How Hard Is It To Become A Fighter Pilot In The Air Force?

Let’s cut to the chase and get straight to the point. It’s incredibly difficult to become a pilot in the Air Force, as they only accept, and train the best candidates.

That means that if you want to fly with the Air Force, you need to be the best version of yourself that you can be in order to join the ranks of the elite.

The first thing that you’ll need to be, and it’s fairly obvious, is a US citizen.

How Hard Is It To Become A Fighter Pilot In The Air Force

You’ll also need a fairly high-grade point average, the minimum for Flight School candidates is three point six, and a degree in, preferably a science before you apply. 

You’ll also need to be physically fit, and willing to undergo a rigorous and demanding set of physical tests and examinations and you’ll need to fall within the required age parameters. 

Candidates for Flight School should ideally be between the ages of twenty two and twenty eight and need to be able to start flight training by the time they’re thirty. 

It is possible to get a deferment up to the age of thirty five, but these are usually only granted under exceptional circumstances. 

And most importantly, any and all candidates for Flight School must be a commissioned officer and, at the very least, a Second Lieutenant.

There are three possible ways to achieve this rank before applying to the Air Force.

First, enroll in an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program while attending college, secondly be accepted into and attend the Officer Training Program that the Air Force runs at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and lastly, attend the Air Force Academy. 

However, if the last option is your chosen route, you need to be aware that it is the most difficult way to make your way to Flight School, as the Air Force Academy only accepts fourteen hundred candidates a year and the competition to get one of those places is extremely fierce. 

Can You Become A Pilot Through The Airforce? 

Absolutely you can, but you have to meet the incredibly demanding and high standards that the Air Force sets and demands, and providing you pass all of them and you make it to Flight School, you’ll still be expected to face and pass the demanding two-stage training program that the Air Force expects all of their pilots to sail through with flying colors. 

It’ll take at least a year of classroom and in-cockpit flight training before you’re allowed to fly solo, and you’ll need to clock up as many flight hours as you possibly can to make the grade.

It’s a tough and demanding selection and training program, but if you do make it through and become an Air Force pilot, you’ll know that you are the best of the best. 

How Do You Become An Air Force One Pilot? 

It’s a common misconception that there’s only one Air Force One or Presidential aircraft.

There is actually a fleet of Presidential aircraft which are all based at Edwards Air Force Base in Maryland and none of the aircraft in that fleet can use the designation Air Force One unless the President is on board. 

The Presidential fleet is maintained by the 89th Airlift Wing, which has one thousand serving personnel at any given time.

And only eighty of those one thousand personnel are qualified and can fly, any of the presidential aircraft. In order to be able to fly Air Force One, a pilot needs to be assigned to the 89th and have at least two thousand five hundred hours of flight time and be a qualified fast jet, bomber, or cargo pilot. 

As it’s one of the Air Force’s most requested assignments, competition for the role is ferocious and only the most dedicated and committed pilots ever get to fly the President and Air Force One. 

What Are The Odds Of Becoming A Fighter Pilot? 

They are, putting it mildly, staggeringly high and the chances that you’ll get to sit in the cockpit of a state-of-the-art fighter jet and fly it are slim at best.

How Hard Is It To Become A Fighter Pilot In The Air Force

Even if you make it through the incredibly tough Flight School selection process that the Air Force uses to weed out the less capable candidates, and make it through the training program, you’ll have to spend each and every day that you’re there, pushing yourself to your absolute limits while constantly striving to be better than every other candidate training with you. 

Every single pilot in your class will want the same thing that you do, to fly fast jets and become a fighter pilot.

And even if you excel at every discipline, even if you push through the glass ceiling and prove to yourself and your instructors that you are eminently qualified to be a fighter pilot, if someone in the same class as you even slightly surpasses your achievements, then they’ll be far more likely get the assignment than you will. 

It sounds pessimistic, but it’s meant to because some dreams are worth going the extra mile for and are worth pursuing to the bitter end.

And becoming a fighter pilot in the US Air Force is one of the dreams that is absolutely worth fighting for. 

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Fighter Pilot? 

In theory, as long as you have a degree, you can become a fighter pilot as the selection process for Flight School doesn’t actually specify which degree you need in order to fly.

However, in practice, in order to fly fast jets, the Air Force prefers a degree that is directly related to or can in some way be applied to the position that you want. 

That means that, realistically, you’ll need a science-based degree and you’ll need to excel in your chosen subject. 

A degree in Physics, Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, or a similar engineering or scientific discipline should set you on the right track and stand you in good stead with your instructors and will put you in a far better position to be a fighter pilot than a degree in English Literature or History would.