What can disqualify you from being a pilot?

If you are currently deciding whether or not to pursue a career as a pilot, whether helicopter (rotorcraft) or airplane (fixed wing), you should be familiar with some of the things that could disqualify you. It goes without saying that pilots are held to a high standard. With safety being their utmost priority, training schools, airlines, and the FAA have some pretty strict rules when it comes to who they’ll allow certification.

Here are some of the most common disqualifiers that could prevent you from becoming a pilot.


This might not be a long-term stop to your pursuit of flying, but it can put a temporary halt to training. To acquire a student license, you have to be at least 16 years old, and for a private license, you have to be at least 17. If you start your training early, you may have a waiting period for the other certifications.

For example, you have to be at least 18 to get your commercial pilot license and/or become a flight instructor, and 23 if you want an Airline Transport License.

This could mean, depending on how fast you complete your programs, that have a waiting period before completing the Airline Transport License.

English Fluency

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that all licensed pilots in the U.S. must be able to read, write, and speak English. This is a requirement so pilots can safely communicate with air traffic controllers.

Medical Disqualifiers

The FAA has a list of medical conditions that can disqualify an individual from becoming a pilot. If the condition can be controlled, as is the case in some instances, the FAA can issue a medical certificate contingent on periodic checks. Here are some of the conditions listed by the FAA:

  •   Angina Pectoris
  •   Bipolar disease
  •   Cardiac valve replacement
  •   Coronary heart disease
  •   Diabetes mellitus where hypoglycemic medications are required
  •   Disturbance of consciousness without explanation of the cause
  •   Epilepsy
  •   Heart replacement
  •   Myocardial infarction
  •   Permanent cardiac pacemaker
  •   Personality disorder
  •   Psychosis
  •   Substance abuse or dependence
  •   Transient loss of nervous system functions

You can also review the FAA Guide for Medical Examiners for additional conditions that might not be listed.

Criminal Background

Pilot applications require a criminal background check. If you have any drug or alcohol-related offenses on your record, you could be denied entry into a training program or even getting a license. If you have other criminal histories, you might still be able to attend a school and get your license. However, you might find it difficult to find employment depending on the company or the desired position.   

With a clean record and clear bill of health, the sky is the limit – literally! For more information on what it takes to become a pilot, click here.