How to become

How to Become an Airforce Pilot

How to Become an Airforce Pilot


The military arm of the United States Air Force is largely in charge of aircraft transportation, combat, and surveillance. The Air Force carries out a variety of duties using some of the world’s most cutting-edge aircraft. The skilled pilots of these aircraft undergo rigorous examination and training. You may find information on the qualifications needed, the minimal standards, and solutions to frequently asked questions about the career path of Air Force pilots in this page.

What is a pilot in the Air Force?

For the US military, Air Force pilots operate aircraft such fighter jets, bombers, tankers, transport planes, and unmanned aerial vehicles (often referred to as UAVs). Pilots are experts in aviation, and they teach and supervise flight crews as well as fly missions ranging from transportation to conflict.

How to join AirForce as a pilot?

You must adhere to rigid physical, visual, medical, and intellectual criteria to join AirForce as a pilot. The actions you can take to become an aviator are as follows:

1. Enlist in the Air Force

The first step, if you are not already a member of the military, is to speak with an Air Force recruitment station and enlist. Your basic qualifying requirements will be verified by recruiters. As an Air Force member on active duty, in the Air Force Reserves, or in the Air Guard, you can learn to fly.

2. Acquire a bachelor’s degree

Although specific degrees are not required by the United States Air Force (USAF), majors in chemistry, computer science, or aerospace engineering are advantageous. Those who attend the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) or the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) in college graduate as Air Force officers. Typically, a GPA of 3.4 or above is preferred, but anything over 2.5 is necessary.

The first step in beginning a career as a combat aviator is to finish a 4-year degree programme at a recognised university. Fighter pilots are officers, and all American military officers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

  • Any subject of your choice is acceptable for your degree. But majors like engineering, physics, math, geography, and meteorology will particularly translate to the kinds of tasks you’ll be carrying out as a pilot.
  • To ensure that you have enough time to complete your academic requirements, you should enroll as soon as possible, especially if you want to work in addition to attending school.
3. Make sure your height is within the permitted range

All cadets must be between 5’4″ (163 cm) and 6’5″ (196 cm) tall standing and between 34 and 40 inches tall sitting in order to operate military aircraft safely and comfortably (86–102 cm). You can be required to report for extra tests to demonstrate that your stature won’t be a liability during training or operations, even if being outside of this range isn’t always cause for dismissal.

  • Follow-up screenings usually entail physical exams and tests meant to demonstrate that you are physically capable of flying an airplane safely.
4. Satisfies officer requirements

Graduates of the USAFA and AFROTC programmes finish this phase as part of their curricula and go on to become officers. To pursue officer training if you join the Air Force, you must be between the ages of 18 and 28. You must also appear before the military board before the age of 29 in order to be commissioned as an officer. Though specific circumstances allow for waivers up to the age of 35, prospective pilots must begin flying training before turning 30.

Candidates must pass the 12-subtest Air Force Officer Qualifying Test after being commissioned. The topics cover:

Basic science



Knowledge of the instrument

Analogies in speech


For both the verbal and quantitative portions of the application, candidates must score at least a 15 overall. Candidates must also pass background checks and physical exams.

5. Enroll in an officer training programme

Candidates for this training course must pass the Air Force Physical Fitness Test and participate in both classroom instruction and field training activities. Candidates receive instruction in base defense strategies, tactical marching, land navigation, first aid, and self-defense. Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama is currently home to the officer training school.

6. Able to satisfy the demanding visual requirements of the military

Applicants start their initial flight training after attending and graduating from officer school. This training programme educates applicants to the fundamentals of aviation while evaluating their capacity to master the necessary skills. Officers must pass a flight examination and obtain a student pilot certificate before they may join IFT.

When it comes to the eyesight of potential fighter pilots, the U.S. Armed Forces are known for having extremely high requirements. Candidates must be able to pass a number of challenging exams that assess their visual acuity, object recognition, depth perception, and response time in addition to having uncorrected vision that is close to 20/20.

  • Even simple vision issues like astigmatism or partial color blindness may be sufficient to disqualify you and halt your quest before it even gets started.
  • In exceptional circumstances, your commanding officers might be able to ask for a waiver if they believe you’d make a strong candidate for a pilot job while testing below standard for vision. Remember that the approval process for your waiver could take many months.
7. Successfully complete undergraduate pilot training

After passing IFT, officers enroll in the Undergraduate Pilot Training programme, which covers navigation, formation flying, aerobatics, and how to handle an aircraft’s instruments. Officers are allocated to a bomber/fighter track or an airlift/tanker track when this phase of training is finished. Unmanned aerial vehicle operations may be selected by some police officers. Assignments are made based on officer preferences, training evaluations, and aircraft availability.

Officers get specialized training to hone the skills necessary for their specific aircraft as soon as they are assigned to a track. Pilots who stay in the service and develop their aviation expertise rise in rank, take on more responsibility, and gain leadership experience that is important to potential employers in the future.

Criteria for a pilot in the Air Force

  • Candidates for Air Force pilot positions must pass a battery of rigorous exams to ascertain their readiness—both physically and mentally—to carry out the duties of a pilot. Additionally, candidates must fulfill the requirements listed below:
  • 18 to 30 years old (waiver up to 35 years old possible)
  • Being between 5 feet 4 and 6 feet 5 inches tall
  • Approximately 34 and 40 inches tall when seated
  • Both eyes must have 20/40 vision or better for close-up and 20/200 vision or better for distance; both eyes must be corrected to 20/20
  • Possibly not colorblind, a laser eye surgeon, or having trouble with depth perception
  • Must have crystal-clear hearing
  • Must be able to endure many Gs of pressure without collapsing or becoming ill
  • No history of allergies, asthma, or hay fever after the age of 12
  • Optimal weight

Essential skills

Advanced military aircraft piloting calls for a variety of technical and soft skills. Some of the most crucial are listed below:

  • Control and use of sophisticated equipment
  • Monitoring the performance of sophisticated machinery
  • Active hearing
  • Critically analyzing
  • Addressing complicated problems
  • Understanding of the text
  • Decision-making and judgment
  • Management of time
  • Coordination
  • System evaluation and analysis
  • logic and mathematics
  • Quality assurance research

Performing the Required Testing

Join the military in the branch of your choice

If you haven’t already, contact or come by your neighborhood recruitment office to speak with a recruiter about getting started. On the official website of the branch you want to join, you may also submit an online application. You’ll be given a time and date by the recruiter to report to a nearby Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for assessment.

  • For a variety of flying operations, all 5 branches of the U.S. military train and employ pilots. However, the Navy and Air Force are in charge of the majority of combat operations.
  • A significant commitment that carries a lot of responsibility and potential risk is joining the military. Before making a choice, give your selection some careful thought.

Take the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) required for your branch of service and pass it

You will be required to complete enrollment paperwork, go through a thorough medical examination, and then complete a number of physical tests meant to gauge your level of fitness. PFTs vary among the different branches, but they typically involve a mix of sit-ups, push-ups, and running or swimming a predetermined distance.

  • To make sure you’re keeping in top shape if you want to join the Marines, you must retake your PFT every six months.
  • By doing things like increasing your endurance and consistently completing calisthenics exercises, you can start getting ready for your PFT in advance.

Successfully complete the fighter aircrew conditioning test (FACT)

You must perform a minimum of 50 repetitions of each of the five strength exercises—bench press, arm curl, lat pull, leg press, and leg curl—to pass the FACT. As part of a separate endurance component, you must also be able to do between 20 and 50 repetitions of push-ups, leg curls, and stomach crunches.

  • Your particular body weight affects the resistance provided to each exercise in the strength component. For instance, you would multiply your weight by 0.8 to determine how much weight you should be able to bench press.
  • The FACT is a unique physical examination given just to pilots. The workouts that make up this routine are focused on preparing the body to resist strong G forces during flight.

Taking Classes and Getting a Security Clearance

Complete your undergraduate specialized training 

Once you successfully complete the preliminary testing, you’ll be prepared to start your actual training. The 40-day Introductory Flight Screening (IFS) curriculum for the Air Force includes classroom instruction and flight simulator time. It comprises 58 hours of classroom instruction on the ground and a total of 25 hours of primary flying training, which may or may not include time spent using flight simulators.

  • Prior to starting your formal flight training, you don’t need to have any solo flying experience.
  • Along with core combat aviation abilities, you’ll master important leadership concepts, support, safety, and emergency procedures, all of which are intended to help you become the best pilot you can be.

Continue to succeed in your additional flight training

You’ll truly hone your skills as a pilot in this situation. Depending on your expertise and the branch you’re serving with, the next step in your training will vary. However, you will still spend a portion of your time in the classroom learning, practicing solo flying, and using a flight simulator, just like during your specialized undergraduate training.

  • Depending on your performance and overall class ranking after completing your specialized undergraduate training, you’ll be pushed into 1 of 4 advanced training tracks. Different aircraft, operational procedures, and aviation skills are the focus of various sections.
  • Be aware that the length of time it may take you to finish your advanced flight training ranges from 14 to 49 weeks. This makes it one of the U.S. military’s most rigorous training regimens.

Submit to a background investigation with a single focus (SSBI)

The SSBI is a form of background investigation used to examine candidates for Top Secret security clearance among military and government workers. You must submit an online e-QIP package in order to apply for the SSBI. Once you are cleared, your commanding officer will provide you with more details regarding the procedure.

  • Officials will examine elements including your citizenship status, educational and job background, and known organizational ties as part of this examination. If you pass the preliminary round, they’ll interview your friends, family members, and other close friends.
  • A National Agency Check with Local Agency Check and Credit Check (NACLC) may occasionally be conducted on your live-in partners or roommates by SSBI investigators.


diligent study The likelihood of being chosen for assignment is often higher for candidates who perform better than their peers on tests and during training.

Among the most skilled and elite members of the military are fighter pilots. Because of this, not everyone may be able to become one. Be ready for rejection, but resist letting it stifle your aspirations. With your preferred branch of the military, you could be able to land another rewarding aviation position.

Position Description

Fighter pilots’ main responsibility is to prepare for and execute missions that support other military branches. In order to do this, they must actively practise various flying tactics as well as any weaponry their jet may have. They handle various aspects of their units on the ground, such as maintenance, operations, and safety, in addition to flying. Fighter pilots are officers who lead by example and set an example for younger service personnel.

Each branch flies a different kind of aircraft. The F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and F-35A Lightning II are all aircraft flown by the Air Force. Fighter pilots from the Navy and Marine Corps fly the F-18 Hornet or the F-35 Lightning.

Salary Details

If you do successfully, all three branches will advance pilots in rank as you gain experience. Your base income, housing allowance, and special compensation all typically rise as you advance in your career.

Fighter pilots are paid equally according to rank and length of service in each of the three branches because all three are on the government pay schedule.

Pilots begin with a base salary of $3,107 per month, but after two and three years of experience, they earn $3,234 per month and $3,910 per month, respectively. You ought to advance to the subsequent rank and an O2 pay grade soon after. At this rank with four years of experience, your basic salary is $4,854 per month. If you have more than six years of service, your base pay increases to $4,955 per month. Your salary keeps increasing as you advance in status.

Job expansion

The military is an entirely volunteer industry, hence the US Department of Labor does not forecast growth. The military strives to keep a specific degree of readiness in order to defend the United States and win various battles throughout the globe.

The military has a harder time sustaining its personnel when the economy is booming because service members find better prospects in the civilian job.

When air force pilots leave the military, they frequently choose to become airline pilots. Commercial pilot employment is anticipated to grow by 4%, which is slightly slower than the average for all occupations.


How long are pilots required to serve?

A minimum of 10 years of service, starting on the day they complete training, is required of pilots.

Officer Training School lasts how long?

9.5 weeks are allotted for officer training school.

Only officers may fly, right?

To be a pilot in the Air Force, you must be an officer. You can, however, take part in in-flight crew operations while serving in other enlisted aviation duties.

Can I join the AirForce if I’m not a citizen of the United States?

No, to join the AirForce and become a pilot, you must be a citizen of the United States.