Can a Felon Get a Pilot License?

If you’ve been exploring the idea of becoming a Pilot and you aren’t sure where to start. Flying a plane can be a rewarding and interesting job.

Much like driving a car on the roads, you will need to have experience and licenses. Is this something you can do with a criminal record?

Pilot Overview

A pilot is someone who can operate an airplane in the sky. This profession means that you have to smart and trustworthy.

Making quick and accurate decisions is vital to performing your duties. You must be able to work well with a team to get from place to place.

Pilots check in-cab equipment, weather conditions, and use math to calculate fuel. They work with Air Traffic Controllers to follow the rules. Make sure that you respect the flight plan and account for weather conditions.

What are the Licensing Requirements?

There are many different types of pilots. Some people fly planes because they enjoy it while others do it for a living.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gives licenses to people who operate planes. The primary goal is to keep everyone safe and follow air traffic rules.

Many professions will need you to have licenses and certifications to do your job duties. Some are stricter than others. This depends on the negative impact you can have on others if you make a mistake.

You can get licenses and certifications if you with criteria and the proper training. Many times, there are background checks before you can get the documents to do your job.

The Licenses Explained

There are different licensing requirements for different flight operations. Each one allows you to do a specific job and you’ll have to meet certain requirements depending on what you’d like to do.

The first step to becoming a pilot is getting a Student Pilot Certificate. A pilot has to complete many hours of training before they can fly on their own.

  • You must submit documentation that you are healthy from a doctor
  • You must be able to read, speak, and write English
  • Complete an application, it may take 3 weeks to get your certificate in the mail

Once you’ve done your time as a student, you can apply for a Private Pilot License. You cannot make money flying with this type of license.

General requirements are:

  • You have flown for 35 hours in different conditions
  • You will have to pass written exams
  • Pass the FAA requirements for plane maneuvers
  • Have a valid Driver’s License

The Commercial License has many requirements. This is the license you can get if you’d like to make a living as a pilot.

The requirements can be a lot for some people:

  • 250 Hours of flight time in different conditions
  • 2nd Class Medical Certificate (this says your healthy)
  • Your instructor makes a statement saying you are a safe and qualified pilot

o You may need inclement weather courses and take tests for different types of engines

The Airline Transport License allows you to be a Commercial Pilot. This means you can carry people and cargo. This is the top tier of licenses on what you can do.

Requirements for this are strict and need many qualifications:

  • 1500 Hours of flight time
  • At least 23 years old
  • Pass all exams and be able to maneuver your plane according to FAA guidelines
  • Pass medical and eye exams
  • Fly different types of planes in different weather conditions

All these requirements ensure that you can operate your plane safely. If you’ve had legal troubles you may have difficulty obtaining any of these licenses.

Can You Get the Licenses with a Felony?

The FAA monitors any criminal behavior from licensed pilots. It is vital to the safety of your passengers and people on the ground that you can do your job right.

Becoming a pilot takes a lot of training and testing because it can be very dangerous. If you have a felony, this may hurt your chances of operating a plane.

If you are a student pilot with a drug or alcohol conviction you may still get your licenses. You must wait at least one year after your conviction to apply.

You will have to show proof that you completed your sentence once your year wait is up. You will also have to prove that you completed a rehabilitation program.

Once this happens, you will have to wait for the FAA to approve your application. The circumstances of your crime are going to factor into your ability to get a license.

If you appear to be someone who is a threat to society, you will not get your licenses. Without these licenses, you won’t be able to fly a plane.

Employers are making strides to be more accepting of felons in the workplace. It still may be near impossible for you to get a job flying a plane.

When you land at an airport you must have the credentials to do so. These need security clearances that you may not get with a felony.

Many companies who hire pilots may not want to risk liability if something goes wrong. If a company hires a person with several DUI’s the company will be in big trouble if you drink while flying.

Working as a pilot aside, getting your pilot’s license will allow you to fly a plane by yourself. If you have committed certain crimes, you will not get your license.


Pilots are responsible for their plane and the safety of everyone around them. You must understand how to maneuver your plane according to FAA standards.

There are different licenses for you to be able to do different things. If you’d like to fly a plane on your own you can get a Personal License.

If you’d like to make money flying a plane the Commercial License is the one you’ll have to get.

As with any job that requires a license you will undergo a background check. Upon the review of your criminal history, you will either get approved or denied.

There are many things you can do to ensure your success. Staying out of trouble and proving that you are morally capable to fly a plane is important.

The FAA wants pilots who are trustworthy and can make good decisions. The safety of others is a priority. Once you’ve gotten your license it may be difficult to find someone willing to hire you.

The circumstances of your crime, like how long ago it was or how severe, will determine your ability to fly. Your crime does not define who you are. If you do the right things you can become a pilot.



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