Fastest way to become a pilot
I’m a graduate of the Air Force Academy, flew the RF4C, and was an instructor pilot in the T38A at Reese AFB in Lubbock, TX. I’ve noticed several questions asking roughly the same thing, so I’ll respond here.
Service academies are the best conduit, and if someone wants to attend a service academy—such as the AFA, Annapolis, or West Point—best to start planning the first year of high school. Buckle down, study, get the grades up, line up plenty of extracurricular activities (clubs, etc.), and play a sport, if possible.
Get in the best physical shape of your life. Study for and do well on the standardized tests. Might as well get used to the study, because pilot training is a year of study and tests, and transitioning to a fighter is another year of study and tests. You’ll need to know aircraft systems by memory, basic aerodynamics, basic weather, instrument flight rules, emergency procedures by memory, weapons systems operations by memory, allied and enemy defense systems capabilities by memory, and the list goes on and on. Not to worry, you’re offered time and training, and you get the hang of all that.
Apply for the service academies and for ROTC scholarships. The AFA offers the best chance of becoming a fighter pilot.
If you haven’t excelled in high school and are close to graduating, don’t give up. Clean up your act, and if you can’t get into college, join a service. Excel as an enlisted person. The education folks will help you work to your degree. Study every night and weekend to get it. Don’t screw off with your buddies.
You have a dream to fulfill and you can do it. You must focus.
Once you have your degree, apply for pilot training.
True story. I lived in Huntsville, Al, and the Space Camp started an Aviation Challenges program to expose youngsters to high performance flight. I was a volunteer that gave presentations at local schools and at the Space Camp itself.
My classroom presentations were to elementary schools. I’d put on the suit, bring my helmet, g-suit, gloves, and harness. Before I walked into the classroom I’d ask the teacher for the name of her worst student. It was before the days of PC, so I’d specify: I wanted the one with the worst grades and deportment, the child she or he was sure had no chance at all to succeed in life.
I’d tell the kids that both boys and girls could be fighter pilots, and that whatever they’ve done in school up to that point, whatever grades they’d earned or trouble they might have found themselves in didn’t matter a bit. If they decided that day they wanted to fly fighters and if they decided they would do the necessary study to improve their grades before high school, and if they became a team player from that day forward, they would fly fighters in the USAF.
Then I’d call out the name of the hopeless student and tell them to come forward with a chair. I’d dress them up in a flight suit, put my heavy harness on them, zip on the g-suit, put my gloves on them, sit them down in the chair, and put my flight helmet on them, connect the oxygen mask, and put down the green visor. Comical, because I’m a tall guy with broad shoulders and my equipment swallowed them. I’d ask the class if they had everything a fighter pilot needed to fly a combat mission and they always said “Yes.” “Not quite, ” I ’d say, “I always carry this on missions: and I’d pull out a stuffed bear and wedge in the kid’s arm.
“Perfect, ” I’d say, and with all the kids laughing, I’d hand the little warrior a fighter stick handgrip I’d gotten from maintenance, and then I’d take the whole class on a fighter mission with the hopeless case piloting the jet.