In response to this comment:

Three days later I happened to meet a commercial pilot at school who has flown F4s during Vietnam. He gave me the worst news of my life. My 6'3" ass was too tall to ever fly a fighter.

Is this actually true? A cursory search seems to contradict what he was told:

To become a Jet fighter Navigator, you have to have [...] a vertical standing height of between 64 inches (5 foot 4 inches) and 77 inches (6 foot 5 inches) tall.

It would appear his height is within range. Was he told wrong or am I missing something?

  • $\begingroup$ Based on the answers below and the fact that the commentor was told by a Vietnam era pilot, I'd say they rules have likely changed since the mid- to late-60s. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 13, 2016 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Ron's answer is the correct answer, but just to ease your fears, I literally fly with Navy guys that are at least 6'3. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2016 at 3:48

3 Answers 3


To become an Air Force pilot, you have to be a commissioned officer, there are few ways you can do that. First you can go through the Air Force Academy, which is probably the most common. Another way is to be in an ROTC program through your college of choice. The last way I know of is to graduate college and join the Air Force through the officer candidate school (OCS).

Regardless of the method you choose, there are certain requirements you must meet:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen
  • Have any 4 year college degree or be within 365 days of attaining it
  • Minimum 2.5 GPA (although I'd be surprised if they took you that low)
  • Under the age of 28 by the board convening date
  • Have a standing height of 64-77 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches
  • Have no history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12
  • Meet USAF weight and physical conditioning requirements
  • Normal color vision
  • Meet refraction, accommodation, and astigmatism requirements
  • Distance vision cannot exceed 20/20 uncorrected or must be corrected to 20/20 or better
  • Near vision cannot exceed 20/40 uncorrected or must be corrected to 20/20 or better

If you've met those requirements you can then go through the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) and through Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for your intellectual and physical evaluation. If you pass those tests, you may be selected for the Officer Candidate School (if not joining through ROTC or Academy).

After that you go into undergraduate pilot training (UPT) where you spend a year learning to fly through academic and hands-on training. Depending on how you perform at UPT you will receive a seat assignment. Higher scores are selected for fighter training while lower scores move towards transport aircraft. You can voice your opinion on what you want to fly, but ultimately the decision is driven by the needs of the Air Force at the time you graduate UPT.

After UPT, you will move to Advanced Flight Training (AFT) which is between 6 months and a year long depending on the aircraft you've been assigned. After AFT you'll be assigned a squadron and location.

If you don't meet height requirements

There is a waiver process, although getting a waiver for height requirements is extremely rare (if not completely unheard of). The issue is that the ejection systems are designed for a specific height. This process starts by appealing a medical review board which you are allowed to write a letter to argue your position, however even with a waiver you would probably not be assigned a fighter aircraft. You would probably be assigned an aircraft that does not have an ejection system like transport or mid-air refueling aircraft. As RhinoDriver mentions in the comments, the T6 training aircraft is also equipped with an ejection seat and if you can't fly the trainer, you can't progress on.

The only other alternative to be a US Air Force pilot outside of height requirements is to be an unmanned aircraft pilot.

Source 1: U.S. Air Force ROTC Website
Source 2: Department of Defense Article

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ All USAF primary trainer aircraft are equipped with ejection seats. If you do not meet the physical requirements to fly in the T6 ejection seat then you'd never fly anything, including a transport. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2016 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @RhinoDriver Thanks, I will amend, been wondering where you were, haven't seen you in quite some time. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No problem buddy. I've been super busy with no real end in sight. Possibly making an exit out of the Navy and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life! $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2016 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @RhinoDriver Stay safe out there. I'm sure you'll figure it out, you're living my dream job right now. I went through the AFOQT and passed with a 98% but got washed out of MEPS because of a medical record error that I couldn't fix through 3 board appeals. I know it's tough getting out but there are a lot of opportunities for military pilots. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 14, 2016 at 1:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Late to the party, but thanks for your service, @RhinoDriver! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:08

Standing 64"-77"; sitting 34"-40"

More information: http://google.com/search?q=usaf+fighter+pilot+height+restrictions


Check with your recruiter (they are all skilled salesmen - as they get commission) - get it signed in writing that you are not too tall. The cockpits of some jets are just too tight for some - at 6'1-1/2 - I was too tall for some. Helicopters - no problem - and those old vietnam era ones are fun. I don't mean to rag on recruiters - they can help you get into one of the service academies with some pull - they are usually upper level ranking enlisted (like master, gunny - etc.) The two most enjoyable to ever have control over is that Harrier jet, and the Huey helicopter.


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