"Good Moral Character"


Super Bowl bound 2008!!
Jun 30, 2005
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What exactly does the FAA mean as this is a requirement for an ATP? Does cheating on a spouce constitute this? How about a misdeameanor like public intoxication? Where is the line drawn for this. Pretty amazing the FAA does not define this more clearly?

So what exactly is the cutoff for being a "good moral character?"


Sorry about that landing
Oct 17, 2005
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The requirement for good moral character is a requirement for initial issuance of the ATP certificate, and is a continuing requirement to remain eligible for the ATP. The eligibility requirements are now listed in FAR 61.153 (used to be 61.151) There is no specific FAR language stating that the continuing requirement exists, but the FAA's legal position on continuing eligibility for other certificates (e.g. airworthiness certificates) hinges on maintaining the original conditions required for initial issuance. I know that they have revoked ATP certificates for lack of good moral character, but I cannot find any specific cases to cite.
I think that the FAA would generally use conviction of a felony as the minimum criminal threshold for revocation. Other crimes (e.g. misdemeanors) could of course indicate the lack of good moral character, but I don't think that the FAA is very willing to try to sustain a revocation action unless the conviction is for a felony, and a serious one at that. I know that the FAA leaves the decision to pursue an investigation/revocation based on lack of good moral character to the FAA Regional office, and I believe that this shows the reluctance of the FAA to pursue these, most probably due to the difficulty in proving the case. Even if there was a vengeful inspector looking to hammer some pilot as discussed in your second post, I doubt that he would have the time to even consider taking on the task.

A criminal conviction could affect the certificate holder's eligibility to hold a medical certificate, as it may indicate mental instability or other problems. Denial or revocation of the pilot's medical certificate on this basis would be much easier way for the FAA to affect a pilot's flying career than attempting to prove a lack of "good moral character".
Other factors that may be used by the FAA in a "moral character" revocation action are falsification of records, and use of drugs/alcohol in contravention of FAA regulations. However, it would be easier to suspend or revoke the pilot's certificates under the individual rules prohibiting those acts rather than under a broad allegation of lack of good moral character.
I have included a couple of FAA legal opinions for reference.
I hope this helps!
SEPT. 19, 1979
Dear Mr. Van Riper:
This is in reply to your letter requesting a clarification of the moral character clauses of the Federal Aviation Regulations relevant to an applicant for a ground instructor certificate. Your student was denied a certificate because of a past conviction in his record.
You state that the only restriction involving mortal character that you were able to find applies to the issuance of an airline transport pilot certificate. However, section 143.9 of the Federal Aviation Regulations does provide that to be eligible for a ground instructor certificate a person must, among other things, be of good moral character.
A criminal conviction is not, in and of itself, grounds for denying a certificate on the basis of moral character. In determining whether a certificate may be issued, all relevant factors are considered. These include the nature of the felony for which the applicant was convicted, the number and frequency of the incidents involved, and the relationship of the incident or incidents to his responsibilities as a certificate holder. A conviction alone does not demonstrate a lack of capacity to display the required degree of care, judgement, and responsibility.
We do not know whether the General Aviation district Office involved denied your student a ground instructor examination solely on the basis of a conviction, without review of the facts involved. For this reason, we are sending a copy of this letter to the FAA Southwest Regional Office in Fort Worth, which will forward it to the appropriate GADO. Accordingly, you may wish to advise your student to contact the GADO to determine whether the decision will remain the same after review of our opinion.
Acting Assistant Chief Counsel
Regulations and Enforcement Division

JULY 18, 1978
Dear Mr. Montelbano:
This is in response to your letter of April 13, 1978, forwarded to us by the Air Transport Association of America, in which you requested information concerning the effect of a criminal conviction on a certificate renewal and information concerning certificate renewal procedures.
First, a criminal conviction does not necessarily affect a person's ability to receive a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This depends upon the nature of the conviction and the certificate concerned.
Section 61.15(a) of the Federal Aviation Regulations, concerning pilots and flight instructors, reads--
Sec. 61.15 Offenses involving narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.
(a) No person who is convicted of violating any Federal or State statute relating to the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances, is eligible for any certificate or rating issued under this Part for a period of 1 year after the date of final conviction.
The section further states that a conviction under paragraph (a) is grounds for suspending or revoking any certificate or rating issued under the part. Identical provisions exist for all airmen certificates issued by the FAA.
Conviction of a crime can also be evidence of psychiatric problems which may disqualify an applicant for medical certification under Part 67 of the regulations. In addition, under Sec. 61.151(b) and 143.9, good moral character is required for airline transport pilot and ground instructor certificates. Criminal conviction may reflect on this requirement.
Finally, to answer your question about renewal procedures it is necessary to have further information concerning the type of certificate you wish to renew and the circumstances under which the renewal application is filed. You may find it more convenient to contact the nearest FAA Flight Standards District Office. FAA General Aviation District Office No. 19 is located at Barnes Municipal Airport, First Floor, Administration Building, Westfield, Massachusetts, telephone: (413) 568-3121.
We hope this information has been helpful.
Original Signed by Edward P. Faberman
Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel
Regulations and Enforcement Division

(excerpt www.propilot.com)


Well-known member
Aug 13, 2002
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In the early 80's, there was a DC-3 taxiing past a group of Cub Scouts taking a tour of an airport. The pilot mooned the Scouts and Den Mother. The pilots ATP was revoked for lack of good moral conduct.

A Squared

Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
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erj-145mech said:
In the early 80's, there was a DC-3 taxiing past a group of Cub Scouts taking a tour of an airport. The pilot mooned the Scouts and Den Mother. The pilots ATP was revoked for lack of good moral conduct.

I've heard that story before......true or aviation urban legend? Any specifics on where when and to whom it happend?

I've read a bunch of NTSB orders and the most common reasons I have seen the "good moral character" clause invoked have been in cases involving either narcotics smuggling or falsifying records. (pilot logs, Mx logs, etc.)

I seem to recall one where a pilot had been convicted of something like public indecency for beeing incautious where he took a leak. The NTSB ruled that that in itself wasn't sufficient cause for a finding of lack of good moral character.

I fly with a guy who did time in the greybar hotel for a automatic weapons violation. he still has his ATP.


Active member
Aug 18, 2005
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I think things like lieing show a lack of good moral character. Cheating on a written test, not notifying the FAA of a DUI, etc.


Well-known member
Sep 22, 2002
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I do remember the incident in the early 80's. It was in one of the magazines (APOA or FLYING) with the complete story. It was a DC-3 skydiving operation and it was the custom for the jumpers in the door to moon jumpers on the ground as they taxied by. The pilot wanted in on the action and mooned the jumpers on the ground not knowing about the cub scout troop.
From what I remember the den mother reported this to the FAA and insisted that action be taken against the pilot. He did loose his ATP, but can't remember for what period of time.

Lead Sled

Sitt'n on the throne...
Apr 1, 2004
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> enuf
Judging from many of the ATPs I've known, the Feds have a pretty low threshold for "good moral character". You'd have to be exceptionally "slimey" to get hung up on that one. :blush: