A fighter pilot is a military aviator trained to engage in air-to-air, and often air-to-ground combat while in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft. Fighter pilots undergo specialized training in aerial warfare and dogfighting (close range aerial combat). A fighter pilot with at least five air-to-air kills becomes known as an ace. Not all fighter pilots have experienced actual aerial combat mainly due to the decline of conventional warfare, with many countries cutting the budgets of their air forces and shifting their focus to research and development of unmanned aerial vehicles for possible future combat roles, which may replace the need for new fighter pilots entirely.
First, let’s start at how you become an air force fighter pilot.
Aspiring pilots must take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, which measures knowledge and reasoning skills and helps the service place candidates in Officer Training School. The five-hour, 380-question test quizzes applicants on verbal analogies, math, instrument comprehension, aviation information and general science. It also asks candidates to describe themselves. To qualify for pilot training, candidates must be able to determine aircraft altitude from instruments, knowledge of aeronautical concepts and perceptual speed. Candidates get two chances to pass the test. The most recent score is the one that counts.
Candidates who pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test go to a Military Entrance Processing Station for health screening. Pilots need normal color vision, and they must meet eyesight refraction and astigmatism requirements. Distant vision must be at least 20/70 uncorrected, and near vision must be 20/30 uncorrected, but both distant and near vision must be corrected to 20/20. Corrective eye surgery could disqualify a candidate from flying. Pilots also cannot have a history of hay fever, asthma or allergies after age 12.
Pilots have to meet the Air Force’s height, weight and physical conditioning requirements. They must be 64 to 77 inches tall when standing, and 34 to 40 inches tall when sitting. They must weigh 160 to 231 pounds, depending on height. Depending on age, men cannot have more than 20 to 24 percent body fat, while women cannot have more than 28 to 32 percent body fat. Pilots also must be able to complete a minimum number of push-ups and sit-ups and finish a timed 1 ½-mile run.
An Officer Training School selection board vets all pilot candidates to determine whether they qualify for instruction. The Board evaluates applicants based on college grades, score on the Officer Qualifying Test and subjective criteria, including work experience, accomplishments, character, leadership talent, and growth potential.
Before receiving a pilot’s commission, candidates have to complete 12 weeks of Officer Training School. In addition to daily exercise, including calisthenics, stretching and running, pilot candidates take courses in writing strategies, war principles, management and Air Force history. Trainees learn through lectures, readings, guided discussions, classroom exercises, field leadership exercises and after hours training activities. Candidates learn high standards of conduct, essential military knowledge, and skills for effective leadership. A candidate who has completed Officer Training School is eligible for commissioning as a pilot.
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.
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.
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.
Our Hats Off To you Women of the Skies
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was a paramilitary aviation organization. The WASP’s predecessors, the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) organized separately in September 1942.
They were the pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots, employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization. The female pilots of the WASP ended up numbering 1,074, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. They flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft.
The WASP was granted veteran status in 1977, and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Over 25,000 women applied; however, only 1,074 were accepted into the WASPs.
The accepted women all had prior experience and pilot’s licenses. Of those accepted, the majority were white; there were only two Mexican American, two Chinese-American women, and one Native American woman. Due to the racial controversy at the time, the only African-American applicant was asked to withdraw her application.
- Mildred Darlene “Micky” Tuttle Axton – A licensed pilot since 1940 (and the only woman in her flight class at Coffeyville, Kan., Junior College). She was a member of WASP 43-W-7, but left the organization in April 1944 when her mother became ill. Micky applied for a job with Boeing and was hired as a flight test engineer; in May 1944 she became the first woman ever to fly the B-29 Superfortress. The Jayhawk Wing of the Commemorative Air Force operates a restored Fairchild PT-19, dubbed “Miss Micky” in her honor. Micky’s brother, Ralph Tuttle, was an Army Air Corps fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning the Silver Star and twice being awarded theDistinguished Flying Cross.
- Ann Baumgartner Carl
- Jacqueline Cochran – Director of the WASP. In 1938, Cochran became famous nationwide for winning the Bendix Transcontinental Race.
- Violet Cowden
- Rosa Charlyne Creger
- Nancy Batson Crews
- Selma Cronan
- Cornelia Fort – One of the original WAFS. Fort’s experience included evading attacking IJNAF carrier planes at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She became the first WAFS fatality in a midair collision while flying a BT-13 near Merkel, Texas on March 23, 1943.
- Maggie Gee – One of only two Asian-Americans in the WASP, the other being Hazel Ying Lee.
- Betty Gillies
- Lois Hailey
- Sara Payne Hayden
- Mary Marjorie “Pat” Hiller – Flew the AT-6 trainer, PT trainer, small fabric-winged liaison planes transporting officers, and as co-pilot ferrying B-17s and B-24s out of Buffalo, New York and around the Great Lakes to Manitoba, and down to Alabama, flying new planes to receive armament, and war-weary planes to be parted out and for scrap.
- Carla Horowitz
- Celia Hunter
- Marge Hurlburt – She was named to the Board of Directors of the Professional Race Pilots Association to represent the interests of female pilots and held the woman’s international airspeed record at the time her death in July 1947. Marge died while performing as part of a flying circus that she joined to raise money to build a new racing airplane.
- Janet Hutchinson – of the Flying Hutchinsons, joined at age 18.
- Teresa James
- Shirley C. Kruse
- Pearl Laska Chamberlain – First woman to solo a single-engine airplane up the Alaska Highway in 1946.
- Dorothy Swain Lewis – Worked at Piper Aircraft Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, Graduate of Phoebe Omlie’s Tennessee Bureau of Aeronautics Women Aviation Instructor Program in Nashville TN (Feb 1943), Instructed Navy pilots V-5 program classes 43F,W3G, W3H, Instructed WASP classes 43-W8,44-W2,44-W4, joined WASP in class 44-W7&5, towed targets in B-26, engineering flights various other aircraft, sculpted WASP trainee status on United States Air Force Academy Honor Court, Colorado Springs, painted official portrait of Janet Reno for US Department of Justice
- Hazel Ying Lee – One of two Asian-Americans in the WASP, the other being Maggie Gee.
- Barbara Erickson London – The only WASP member to be awarded the Air Medal during World War II.Following the war, medals were awarded to other WASP members.
- Nancy Love
- Anne Armstrong McClellan
- Annabelle Craft Moss – Moss flew the AT-6 Trainer, and was responsible for transporting officers from base to base.
- Anne Noggle – Following the war, she became a noted photographer and writer. She took the photos for For God, Country and the Thrill of It: Women Airforce Pilots of World War II, with an introduction by Dora Dougherty Strother.
- Deanie Bishop Parrish
- Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish, co-founder of Kalamazoo Air Museum.
- Vilma Lazar Qualls (May 5, 1917 – November 2, 2003) A member of class 43-W-3, she was assigned to Long Beach Army Airbase after training. She flew BT-13, C-47, B-17 and B-24.
- Mabel Rawlinson
- Ola Mildred Rexroat, An Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, was the only Native American woman in the WASP.
- Margaret Ringenberg
- Gloria Heath
- Dawn Rochow Seymour
- Evelyn Sharp – In 1938, Evelyn Sharp was the youngest person in the United States to receive a commercial pilot’s license.
- Helen “Skip” Sigler
- Gertrude Tompkins Silver – The last WASP to go missing in World War II. She made a flight from Mines Field (currently LAX) to Palm Springs on October 26, 1944, intending to fly a P-51 Mustang on to New Jersey, but never arrived in Palm Springs. As of January 2010, search efforts to locate the crash site are still ongoing.
- Jane Straughan, a graduate of class 43-W-1.
- Dora Dougherty Strother
- Ginny Hill Wood
- Marguerite “Ty” Hughes Killen
- Jeanne P. d’Ambly – member of the 43-W-5 class
- Lois Maxine (Dobbin) Auchterlonie – a graduate of class 43-8.
- Margie E. Heckle Graduate of class 43-4.
- Frances Johnson Cisternino of class 44-W-1
- Betty (Elizabeth) White Dybbro of the class of 44-W-6. Planes have flown AT-6, PT-17,UC-78.
- Mary S. Reineberg Burchard (1916–2012), class of 44-W-6.
- Marguerite McGinnis (b. 1921)
- Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds (b. 1923) – earned her pilot’s license in 1941, just before women were barred from the government-operated training program at local airports due to the expected need of more male pilots. Following the death of her husband around 1988, she took over the WASP organization’s “Stores” job, making and selling intricate silver and bronze jewelry, banners, scarves and other WASP-themed items.
- Mary E. Williamson (1924-2012)
- Strohfus, Elizabeth (Flew B-26 Widowmakers and pulled 6G’s in a F-16 at 72)
- Elaine Harmon
- Betty Tackaberry Blake, the last surviving member of the first WASP training group (Class 43-W-1 at Sweetwater, Texas, graduated April 24, 1943), died April 9, 2015.
Lockheed F-35 gets first female pilot: Air Force
THE RAF’S WOMEN
Female Tornado pilots conducted hundreds of sorties over Afghanistan as part of Britain’s war against the Taliban.
In early 2010, Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming (right) described how she was repeatedly called upon to swoop down within 100ft of rocket-wielding fanatics to disrupt their attacks on UK troops in Helmand province.
Flt Lieut Fleming was based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, where many of the air crew serving as part as Operation Shader are based.
There are thought to be about ten female fighter pilots cleared to fly Typhoon or Tornado jets in combat missions for the RAF.
Cuban Air Force Female Helicopter Pilots Teniente Idailis and Yuliet Deronceles López
USAF Female F-15E Pilot Capt. Christy “Roxy” Meress and Maj. Tracy Schmidt
Members of the 389 FS step to their jets at Mountain Home AFB for a DCA training mission.
USAF Female F-15E Pilot Capt. Christy “Roxy” Meress
Kong, HOBS, Magnum, and Roxy prepare to step for a DCA VUL at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
British Royal Air Force Female Tornado Fighter Pilot
US Air force Pilot Captain Caroline Jensen
Second Lt. Kristin L. Bass, An F-16 Fighting Falcon Pilot From The Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188Th Fighter Wing Gets Strapped In By Crew Chief Tech Sgt. Kevin J. Jones, Before Flying A Combat Air Patrol Mission
Women Fighter Pilots From Around The World
(German: Nachthexen; Russian: Ночные ведьмы, Nochnye Vedmy) was a World War II German nickname for the women military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, known later as the 46th “Taman” Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, of the Soviet Air Forces. Though women were initially barred from combat, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin issued an order on October 8, 1941, to deploy three women’s air force units, including the 588th regiment.
The regiment, formed by Colonel Marina Raskova and led by Major Yevdokia Bershanskaya, was made up entirely of women volunteers in their late teens and early twenties.
The regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the
At its largest, it had 40 two-person crews. The regiment flew over 24,000 missions and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.
It was the most highly decorated all-women unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty of its members died in combat.
The regiment flew in wood-and-canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a 1928 design intended for use as training aircraft and for crop dusting, and to this day the most-produced wood-airframe biplane in aviation history. The planes could carry only six bombs at a time, so 8 or more missions per night were often necessary.
Although the aircraft were obsolete and slow, the pilots made daring use of their exceptional maneuverability; they had the advantage of having a maximum speed that was lower than the stall speed of both the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, and as a result, German pilots found them very difficult to shoot down. An attack technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise left to reveal their location. German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks and named the pilots “Night Witches.”
Due to the weight of the bombs and the low altitude of flight, the pilots carried no parachutes.
From June 1942, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was within the 4th Air Army.
In February 1943, the regiment was honored with a reorganization into the 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment and in October 1943 it became the 46th “Taman” Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment.
“Taman” referred to the unit’s involvement in two celebrated Soviet victories on the Taman Peninsula during 1943
Female Top Guns of World War II: RAF squadron
They were the unsung heroes of World War II but now, as the 70th anniversary of VJ Day approaches, the UK’s female pilots have been remembered in an incredible collection of images.
The pictures, taken from the Getty Images archives, show the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary who were responsible for ferrying new fighter and bomber planes to their bases, as well as flying transport aircraft and some air ambulances.
Dubbed the ‘Attagirl’ by their male comrades, the 168-strong squadron was based at RAF Hamble in Hampshire and RAF Cosford in Shropshire and were trained to fly 38 types of aircraft.
Top Gun: First Lieutenant Maureen Dunlop sits at the controls of her Spitfire fighter plane in September 1944
Important work: A group of British and American fliers pictured at White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire, in 1942