I want to be a pilot (civil aviation), but I'm afraid that my body composition and field of study might not fit with aviation. What are the physical requirements and academic/mental prerequisites to become a private pilot?

For instance, I have a masters degree in computer engineering and am skinny (50Kg, 1.72m and 24age). Could this be a problem?

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    $\begingroup$ I think a better question is why do you think that the characteristics you've listed suggest you could not be a pilot? $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Aug 19 '14 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need physical strength to be a pilot. Some fly even without a hand! You only must not have any disease that could cause sudden disabling condition (e.g. epilepsy, arrythmia, strong diabetes and such). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Aug 19 '14 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ or be taking any psychoactive medication for mental conditions. I was disqualified from getting my PPL (in Australia) because I have ADHD and am taking Dexamphetamine. $\endgroup$
    – JamesENL
    Aug 19 '14 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ Well you're going to want to bulk up to around 80 or 90kg of pure muscle so that you can fight with the controls, and thats just for takeoffs. To land you'll need to proficient either kung-fu if you're flying in the northern hemisphere, or krav maga if you're flying in the southern. On top of that you will probably want to get laser eyes installed. Just kidding, pilots are just normal people who are in better than average health $\endgroup$ Aug 19 '14 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ 172cm shouldn't be a problem IMO (I am the same size as you, but 63 kg). In fact it's probably the sweet spot size for reaching for cockpit controls and ease of sitting in the cockpit! $\endgroup$ Aug 23 '14 at 9:42

Shhhhhh, here is the biggest secret of aviation: It's actually quite easy to become a pilot. You can actually get your private certificate before you are allowed to drive!

The FAA has a nice page that tells you what is required to become a private pilot. When most people think of piloting small general aviation aircraft, they are thinking about the Private Pilot certificate. Part 141 is the most common route for that. The hardest part is being able to pass the FAA physical, but keep in mind that as a private (or even recreational) pilot, you don't need to get a Class I, just a Class III.

To become an airline (ATP) or military pilot does require a great deal more work and training, but I think that may be beyond the scope of your question.

The best advice is to go to the local airfield or FBO and find a flight school. Good luck.

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    $\begingroup$ Judging by his use of the metric system, I would say the FAA page would not apply. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Aug 29 '14 at 17:09

What are the physical requirements

My (future) mother-in-law saw me stepping out of the airplane and said to her daughter "how can such a little guy fly such a big airplane*?" In a word, hydraulics.

Ultimately you must be able to move the control surfaces through their normal range of motion, perform emergency procedures, and safely control the aircraft. There is no rule that says you're not allowed to slide down the seat a couple inches to get full rudder deflection because your left engine just quit. I personally know a pilot who flew with a very thick book behind his back. No, I'm not kidding.

  • 99' 6'' long, 130' wingspan, 156,000 lbs max GW

There's no prohibition on computer engineers being pilots.

So long as you can operate the controls of your aircraft and see out clearly, there's no reason why height, weight or age should be an obstacle.

A 16 year-old schoolgirl can be a pilot. and trainees are as young as 7. In some places at age 5, you can be a pilot of sorts. It's a bit harder to get a job flying jumbo jets commercially, but there are 20-year olds doing this

Obviously you have to put in the time and effort and have a minimum of health and mental competence.


Based on the vital statistics related to your physique that you have provided you can very easily apply for a Pilot's licence . Some of the important information related to how one can become a Pilot are as follows :

(1) You do not need to go to an Aviation College and get an Aviation degree to become a pilot. Some regional US airlines prefer an associates degree or at least two years of college experience. Major airlines typically require a bachelors degree, but it can be in any field of study, not just aviation .

(2)As long as your vision can be corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contacts, you will be eligible for a 1st Class FAA Medical Certificate, which makes you eligible to fly as a civilian professional pilot .

(3) The cost of flight school is relatively expensive and most students will need to finance some, if not all, of the flight training cost . Airlines will perform a credit check as a standard step in their background check process .

(4) You can hold a commercial pilot certificate as young as 18 years old .

The detailed information can be found here


For a Synopsis of Medical Standards prescribed by FAA , you may choose to visit this site


  • $\begingroup$ Thank you all. I would be glad if you tell me some pointers to free scholarship providers for financing my aviation training. I don't care what ever airlines would the provider be. $\endgroup$
    – Sray
    Aug 20 '14 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ How is a credit check in any way relevant to being a pilot? $\endgroup$ Feb 12 '15 at 7:19

You definitely are big enough. My daughter did her first flying lesson at 11 or so. We had to pull the seat way up and have her sit on a cushion. She was well under 5 feet and 100 pounds at the time. She did just fine.

As far as the academic/mental prerequisites a calm demeanor is good. As is thinking ahead, plan, not react. Just remember the most important thing is the next two things.

The other thing to remember is the plane does not care what degrees you had, what university you went to, etc. So don't think that since you have a graduate degree you have a leg up on someone that is a high school drop out. I have had this reinforced to me several times. I have several degrees (physics, math, computer science) and all of that learning meant zero if I don't practice the basic over and over and exercise good airmanship.

Best of luck with your flight training, and have fun.


I can offer you some advice as I had the same dilemma before I took my first flight. If you ignore the physical requirements, of which there are only a few restrictions - basically they want to know if you have any condition that will allow you to become incapacitated - for example, epilepsy; and that you are in a fit mental state - the other things you might want to keep in mind:

  1. You need to have a good command of English; as this is the language of aviation. Perhaps not a requirement if you are a native English speaker - but you need to be able to understand the instructions from traffic control quickly and relay them back. Don't be afraid to tell them you are a student and they (might) go slow on you.

  2. You need to be able to strictly memorize and follow directions. I know this sounds like one of those things that you would need on any job; but being a pilot one small goof in the checklist can end up with a disaster. If you are a glutton for procedures and steps, man is this the place for you!

  3. You can't daydream. As my instructor at the time said "you need to be ahead of the plane", meaning if you are already anticipating what the plane will do, if something sudden comes up you can manage. It is insane how many things you have to keep track of especially if you are in a trainer aircraft like a 172 that doesn't have a full electronic cockpit or autopilot as in most commercial aircraft.

If you want to be a recreational pilot then that's all there is. Once you get the basic hang of what goes on in a flight, then all you have to do is keep up your hours and get type rated for the kind of aircraft you want to fly (dual engine, turboprop, jet, etc.)

Go for it!


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