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Can a Felon Become a Pilot?

Can a Felon become a Pilot? The answer is yes. Being a felon does not automatically disqualify you from working as a Pilot in the US. Now more than ever pilot jobs are high in demand and it is estimated that demand will increase in the next 10 years.

Pilots or aviators as they are often called, are people who control the flight of an aircraft by operating its directional flight control. They can work for airlines, take up private jobs, be employed in the commercial sector or work for the military. To work as a pilot, you must undergo requisite training and also have original work papers.

Pilots are also tasked with performing regular aircraft inspection.

How Can a Felon Become a Pilot?

While being a felon does not automatically disqualify you from pursuing your dream as a pilot in the US, your chances of becoming one depends on these factors

  • The type and gravity of felony committed
  • The type of license you wish to apply for and the medical exam that goes with it

Get a Student Pilot License (SPL)

The first step a felon has to take to become a pilot is by acquiring the Student Pilot License (SPL). The Student Pilot License is the first license you will have to obtain as it allows you to start your flight training. To get a Student Pilot License, you have to be at least 14 years old.

The SPL is a requirement for any potential pilot who wants to start logging solo flight time and work towards getting a higher certification. To get your SPL, you will need a third-class medical certificate and to obtain this, you will have to pass an FAA medical exam that is conducted by an aviation medical examiner.

Obtain a Medical Certificate

As a felon, this is the first obstacle you have to overcome. Getting a medical certificate applies to nearly all license types and not just the Student Pilot License.

Obtaining a third-class medical certificate for SPL as a felon will be impossible if the felony falls under the category of substance dependence or abuse.

 However, according to FAA, if it has been two years or longer and there is enough clinical evidence to show that an applicant has overcome substance dependence and abuse then such applicant is good to go.

Background Checks

Background check is a must for the Student Pilot License or any other pilot license as a matter of fact.

In accordance with TSA (Transportation Security Administration), a felon is regarded as a security risk and automatically disqualified from getting a pilot License if the felony committed involves any of the following

  • Terrorism
  • Treason
  • Sedition
  • Espionage
  • Murder
  • Transportation security incident
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Unlawful use, sale, purchase or possession of explosives or explosive devices
  • Conspiracy or attempt of any of the crimes mentioned

Sports Pilot License

This license covers small airplanes, gliders, powered parachutes, balloons, airships and trikes. This license is a good option if a felon already has his or her Student Pilot License before the felony was committed.

No medical certificate is needed, all that is required of an applicant is Student Pilot license and a valid US drivers license.

Recreational Pilot License

This is a sort of step up from the sports pilot license as it allows pilots to fly much bigger and powerful aircraft unlike what the sports pilot license covers. No medical exam is required this means that felons can get one without going through too many hurdles.

Although the options are really limited and the processes quite difficult, a felon looking to pursue or continue a career as a pilot with the above listed option, still stands a chance.

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