Skills Required to Be an Air Force Pilot

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Pilots of the U.S. Air Force are highly trained professionals.
Pilots of the U.S. Air Force are highly trained professionals. (Image: air force thunderbirds image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aircraft pilots are engineers that are highly trained to fly passengers or cargo to and from particular destinations. Many pilots are responsible for planning flights, executing flight procedures and making decisions during the flight process. There are many types of U.S. Air Force pilots, including test pilots, bomber pilots, mobility pilots, tanker pilots and special operations pilots.

Age and Physical Health Requirements

In order to become an Air Force pilot, recruits or those currently serving in the Air Force must appear before the pilot selection board before age 28. Prospective pilots must not have suffered from allergies, asthma or hay fever after age 12 and must meet Air Force weight and physical conditioning requirements. All applicants must have a standing height of between 64 and 77 inches and a sitting height of 34 and 40 inches. The Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) must also evaluate all candidates for acceptance into the Air Force. Certain past injuries or health problems can prevent individuals from pursuing certain careers in the military.

Academic Skills

According to the United States Air Force website, in order for individuals to become pilots, certain academic requirements must be met. A college degree is not required to enlist in the Air Force; however, for commission as an Air Force pilot, recruits must have successfully completed a four-year undergraduate program or be 365 days from receiving the degree. Although not required for pilots, bachelor of science degrees from the United States Air Force Academy also prepare individuals through intense coursework in science, engineering, mathematics and operations research. Additionally, some college students may choose to participate in Air Force ROTC programs to receive guidance in course selection to prepare them for careers as pilots.

After enlisting in the Air Force, officers continue their education and training throughout their careers. Some will pursue graduate degrees at the Air Force's Graduate School for Engineering and Management, while others will continue specialized studies at civilian universities. Continued training programs, such as the Air and Space Basic Course, the Squadron Officer School or the Air Force Institute of Technology, can prepare individuals for specific missions, tasks or careers.

Technical Flying Skills

Civilians holding college degrees who also have flight experience, such as a private pilot's license, may also become pilots in the United States Air Force. Those interested in pursuing a career in the Air Force must meet other requirements when appearing before the pilot selection board.

Vision Requirements

All of those interested in flying must meet certain vision requirements. All applicants must have normal color vision, must meet refraction, accommodation and astigmatism requirements and must have acceptable levels of visual acuity.

Character and Leadership Skills

Those hoping to become Air Force pilots must also meet certain legal requirements before enlisting. An excessive number of traffic law violations within the year of application may prevent a candidate from entering the Air Force. Certain law violations may also prevent acceptance into the Air Force. Air Force recruits are expected to have strong leadership skills and good character; prior drug use may also exclude potential candidates from service.

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