How to Become an Air Force Pilot

Dream of going Mach 5 with your hair on fire? Whatever your goal, if you want to wear Air Force pilot wings, there's a lot of work to do first. Note: This guide will really be useful for United States Air Force (USAF) hopefuls only.


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    Complete a bachelor's degree program at a community college or university. The second step is earning a commission as an officer (a Second Lieutenant to be precise). You have essentially four choices: The US Air Force Academy (4 years of marching, looking good), The US Merchant Marine Academy and accepting your commission in the Air Force, ROTC (4 years of wearing uniforms to class and saying very un-pilot-like things like "AirPower," marching and well groomed haircuts), OTS (12 weeks of early mornings, vaguely annoyed instructors and a decent salad bar). Your choice: you'll earn a commission no matter which way you go.
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    And if you do well enough, you might earn a spot at Undergraduate Pilot Training. Things determining that are: Your GPA, Class standing (for USAFA and ROTC), Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) scores, Pilot Composite Selection Method (PCSM) scores, Recommendations.
    • The AFOQT is a comprehensive, day long test that your recruiter or school can arrange. It measures academic potential as well as a number of measures of piloting skill and problem solving abilities.
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    • The PCSM is part-simulator and part-psych profiler. The final score also includes not only aptitude results but real-world flying experience in the form of hours accumulated in real aircraft. This is the surest way to enhance your chances of being selected. It also happens to be quite fun.
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    Be in shape. In order For one to become a USAF pilot, they must achieve the utmost medical, physical, and academic requirements and be at least the rank of Officer in the United States Air Force.
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    Once you've been through all that process, you will find yourself in the last crucible: UPT. It's a grueling 54 week ordeal that requires every ounce of energy you can muster and has claimed many students who didn't have the right stuff. You'll work 12 hours a day for 5, 6 or 7 days a week and study an additional 2 or 3 when you get home. You'll think about absolutely nothing but flying airplanes. But that's not to say you won't have fun: flying solo in a jet, being number 2 in a fingertip formation, low-level navigation are just a few of the things that await you. That and the dreaded stand-up interrogations every morning.
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    Then one bright day, you'll walk across the stage in the base theater and receive your first set of silver wings. You'll have become one of the best trained and most able pilots in the world. All that remains is to prove yourself in the next airplane you're assigned to.


  • Get in shape. The training will be much, much easier if you are in good physical shape. Review the AF physical fitness standards for help in structuring a workout routine to whip yourself into shape.
  • Discipline is a must in the Air force. And on-time performance is what you need.So, if you are one of those who loves to hate hard work, its time to seriously consider another career option.
  • Remember, the AF considers a "whole person" concept when reviewing potential applications for pilot selection. This means that while your scores (GPA, AFOQT, etc...) may count for a portion, they will also be reviewing your leadership experience, community service experience and other qualifications that help promote you as a leader.
  • While your undergraduate major has no major effect on your chances of getting a pilot slot, having a technical or engineering major can be a benefit, as in recent years the AF selection boards have been favorable towards those possessing technical degrees. Regardless of your degree, however, your GPA is a very important factor considered as part of the selection process.
  • Get as much private pilot experience as you (read: parents) can afford. A private pilot's license in hand is an excellent addition to an AF pilot application package. It not only shows the board that you have what it takes to complete an aeronautical rating, but it is also a chance to prove to yourself that aviation is something you really want to do.


  • Being an Air Force Pilot is not the end all be all. You have to remember that first and foremost, you will be an Officer in the United States Air Force. The Air Force isn't looking for "pilot or nothing" types. They want those willing to serve with honor no matter what the Air Force has them do, which can include a numerous list of task that could be dangerous depending on the situation. Show commitment always.

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Categories: Careers in the Military