How to become an Air Force pilot

By Senior Airman Soochan Kim
Air Force Social Media Team

Many of us imagine it at least once: As a five-year-old child sitting on a chair playing pretend, as a teenager playing flight simulator video games, and in my case whenever I start the engine of my car (yes, I still play pretend when I’m by myself).

A fan watches the demonstration during the Dayton Airshow, June 21, 2015, at Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachel Maxwell/Released)
A fan watches the demonstration during the Dayton Airshow, June 21, 2015, at Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachel Maxwell/Released)

 

I’m talking about becoming a pilot. Not so surprisingly, many people choose to join the United States Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot.

While we all dream of flying the multimillion dollar metal bird and delivering freedom to the enemies below in a form of explosives, let’s hold that thought and ask: how DO you become a pilot in the Air Force?

As many may find this surprising, it’s definitely not by wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses and growing out a Burt Reynolds mustache (not to mention that his mustache would be pushing it against the regulations). Rather, it requires an extensive amount of training and education to be selected as a pilot.

The Requirements.

To become a pilot, one must meet these requirements first:

A. Must be a U.S. citizen.

B. Any four-year college degree or within 365 days of receiving it.

C. Minimum of 2.5 GPA

D. Under the age of 28 by the board convening date.

E. Have standing height of 64 – 77 inches and sitting height of 34 – 40 inches.

F. Have no history of hay fever, asthma or allergies after age 12.

G. Meet Air Force weight and physical conditioning requirements.

H. Normal color vision.

I. Meet refraction, accommodation and astigmatism requirements.

J. Distance vision cannot exceed 20/70 uncorrected, must correct to 20/20 or better.

K. Near vision cannot exceed 20/40 uncorrected, must correct to 20/20 or better.

If you do not meet these requirements, no worries, you can still become a part of the Air Force with a different career field that suits you the best.

Staff Sgt. Jack Kindell, 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron crew chief, reviews an electronic technical order prior to moving an MC-130P Combat Shadow across the flightline here, March 31. The Cheboygan, Mich., native is stationed in Japan and is currently supporting Operation Tomodachi, which kicked off at the request of the Government of Japan to support humanitarian relief efforts for those affected by the earthquake tsunami disaster March 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrea Salazar/Released)
Staff Sgt. Jack Kindell, 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron crew chief, reviews an electronic technical order prior to moving an MC-130P Combat Shadow across the flightline here, March 31. The Cheboygan, Mich., native is stationed in Japan and is currently supporting Operation Tomodachi, which kicked off at the request of the Government of Japan to support humanitarian relief efforts for those affected by the earthquake tsunami disaster March 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrea Salazar/Released)

 

Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT and Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).

You must take the AFOQT during your recruitment process. Similar to the SAT and ACT, this test measures the recruit’s aptitude in several subjects to determine which career would best befit him or her. Not surprisingly, the selection for pilots will be based on results of the AFOQT, especially the aeronautical scores.

Once you have passed your test and discussed your options with a recruiter, you will have to take a visit to the MEPS to assess your physical and moral standards to see if you meet the Air Force standards.

Officer Training School (OTS).

Once you have been accepted into the Air Force as a pilot candidate, the next step is to mold yourself into a leader by completing the Officer Training School. There are couple different ways to accomplish this:

A. Officer Training School. If you already have a college degree, you will enter this rigorous nine-week program, designed to challenge your physical and mental ability.

B. United States Air Force Academy, an accredited college Colorado Springs, Colorado. All tuition and board are paid by the Air Force with the students committing to serve in the Air Force upon graduation.

C. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. This offers college students a chance to become an officer in the Air Force while they experience their college life. This program is offered in most major colleges and also offers partial or full scholarship to qualifying students.

Debrorah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force, watches the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2015 top graduate, senior cadet Rebecca Esselstein salute after receiving her diploma  Academy's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 28, 2015. Over 800 cadets will walk across the stage and become the newest second lieutenants in the USAF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Liz Copan/Released)
Debrorah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force, watches the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2015 top graduate, senior cadet Rebecca Esselstein salute after receiving her diploma Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 28, 2015. Over 800 cadets will walk across the stage and become the newest second lieutenants in the USAF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Liz Copan/Released)

 

Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT).

Congratulations, you graduated from your OTS courses! Now it’s time for what you’ve been waiting on: flight training.

UPT is approximately a one-year course, which allows you to learn the very basics of flying through academic classes, computer-based training and hands-on training.

Second Lt. James Bloch, 47th Student Squadron student pilot, takes a flight in a T-38C Talon simulator at Jarvis Hall on Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 22, 2015. In this flight, Bloch practiced instrument procedures and how to fly in inclement weather. Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training students spend countless hours training in simulators prior to flying Laughlin's training jets, practicing runway approaches, emergency procedures, tower communications and more. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel D. Delgado/Released)
Second Lt. James Bloch, 47th Student Squadron student pilot, takes a flight in a T-38C Talon simulator at Jarvis Hall on Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 22, 2015. In this flight, Bloch practiced instrument procedures and how to fly in inclement weather. Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training students spend countless hours training in simulators prior to flying Laughlin’s training jets, practicing runway approaches, emergency procedures, tower communications and more. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel D. Delgado/Released)

 

Seat Assignment.

Nearing the completion of your UPT, you are assigned to an aircraft. This selection, known as Seat Assignment, is determined by your class ranking, training performance reports, instructor recommendations, your personal aircraft preferences and the needs of the Air Force.

Pilots from the 80th Flying Training Wing's Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program take off June 1, 2015, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Once pilots complete the 55-week undergraduate pilot training through ENJJPT, all graduates, regardless of their nationality, will receive U.S. wings as a rated pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Danny Webb/Released)
Pilots from the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program take off June 1, 2015, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Once pilots complete the 55-week undergraduate pilot training through ENJJPT, all graduates, regardless of their nationality, will receive U.S. wings as a rated pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Danny Webb/Released)

 

Advanced Flight Training (AFT).

Upon completion of your UPT and Seat Assignment, students move on to the AFT. During the AFT, students continue their training for the specific aircraft they were assigned to. Depending on the type of aircraft, the training lasts between six months to a year. As the last step, nearing the completion of your AFT, you are given your squadron and location assignment.

There you have it. Becoming a pilot is no easy task, it takes dedication and hard work for candidates to earn their pilot wings. Is this something you would really like to do? Flying in the sky in your mechanical bird? Then I suggest you find the nearest recruiter in your area and speak to him about your dreams of becoming a pilot!