It’s well known that the Air Force is the most difficult military branch to gain entry to. There are high standards in terms of test scores and education with other requirements based on your job title for vision, physical fitness, height, and weight.
Here, we’re talking about requirements necessary to become an Air Force Pilot, one of the most coveted positions in the military.
Let’s start with the Air Force pilot vision requirements which state that you must have:
- Uncorrected visual acuity of at least 20/30, or
- Visual acuity no worse than 20/70 that can be corrected to 20/20
- Must meet refraction, accommodation, and astigmatism requirements
Long story short – a pilot needs to have eyesight that’s correctable to perfect visual acuity in order to complete their missions effectively. Any faulty vision can be detrimental. For reference, to enter Navigator Training in the Air Force, a candidate’s eyesight can’t be worse than 20/200 and correctable to 20/20. This makes it clear that becoming a pilot requires much better eyesight from the get-go.
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There are a few more specific vision requirements for Air Force service members though.
Once you become an Air Force pilot, eyesight standards get a little less harsh. As a person ages, their eyesight gradually deteriorates and the Air Force has taken this natural fact into consideration.
So, pilots who have graduated from Flight School can keep their titles so long as their eyesight doesn’t worsen beyond 20/400 in each eye and can continue to be correctable to 20/20.
Apart from these standards, Air Force pilots must have normal depth and color perception. So, unfortunately for those who are colorblind, becoming an Air Force pilot is out of the question.
Additionally, with the advent of laser vision correction, some of these rules have changed. Before 2007, undergoing laser eye surgery using PRK or LASIK automatically disqualified you from becoming an Air Force pilot.
Originally, pilots who had already graduated from Flight School could elect to have PRK or LASIK surgery to correct their vision and those who had the surgery were studied which eventually led to the 2007 decision that changed the rule.
So now, you are able to enter the pilot training pipeline if you’ve had PRK or LASIK surgery to correct your vision and become an Air Force pilot.
Air Force Pilot Physical Requirements
The Air Force pilot vision requirements are only the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to all the physical requirements you have to meet in order to become an Air Force pilot.
You’ll complete a full physical where a medical team will check things out from top to bottom and there are certain medical conditions that can disqualify you from becoming an Air Force pilot including:
- Angina pectoris
- Bipolar disease
- Cardiac valve replacement
- Coronary heart disease
- Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
- Disturbance of consciousness without explanation
- Heart replacement
- History of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after age 12
- Myocardial infarction
- Severe personality disorder
- Substance abuse or dependence
- Transient loss of nervous system function without explanation
These conditions are disqualifiers since they are considered flying hazards.
On top of these medical conditions that can disqualify you from becoming an Air Force pilot, there are also physical requirements for fitness, height, and weight.
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The physical fitness requirements of becoming an Air Force vary based on the stage you’re at in the training process. Since a pilot in the Air Force is an officer position, you’ll most likely be attending Officer Training School which is where you’ll be completing most of these physical fitness tests.
In general, you’ll have to complete exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, and a 1.5-mile run within a certain amount of time. Most candidates with a baseline of physical fitness are able to pass these tests without much strain although you should definitely prepare for them by keeping up with a regular fitness routine.
Still, becoming an Air Force pilot is much more about mental stamina and acing the “classroom tests” more than the physical ones. But at the end of the day, you’re still a part of the military and physical fitness is essential.
Air Force Pilot Height Requirements
It might seem odd that the Air Force has height requirements for pilots but it all started back when military aircraft could only accommodate people of a certain size. You need to be able to see properly and reach all the necessary controls without being too large or too small for the aircraft.
These days, aircraft are able to adapt to people of most sizes but some height requirements still need to be met as it will depend on your aircraft assignment. In general, the Air Force pilot height requirements are as follows:
- Candidates must be between 64 and 77 inches tall when standing
- Candidates must be between 34 to 40 inches tall when seated
- Sitting eye height and arm span will also be measured but requirements vary
In some cases, a height waiver may be filed, again, depending on whether or not the aircraft you’ll be working with can accommodate your height. For the most part, all those who apply to become an Air Force pilot meet the height requirements if they’re of average height.
If you are significantly taller or shorter than average, it might mean that you’ll be unable to become an Air Force pilot and since, unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about our height, it’s not a requirement we can overcome with sheer grit. Weight requirements, on the other hand, can be worked on.
Air Force Pilot Weight Requirements
Every branch of the military has weight requirements as well as body fat limits. The main purpose of these requirements is to ensure physical fitness but for Air Force pilots, it’s also a matter of weight limits on aircraft.
Your weight and body fat percentage will be measured during your initial physical and the requirements are based on age, height, and gender.
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In general, candidates can weigh up to 231 pounds. For men, you can have a body fat percentage between 20 and 24 percent and women can have a body fat percentage between 28 and 32 percent.
It’s important to note that there are also minimums when it comes to weight and body fat percentages because numbers that are too low in this department are also indicative of an unhealthy person, both physically and mentally.
Other Air Force Pilot Requirements
Apart from the visual, physical, height, and weight requirements, becoming an Air Force pilot also has educational, age, and test score requirements which we’ll touch on briefly here.
Those who plan to enter the Air Force as a pilot, which is an officer position, are required to have a four-year college degree. Of course, those who enlist in the Air Force are welcome to work their way up, but the fast-track to becoming an Air Force pilot is attending college.
There are also age requirements to join the Air Force. To join as an officer, you must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
Finally, joining the Air Force as an officer won’t require you to take the ASVAB, but most will be required to take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) which is similar to the SAT and the standards are high although they change based on the current average scores.
As always, talk to your Air Force recruiter about your specific circumstances to ensure you meet all the necessary requirements to become an Air Force pilot.