posted on Nov, 23 2006 @ 09:28 PM
I assume you are in the US? I'm in Australia, so am speaking from that context, but believe that the necessary requirements are similar.
There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through to become a pilot, let alone a fighter pilot. But, like any profession, if you are keen enough, and
apply yourself, then it is well within anyone's reach. To be successful I'd say the key need is the ability to learn quickly, process information
effectively and come to smart conclusions in high pressure situations. The learning curve is steep, but if you want it bad enough, you'll work the
long hours necessary. Good reflexes and physical fitness are also important, but not as much as the first points I mentioned. You can get fitter, and
reflexes can improve, but if you can't pick things up quickly, it will be very hard to get through.
From my experience, it isn't necessarily the brightest that succeed. In fact, I've seen some brilliant students fail because they lacked
application, while those that struggled through university shone when in the cockpit. The ones who told everyone during initial training that they
were going to be fighter pilots generally failed, while those who quitely went about their business with the end goal in mind seemed to do much better
(maybe because the weight of expectation wasn't as great?)
It is "easier" to become a transport pilot from the point of view that there are usually less fighter slots than other assignments. But it takes no
less application to be able to skillfully fly a large aircraft, and the responsibility for the lives of all on board is a big one. But those who do
well on pilot's course, and who have the right attitude (confident, but not arrogantly so, with an agressive streak when needed) will move on to
lead-in fighter training (well, that's what the RAAF call it).
Lead-in fighter training is the next hurdle. Believe it or not, the learning curve gets steeper. Candidates still wash out here because they get
behind the "drag curve". Failure doesn't necessarily mean you are a bad pilot. Attitude again becomes important, as does an ability to make quick
decision in a very dynamic environment.
Conversion course follows. Once again, getting to this stage is no guarantee of success. I've seen guys scrubbed with two flights to go before
graduation. It is tough when this happens, but the responsibility is ultimately to keep him/her (and those around him/her) alive. Interestingly, this
is usually the stage where a number of "self scrubs" occur. Flying fighters is usually not what people expect it to be like. Each mission requires a
lot of preparation, and even during BFM, there is a script which is generally followed. Then there are substantial debriefs for each mission. All up,
for a one hour mission, there can be upwards of seven hours of mission preparation and debriefing. It isn't as glamourous as Top Gun makes out.
Once you graduate from conversion course, it doesn't end. You're a D category pilot. You have upgrade checks for each category. Then you need to
specialise, either as an instructor or weapons qualified patch wearer. Then you get staff appointments, which reduce your flying hours, while
increasing the admin you have to do. The challenges continue right through your career.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on the matter. I hope I haven't sounded too pessimistic. If you're thinking to yourself "Man, I don't know if I
can handle all of that, it sounds too hard", then being a fighter pilot might not be for you. But if you are thinking "Man, I don't if I can handle
all of that, but it sounds like fun", then you're off to a good start. Send me a u2u if you want to know anything else outside of the forum.