The movie “Top Gun,” which starred Tom Cruise, romanticized the life of a military pilot. However, not all pilots fly jet fighter planes. They may be responsible for reconnaissance missions, fly tanker or transport planes. Nevertheless, anyone desiring to become an Air Force pilot must complete an extensive list of requirements and meet specific qualifications.
Air Force Pilot Qualifications
Prospective pilots must be between the ages of 18 and 34. They must also be citizens of the United States. Candidates must have had a GPA of at least 3.4 in high school and have obtained a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, chemistry, computer science, physics or another scientific field. Civilians having flight training and experience are commonly given a higher degree of consideration. However, if accepted without being a civilian pilot, recruits must enter flight school before the age of 30.
After acquiring a degree, future pilots begin their military career by becoming a commissioned officer with the rank of second lieutenant. Joining the military involves entering a Reserve Officer’s Training Corp through a college or university. They might also enter the 12-week Officer Training School at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Some obtain their degrees while becoming an officer at the Air Force Academy. However, enrollment is limited and cadets gain entrance by obtaining a nomination by a Congressional member.
Candidates must score 25 or higher on the pilot section and a score of 50 on the pilot-navigator section of the three-hour Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. The entire test consists of 12 sections and additionally evaluates academic aptitude, mathematical skills, personality and verbal skills.
Qualifications vary depending on the particular position a pilot holds. However, in general, cadets must undergo a regimen of background checks, physical and psychological testing. Potential pilots must be at least five feet four inches tall but less than six feet five inches in height. They must also fall into the appropriate weight category for their height. Visual tests must conclude that a candidate has at least correctable 20/40 near vision and 20/200 distant vision. Colorblindness, depth perception problems or previous laser eye surgery automatically disqualify individuals from becoming a pilot. Cadets cannot have a history of allergies, asthma or hay fever.
Flight Training Requirements
Flight school slots are also limited. If chosen, candidates complete training in two stages at the Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio and at one of three other Air Force Bases.