Anything is possible, but this business is very competitive. Having any mark on your record presents a huge obstacle to your success.

Airlines normally require a DD 214. Also there are background checks by the Feds.

A dishonorable discharge would be a kiss of death. Get a lawyer and see about having the discharge upgraded. There are appeal processes for doing that.
What was the reason for the discharge? Getting it upgraded is the first step. If the civil authorities were involved also, you may be fighting a lost cause depending on what happened.
Can't think of any decent company that would even give an interview to someone with a dishonerable discharge. Reason for DD is irrelevant. To earn a DD, the offense has to be really, really bad. Too many great pilots out there with clean and highly honorable service records.
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my son deserted when he was 18 years old. it's now many years later and he want's to be a commercial pilot. i am concerned that he is wasting his time because of his dishonorable discharge. he want's to work for a major airline someday. as far as what he did being really, really bad i don't know about that? he was a kid that made a bad decision that no one is proud of. i'm really only looking for information on what the discharge means to his potential future employment picture, not oppinions on a decision he made quite some time ago. thank you to those who have and will submit helpful information.
Let me add to my earlier reply. If your son wants a major airline career, a DD will be very tough to overcome. The airlines will even go so far as to request information such as credit checks. In such an environment, only the candidate who looks best on paper will even get an interview. HOWEVER, if your son is willing to settle for a mid level pilot job, and he now exhibits a newfound sense of responsibility, and he has remained squeeky clean since the DD, he should have a decent chance at gaining meaningful employement. There are numerous jobs available that offer decent money and working conditions, but most pilots consider them stepping stones to an airline career; some of those companies actually look for people such as your son (assuming he has changed his ways) because such people are more stable in the mid level. Simply put, employers get tired of the continual turnover, and welcome people who can't leave for greener pastures.
If he decides to continue he needs to be aware that the pot of gold is just an illusion, especially for him. If he only wants the career for money, you should save your money (I assume he wants dad to help with the financial end of pilot training). If he wants to be a pilot, no matter the level and doesn't mind if he never reaches left seat of a 777, he will have to work harder than most (and most already work danged hard); but he should be able to have a fulfilling career.
Good Luck
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thank you skybolt, some very useful thoughts. does it stay on his record forever? also, can anyone tell me more about the possibility of upgrading the discharge someday using a lawyer.
We had a mechanic removed for having consealed weapon charge against him.It was a baseball base in his car.Instead of fighting it at the time he payed the ticket,being the easier way to go (at the time).Years later it came back to haunt him.On his background check it showed up.He was let go.
He went to a lawyer and had it removed from his record.It cost him alot,but he got his job back.
That was all over just a baseball bat.Before you dive into a school and shell out cash.I would see a lawyer about having the DD upgraded frist.Courts sometimes take into consideration ones youth at the time of the offense,and making mistakes due to age,showing a stable back ground would be a must now.
The dream your son has is had by many thousands of other squeaky clean people wanting that job.So my advise would be to address the DD frist.
Good luck.
Beg to differ with you. Your son was not a kid, he was a MAN. If he was convicted by a military general courts martial and discharged with a DD, that is very very serious . . . and that reflects upon his character, at least during that period in his life. Hopefully he has changed, but like all of the serious choices we make in life, they follow us around whether we want them to or not.

As for a major airline career, almost certainly not. The chances are extremely high that even if he were to get called for a major airline interview, he would be facing one or more former military pilots. He's where the opinions about the seriousness of his offense matter. I dare say that 99.9% of them would not look favorably on a former deserter, regardless of the present conditions. Too many other great pilots ready and eager to fly for the airlines who served their country honorably.

But before even getting that far, to fly for a commuter or major airline, an Airline Transport Pilot(ATP)license is required. While some commuter pilots are hired with only Commercial licenses (usually young and don't have the required 1500 hrs of pilot time), companies will almost never hire someone who will be ineligible for an ATP . . . because an ATP is required to be a Captain. It is a FAA requirement for an ATP applicant to be of good moral character.

Before investing a lot of money in training and getting hopes up, you would have to check with the FAA to see if a federal conviction for desertion in a military court would be a disqualifying factor.

As far as upgrading the discharge, that may be almost impossible assuming he was convicted by military courts martial. I'm pretty sure it's considered a federal felony and recorded as such. That question would have to addressed to an attorney who is a specialist in federal/military law. That is also likely to be a long and costly procedure with no certain outcome.

You and I both know that he was just a boy at the time, despite some other loud input here. I personally have a skeleton or two lurking in my cupboard that I pray to God will stay there (in the cupboard that is). My career in aviation, despite my youthful mis-treading, has been fruitful. Your son can, and probably will, do the same.

My best life''s-wishes to you and him!