 year old traffic violation is sure to come up in a fbi background investigation but would something like that be disclosed is it pertinate to the job? im not trying to be an armchair quarterback here because I truly don’t know. And what I’m stating is when time comes that I find out I will repost.



All I was saying is this is a serious matter (and well above my pay grade) which is why first and foremost I recommend you talk to an AME and a lawyer.

That said, please let’s be clear, this isn’t a pilot vs mx, who’s got the greater responsibility etc discussion. This is about the airline industry and the government’s view of criminal behavior. I appreciate you regret your actions and are “owning it” AND the fact you were working for a Legacy carrier. Not to be harsh but the fact is you are no longer working for that carrier and (by your own admission) it’s due to your arrests. The particulars are none of my (or anyone else’s) business but it was obviously serious enough to warrant your dismissal and in my mind would cause me to wonder why’d they be overlooked in the future.



I think this thread has gone far enough, so I am going to close the topic. The bottom line is that our histories follow us no matter where we go. Whether it is an FBI check, a question on an application or a simple Google search it is hard to evade our past mistakes. In some cases the airlines will overlook small offenses, but generally speaking they will not overlook the larger ones. A past criminal history is a very easy way for an airline to automatically reduce the size of their applicant pool and many of them employ this technique. Fair or not, it is the way it is in this industry.