For anyone who’s ever seen the movie “Top Gun,” or been to a military air show there are few sights that are as impressive as a properly handled fighter plane. And like any inspiring or thrilling sight, there will be people who see one of these aircraft in action who would rather be behind the stick than in a chair in a theater somewhere. However, for those who are serious about becoming a fighter pilot the road is long, strenuous, and strewn with things that will disqualify you.
The most important barrier that a person will have to cross are the physical requirements. The eyesight requirement for fighter pilots is stringent, and as such people with glasses or contacts simply won’t be accepted into the program. The same goes for physical size… if a person is too large or too small then they can’t become a pilot because they don’t fit into the cockpit well enough to fly the machine.
If you meet the basic prerequisites, then the next step is to volunteer for a branch of the armed forces. The Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force all have a need for pilots. Once you join one of these branches, you will need to enter and complete the officers’ training courses, since all fighter pilots are officers.
While in officer’s training it’s important that you do as well as possible. When putting in for your commission, select aviation. The better you did throughout the training courses, the better your chance of the military agreeing to allow you to go into aviation. However, the brass has the final say and if they say you can’t go to flight school, then that’s that for now.
If the military machine gives you the go-ahead to get involved in aviation for your commission, then you will go through flight school. Initially all the training in flight school will be the same, but once a certain point is reached you’ll graduate to more specialized studies. This is when you’ll need to select a type of aircraft, typically jets or bombers. Other tracks may include propeller driven air craft, helicopters, and jets. Once again not all students will get their first choice, so it’s important that you do as well as possible during initial flight training.
Assuming that you’ve made it this far, and that your performance levels, grades, and luck have held out, then you’re officially a jet pilot. Which branch of the service you enlisted in will depend will determine where you’re stationed, and what specific types of aircraft you’ll be flying. Army and Air Force pilots will have bases on the land, whereas Navy and Marines pilots will fly from (and be stationed on) aircraft carriers.
Of course, this is a very hard career path, and unlike many other jobs you don’t usually have the option of walking away. It’s important that anyone who thinks they have what it takes to be a fighter pilot seriously weigh their chances as to accomplishing their goal, and what they’ll do if they don’t make it. With so many people eager to be pilots, the military can afford to take only the cream of the crop, so it’s important to remember that the military needs janitors and ditch diggers just as much as it does airmen.