If you want to join the United States Air Force (USAF), make sure you’re enlisting for the right reasons. Only four percent of the Air Force’s nearly 400,000 members are pilots. The rest work as officers and enlisted personnel in various capacities. Join the Air Force only if you truly want to serve your country, not because you want to be a supersonic jet jockey.
The majority of people who join the Air Force do so with the goal of becoming an Air Force fighter pilot, not just an Air Force pilot. Only the best of the best, those who pass a thorough background check and excel on a battery of physical, psychological, and academic tests, will ever sit in a fighter jet’s cockpit. Even if you meet the Air Force’s stringent requirements and qualify to fly, there’s no guarantee you’ll be a fighter pilot. Depending on current needs, the Air Force will determine where you will be stationed. A bomber pilot, a test pilot, a generalist pilot, a helicopter pilot, or even a trainer, tanker, reconnaissance, or special operations pilot may be assigned to you.
Age, health, and size all play a role in determining whether or not you have the potential to join the Air Force as a pilot. You must be under the age of 28 when you apply, and you must begin flight training before the age of 30. Physically, you must be between 64 and 77 inches tall (1.68 and 1.96 meters) and weigh between 64 and 77 pounds. You must have uncorrected vision of at least 20/50 in both eyes, and you will be disqualified if you are colorblind, have depth perception issues, or have had laser eye surgery. Many other factors, such as hay fever or asthma, can derail your dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.
You must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or the US Air Force Academy if you meet these requirements. Keep in mind that those with a degree in a hard science, such as engineering or physics, have an advantage in the Air Force. Your grade point average should be higher than 3.4, and flight candidates with a private pilot’s license usually get priority. You must also be a United States citizen and pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test with a score of at least 25.
You must first be accepted into the Air Force, attend Officer Candidate School, and be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant before becoming an Air Force pilot. You can now formally declare your desire to join the Air Force as a pilot. If you are accepted, you will be required to complete 25 hours of hands-on flight training and 25 hours of classroom work. If you make it past the first round of introductory flight training, you’ll be assigned to a more advanced pilot training program.
This program lasts a year and consists of ten to twelve hour training days seven days a week. Basic skills and maneuvers will be taught to you in the classroom and on simulators. You will be sent forward for advanced training in one of the flying disciplines if you complete this extremely difficult program, which many do not. The type of aircraft you fly is determined your class rank and the Air Force’s requirements.