If you wish to become a pilot in the United States Air Force (USAF), you should first make certain that you are enlisting for all the right reasons. Of the nearly 400,000 members of the Air Force, only four percent are pilots. The rest serve in various capacities as officers and enlisted personnel. You should only join the Air Force if you truly wish to serve your country, not because you seek to become a supersonic jet jockey.
Most people who enlist in the Air Force do so with the dream of not merely becoming an Air Force pilot, but of becoming an Air Force fighter pilot. Only the best of the best, the candidates who pass an extensive background check and score the highest in a variety of physical, psychological, and academic tests, will ever see the cockpit of a fighter jet. Even if you do meet the rigorous standards of the Air Force, and qualify to become a pilot, there is no guarantee you will be a fighter pilot. The Air Force decides where you will be placed depending on present needs. You might be ordered to be a bomber pilot, a test pilot, a generalist pilot, a helicopter pilot, or even a trainer, tanker, reconnaissance, or special operations pilot.
Factors of age, health, and size determine if you have the potential to become an Air Force pilot. You must be younger than 28 years old at the time you apply, and must enter flight training before age 30. Physically, you must be between 64 and 77 inches tall (1.68 to 1.96 meters) and must meet standardized height to weight guidelines. Your vision is required to be at least 20/50, uncorrected, in both eyes, and you will be ruled out if you are color blind, have depth perception problems, or have undergone laser eye surgery. Many other factors can derail your goal to become an Air Force pilot, including hay fever or asthma.
Assuming you meet these criteria, you must have a bachelor’s degree from either an accredited university or the US Air Force Academy. Keep in mind that the Air Force places a priority on those whose degree is in hard sciences such as engineering or physics. Your grade point average should exceed 3.4, and flight candidates who already hold a private pilot’s license are usually given precedence. Also, you must be a citizen of the United States, and achieve a score of at least 25 on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test.
To become an Air Force pilot, you must first be accepted into the service, attend Officer Candidate School, and be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. At this point you can formally declare your intention to become an Air Force Pilot. If accepted, you will undergo 25 hours of hands-on, basic flight training, and 25 hours of classroom work. If you survive the cut of introductory flight training, you will be sent to a specialized, pilot training program.
This program lasts for a year, and involves ten to twelve hour days of training, seven days a week. You will train in the classroom and in simulators, and be taught basic skills and maneuvers. If you complete this exceedingly difficult program, and many do not, you will be sent forward for advanced training in one of the flying disciplines. Your class standing and the requirements of the Air Force will determine the type of craft you fly.