Real Answers from Real Pilots

What are my chances with this criminal history?

I’m not sure if airline pilot is something I should even try to pursue because of my background. Before I spend the 10’s of thousands on flight training, I was hoping you guys could give me an educated guess of how my career would likely pan out. I am shooting to work for the majors.

I had an undesirable living situation when I was growing up (parents always fighting, weak family cohesion, etc). In addition to this, I developed a bad anxiety issue around age 13. I found it very hard to cope with daily life and I became a very rebellious and troubled teenager. I got involved with a bad crowd and got in a lot of trouble.

From the ages of 15-23 I got arrested several times and was issued about 10 traffic citations. The arrests lead to being charged with 3 misdemeanors and 4 counts of a felony. All 3 misdemeanors got dismissed after I completed community service. The charges were for assault, trespassing, and for trying to get into a casino with a fake id. The felony charges were for destruction of property and were dismissed “nolle prosequi”. The traffic citations were mostly for speeding with a few red light violations but I attended drivers safety school for everything and everything got dismissed.

I’m not sure exactly what the majors, or even regionals, will ask on background questions. I’ve never been convicted of anything but I have been arrested many times. So if they ask a question about convictions, I will say no. But if they ask about arrests, then I think that the show would come to stop. In addition, I’ve heard there is a section about traffic tickets and I don’t know if I have to disclose them since they were dismissed after driver safety school.

As a personal statement, I would like to say that I am now almost 30 years old and have not had any problems for nearly 7 years. I moved out of my parents house at 22 and my life instantly improved since the stress of dealing with them went away. I have a 4 year college degree, have been working as a professional for 4 years, and I also have my private pilot certificate. I’m not a bad person, but I do have a record of misconduct. I realize how ugly of a phase I went through and I’m not proud of it but it was unfortunately the necessary trials I had to go through to become a mature adult.

So what do you guys think?

Chris,

I’m not going to lie, this is a tough one and I don’t believe it looks good for you. While you may not have been convicted your clearly (and admittedly) were participating in criminal activity for a LONG period of time. The airlines will ABSOLUTELY ask about arrests and not just convictions. I don’t believe a Major will ever hire you. The fact you earned your degree and have remained clean for 7yrs a Regional might (?) give you a look but even that is a guess as you were involved in those activities for longer than you’ve been good. I would contact recruiting at a Regional or 2 and see their thoughts.

Adam

Thanks for the quick response Adam.

I have checked the questions regarding criminal history on both airlineapps.com and also for the FAA First Class Medical application.

Both of those only ask about convictions.

Is there going to be an additional questionnaire I will have to answer asking about arrests as well? At what point will I be asked this?

If I did get hired by a regional with a flow program to AA, then will they ask me additional background questions before I officially flow?

Chris,

I’m not sure where you’re looking but straight from the FAA’s website regarding First Class Medicals:
Application Process for Medical Certification
Applicant History - Item 18. Medical History
v. History of Arrest(s), Conviction(s) and/or Administrative Action(s)

Additionally the airlines will run an extensive background check and EVERYTHING will come up (as it should). I appreciate this is something you’re hoping to achieve but if you’re looking for a loophole there isn’t one. Do you not think the airlines and the FAA have a right to know who they’re hiring or licensing? They have a responsibility to the flying public to keep them safe. I’m not saying you’re not or wouldn’t be but they have every right to know all the facts regarding your history as well they should. The fact is actions have consequences.

Flow-thrus have LOTS of fine print and yes they will of course do an additional background check.

Adam

With due respect, the full question of the part you are referencing from the FAA Medical Application reads like this:

Arrest and/or Conviction and/or Administrative Action History

v. History of (1) any arrest(s) and/or conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or (2) history of any arrest(s), and/or conviction(s), and/or administrative action(s) involving an offense(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges or which resulted in attendance at an educational or a rehabilitation program.

w. History of nontraffic conviction(s) (misdemeanors or felonies).

In the first part they are only asking about arrests having to do with driving privileges being suspended.

In the second part they are only asking about convictions.

From airlineapps.com:

In the past ten (10) years, have you ever been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any of the above listed crimes?

In the past ten (10) years, have you ever been convicted of a crime involving a felony, misdemeanor, infraction, or violation of any law? Please exclude all traffic violations.

Again, they are only asking about convictions.

Can you tell me at what point I will be asked about any and all arrests?

I understand it and accept it if my record keeps me out of the majors. I just want to understand the process to determine for myself if I have a chance.

Soooo you don’t think this applies?

(2) history of any arrest(s), and/or conviction(s), and/or administrative action(s) involving an offense(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges or which resulted in attendance at an educational or a rehabilitation program.
From you:
“The traffic citations were mostly for speeding with a few red light violations but I attended drivers safety school for everything and everything got dismissed.”

Regardless, should an airline like your application they will run a background check at which time ALL your records will come up (convictions AND arrests). At that point if they are still interested you will definitely be asked about it.

Adam

Yes I believe my traffic offenses would apply since drivers safety school could be considered a educational or rehabilitation program. I was more concerned about my arrests for the misdemeanors and felony charges.

Are the traffic citations as big of a deal as the arrests?

For the criminal charges I have already run an FBI background check on myself. Only my felony charges showed up and they show as being dismissed.

Just so I understand the process…are you saying they will privately run a background check before offering me an interview to find offenses that aren’t asked about on the FAA Medical Application or by airlineapps.com? Or, will there be an entirely separate questionnaire I have to fill out by the major airline directly asking about all arrests ever? From what I am understanding they only run the background check after hiring you to make sure you answered truthfully to the questions on airlineapps.com.

“Only my felony charges show up”? OK? Chris I’m honestly trying not to be harsh which is why I first suggested contact a Regional. BUT if you don’t think a few “felony charges” (dismissed or otherwise) is not going to raise some red flags or cause the FAA or the airline to dig deeper you’re not being honest with yourself.

Anyway, different airlines do things differently. Some will run it prior to you coming in for an interview, others after they’ve offered you a job. Either way YES they will run their own background check and YES they will make you fill out an sign THEIR OWN application. While the FAA is the governing authority they are only responsible to say you’re “legal” or not. While AirlineApps is a fine organization and many airlines use their services to help screen through the gozillion apps that are sent in, ultimately it’s up to the airlines to make their final decision as to who they employ or not. The airlines industry is huge and a vital part of the World’s economy. Sure there are primarily regulatory issues but there are also many other considerations. There’s a reason the FAA includes the statement “the applicant must be of GOOD MORAL CHRACTER”. Why do you suppose that’s in there? It’s really somewhat nebulous don’t you think? How does the FAA know what’s in your heart or mind? Personally I believe they stuck that in there as a “catch all” for themselves (and the airlines since it’s an Airline Transport License we’re discussing here). It’s basically saying if we don’t feel this person should be in this position of responsibility based on their past or present behavior, we have the right to say no. Being an airline pilot is not a “right”, it’s a privilege. Reading your posts you’re really not asking “will an airline hire me with my background?” you’re asking will they find out and the answer is yes.

Adam

That answers my question. Thank you Adam. I understand and accept the consequences of my actions. I suppose I will go in a different direction in life then. Although I like flying, it doesn’t make much sense to go into it knowing the best case scenario is being stuck in a regional for my career.

Chris,

As with most things the choice is yours. Me, I LOVE flying and if I spent my entire career at a Regional I still would’ve counted myself as fortunate.

Adam

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Well now you’re being a bad influence just like my troublemaker friends.

Chris,

I am just a nobody and not even a private pilot yet. I understand where you are coming from, but it doesn’t look good. If you were to get hired with a regional and couldn’t go up from there it wouldn’t be the end of the world. You could still be flying for an airline and still be making a decent salary doing something you (hopefully) love. I agree with Adam as far as contacting a few recruiters and picking their brains. They would have a much better idea who their company will and will not hire. It’s nothing concrete, but if they all give you unfavorable answers then you can decide to go down a different path. If they sound hopeful you could start down the commercial pilot path. From there just apply to a few airlines but be ready for disappointment. The airlines could just scared away from your past simple as that.