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Home > Blog > What Can Disqualify You From Becoming A Commercial Pilot

What Can Disqualify You from Becoming a Commercial Pilot?

Posted 19 Jan 2023

Commercial Pilot Disqualifying Criteria

Let’s take a look at some of the key disqualifiers for becoming a commercial pilot in the UK.

The sky is the limit when it comes to having a career as a commercial pilot. However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind before one begins their journey of becoming a professional pilot.

Candidates must first check if they are eligible for a licence. Commercial pilots not only require rigorous training, but they are also subject to basic tests related to health along with having a good standing with various authorities.

These requirements aren’t different from other types of jobs but commercial pilots are especially scrutinised in the context of age, health, and legal status.

Let’s take a look at some of the key disqualifiers for becoming a commercial pilot in the UK.


Flying planes requires attentiveness and pilots are expected to maintain good health in order to continue flying.

People applying for a licence must first make sure that they do not suffer from any temporary or life-long illness that may become a hindrance when in the air.

Medical conditions such as diabetes can disqualify people from obtaining medical clearance because the nature of the disease can cause a long list of symptoms that can cause trouble while flying.

Symptoms such as blurred vision, numbed extremities, or lethargy are some of the reasons why diabetics aren’t given medical clearance. Similarly, people suffering from epilepsy, which can cause a loss of consciousness and convulsions, are also disqualified from obtaining a licence.

Vision is of particular importance in this regard because pilots not only need to meet the standards set by the CAA, but they also need to prove visual acuity and colour vision. Pilots go through rigorous checks before they are given medical clearance, and once they pass the minimum requirements, they can continue with their training.

Chronic Conditions

Candidates that suffer from or develop certain chronic conditions may also be disqualified for their own safety and the safety of the passengers.

Chronic conditions are categorised as serious health-related illnesses that can hinder or incapacitate the pilot. For example, a candidate that develops or is suffering from a gastrointestinal disease such as ulcerative colitis, or a heart condition will be subject to more regular medical screening.

It is important to note that while some chronic conditions may not be grounds for immediate disqualification, candidates will have to submit a detailed report of their diagnosis and the treatment plan for the disease in question.

The cases of chronic health conditions are usually dealt with individually and the CAA will take into account the entire medical history of the candidate to determine whether they are fit to fly. Pilots and candidates must be fully transparent with the CAA and should clearly state any ailment that may hinder their ability to fly in their current position or future flights.

Age Restrictions

Age is one of the most basic disqualifiers in aviation. Simply put, you need to be 18 or over to train and obtain a commercial pilot licence.

On the other hand, the maximum limit to apply for a Commercial Pilot Licence in the UK is 65. Senior pilots are expected to have an up-to-date and valid medical certificate and may not be allowed to fly commercially after they cross 65 years of age.

Pilots must also prove a good standing with all relevant legal authorities. This means that they can’t be convicted for certain crimes, especially related to drugs and violence. Candidates must also not be engaged in any form of fraudulent activity which can result in an automatic disqualification.

The CAA mandates that both potential and current employees be scrutinised through background checks (Criminal Record Check) that need to be passed in order to either renew an airport identification card or to get employed in a role that requires thorough background checks.

These background checks are mandatory for every candidate, including non-British nationals and are essential in keeping the skies safe for everyone.

Lack of Training and Experience

As you can imagine, training and experience are extremely important in obtaining a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).

The CAA requires all CPL candidates to complete a minimum of 150 hours of flight time which includes 100 hours of being a Pilot in Command (PIC). Furthermore, pilots must also fulfil the requirement for 50 hours of cross-country flight as a Pilot in Command.

This training requirement also applies to the type of aircraft that pilots will fly where candidates must fulfil at least 5 hours of flight time as a Pilot in Command in their desired aircraft. Training and experience are of utmost importance in aviation and any lack or inadequacy in this regard is grounds for immediate disqualification. In the case of failing training, the pilot will have the option to reapply for a CPL and reattempt their training by working on their weak points.

Psychological Conditions

Apart from physical health, potential candidates must also prove that they do not have any serious psychological conditions that may hinder their ability to fly.

Psychological disorders such as depressive or bipolar disorders may disqualify potential candidates from obtaining a CPL. Furthermore, other disorders that affect the senses, such as schizophrenia or addictive disorders that include substance abuse may also result in disqualification.

The reason why psychological conditions are carefully monitored in this context is that certain conditions can affect the pilot’s perception or their ability to fly safely.  The important thing to note here is that the CAA looks at each case individually and assesses psychological health in the context of the overall profile of the pilot.

If a candidate has been diagnosed with a psychological condition, they will only be allowed to fly if they are currently in a stable condition and are undergoing medical treatment for said conditions.

Candidates must submit their treatment plan and medical history to the CAA so that their cases can be determined individually. In either case, the CAA mandates regular medical check-ups and requires a renewed/valid pilot medical certificate to ensure safety and to make sure that the pilots operate at their best.

Inadequate Language and Soft Skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that determine the problem-solving and listening skills of a candidate. Having appropriate soft skills is just as important because they directly reflect on the pilot’s ability to fly or operate under pressure.

Language skills, on the other hand, are mandatory and are a basic requirement in aviation. The ability to speak, understand, and write the English language is a must and not being able to communicate in the required language can result in disqualification.

Since the majority of the written tests and aircraft interface are in English, a level of proficiency is not only recommended but also mandatory as per the CAA.

The good news is that in the case of this disqualifying category, candidates can undertake lessons and learn to improve their soft skills and language skills in general. Non-British candidates can generally reapply for a CPL after they have adequately proven their language skills through either a standardised test such as the English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

However, if the candidates don’t possess these skills at the time of applying for a CPL, then they will surely be disqualified.

Failure of Practical Exams and Written Assessments

Just as in the case of obtaining an educational degree, a candidate applying for a CPL must also pass the minimum requirements in the context of education along with practical and written exams.

The minimum educational requirement to begin flight training is at least 5 GCSEs which include mathematics and English. In addition to this, a minimum of 2 A-levels that include subjects related to science and mathematics is also highly regarded.

The written exams are designed to test both the memory and understanding of a candidate. Some examples of these tests include topics such as meteorology, mass and balance, aviation regulations and law, navigation, human performance limitations, etc.

By passing the written exams, a candidate can prove that they are well-versed in all the necessary jargon and concepts related to aviation. Practical exams, on the other hand, are all about hands-on training. These tests are designed to assess the real-life capabilities of the candidates and are essential in obtaining a CPL.

Examples of practical exams include rigorous flight tests, instrument ratings, and multi-engine ratings. A candidate can also decide to pursue an advanced degree related to aviation in order to push their understanding of aviation and apply their learning in their career as a commercial pilot.

Violation of Safety Rules

Pilots are held to a very high standard of responsibility which is why all candidates must adhere to the safety rules and regulations set forth by the CAA. These regulations apply to both candidates and current pilots and a violation of these rules can result in an automatic disqualification.

An example of a serious violation could be substance abuse or flying under the influence which can easily put the pilot and passengers at risk.

There are many other violations such as failing to perform aircraft inspection, not complying with Air Traffic Control (ATC) regulations, carrying out risky manoeuvres, and failing to follow basic operational protocols that can get candidates disqualified.

It is worth mentioning that even something as simple as not filing flight plans or reporting flight information can be grounds for disqualification. Candidates must keep in mind that the CAA expects full compliance in every regard to be eligible for a CPL.

Failing to Follow Standard Operating Procedures

The CAA outlines a list of standard operating procedures that are meant to be followed without any deviation. These procedures are mandatory before and during a flight. For example, the candidate/pilot is expected to perform all the required pre-flight checks or report any discrepancies or instrument-related issues before a flight.

Failing to follow basic protocol can be deemed as a violation of safety which is a serious offence that can result in immediate disqualification. Candidates must always be aware of the condition of their aircraft and must adhere to all the rules set by the CAA to ensure a smooth and safe flight.

Not Maintaining Professionalism and Conduct

As mentioned before, pilots are always held to a very high standard and are expected to be professional at all times while training or during routine flights.

Regardless of their skillset or successful flight record, a pilot’s demeanour and conduct are equally important and the CAA does not tolerate bad conduct. Candidates must prove that they are not only skilled but also carry themselves professionally.

Any inappropriate behaviour in general or during a flight that may or may not put the aircraft or crew at risk is grounds for immediate disqualification. This also includes incidents related to drug abuse.

In the case of a minor incident of bad conduct, the CAA will begin an investigation which will determine whether the pilot/candidate is fit for future flights. If the incident is severe, then the CAA can also immediately disqualify the candidate.

Accidents or Incidents During Flight

As with safety regulations, pilots must also possess a clean flight record with ideally no minor mishaps during flights.

Some incidents that are grounds for disqualification can be major accidents that include near misses, emergency landings, loss of control of aircraft, communications errors, human error, and even fuel mismanagement.

Any incident that occurs during training or a routine flight will result in an investigation that will be carried out by the CAA and any other appropriate authority. The investigation will usually take into account the pilot’s actions during the incident and the root cause of the incident itself before a disqualification is considered.

In the case of negligence, an immediate disqualification is issued and the pilot can have their licence privileges revoked.


Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades. If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month. For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run. In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on how you can become a commercial pilot and pursue your dream of professionally flying an aircraft!

Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash 



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