Airline Pilot Eligibility
Frequently asked questions about who can become a commercial airline pilot.
Do I have to get an aviation degree or go to an aviation college to become an airline pilot?
No, but many regional airlines prefer an associates degree or at least two years of college experience. Major airlines typically require a bachelors degree, but it can be in any field of study, not just aviation. Online degree programs are also an option for you to complete your bachelors degree while flying as a professional pilot. FAA pilot certificates obtained thru ATP’s flight training are accepted for transfer credit by many colleges with aviation degree programs.
Do I have to have perfect vision to be a commercial pilot?
No, as long as your vision can be corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contacts, you will be eligible for a 1st Class FAA Medical Certificate, which makes you eligible to fly as a civilian professional pilot. This is much less restrictive than military pilot vision requirements.
What if I’m Colorblind?
An FAA Medical can be obtained by some people with colorblindness. The restrictions will depend on the degree of colorblindness. The FAA has several mechanisms for making this determination. Consult an Aero Medical Examiner (AME) for more information. Some airlines have their own restrictions more stringing than the FAA’s.
What are the background check requirements?
Some airlines perform FBI 10-year background checks, driving record checks, drug tests and credit checks as part of their standard pre-employment process. You cannot have any felonies on your record. DUI’s and misdemeanors are handled at the discretion of the airline, but a significant amount of time must have passed since those events to even be considered for airline pilot employment. Random drug tests are performed throughout employment.
Is it important to have good credit?
Yes, for a couple of reasons:
First, the cost of flight school is relatively expensive and most students will need to finance some, if not all, of the flight training cost. While it’s important that you have good credit for the loan, it’s equally important that you find a cosigner who has excellent credit. The cost of financing is directly related to your credit history. In order to keep loan rates as low as possible, it is very important to have a solid credit history. It is equally important to have a credit worthy cosigner on the application.
Second, the airlines will perform a credit check as a standard step in their background check process. An unblemished credit history will make the best impression with the airline.
Am I too young/old to begin flight training to become a commercial pilot?
You can hold a commercial pilot certificate as young as 18 years old, but ATP strongly urges high school graduates to pursue some college experience before enrolling in the Airline Career Pilot Program. As for being too old, it’s important to realize what your training investment will be and how long you can fly before reaching mandatory retirement at age 65. If you want to become a career pilot, look at how many years’ earnings you’ll have before retirement and ensure that it’s a worthwhile investment.