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Military pilot question

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Curtis Malone
May 6, 2002
I'm currently 16, working on my PPL going into my senior year of High School. My dream is to one day be a military pilot, especially with the Air Force. However, my vision is 20/180 correctable to 20/20. I have read about possible medical waivers on the AF web site, but when I contacted my local recruiter, it seamed he wanted to get me to inlist instead of helping me with a possible waiver procedures. Do any of the military pilots know of anyone, or anything about these waivers? I would be more than happy to have an operation approved my the AF, but have so far held off on any such operation. I would appreciate any help or advice from the experts. Thanks
College a must


Pilots in the AF are all officers, which means they've got a 4 year degree. There are 3 sources to become an officer: AF Academy, ROTC, and OTS. Generally, a recruiter is going to try to get you to enter the enlisted corps. Its simple and short term for him. You need to talk with someone who is more interested in helping you become an officer. Depending on where you live there are several sources. If you live in a large city there is probably an AF Academy liaison. How you contact one or find out I'm sorry, but I'm not sure. Its possible to contact your congressperson or senator's offices for a POC. Also, check out the Academy's website. Most colleges have a AF ROTC program that would be more than happy to talk with you about their program. Additionally, these contacts can probably give you the current waiver info on eyesight and any other issue on becoming an AF pilot. The recruiter might also be able to give you the info for contacts if you can get him past his desire for you to wear stripes. As for surgery, don't do anything until you get official AF policy. I'm not sure what the current procedures are, but the AF is very selective with medical procedures and what is common in the civilian world will "be right out" with the military. I did 12 years active duty and I'm starting my 3rd year of reserves. I can't say I loved it but being an AF pilot is a great experience. Be persistent and don't let a few setbacks or "no" answers shut you down.

Good luck


Thanks for the advice and ideas. I have my eye on a local State College which has an Aeronautical science program which I have heard good things about. The do have AF ROTC which I am looking forward to joining. May I ask which of the 3 sources you used to become an officer? I think the ROTC would be the best option for me, if my eyesight problem could be solved. Thanks again for your help


I replyed to your post in the other section you posted the question in, but I pretty much agree with everything Slug said.......actually, it's like we were thinking the same thing......the big thing is don't give up......there are waivers for everything....alot of the time it depends on who you ask....and the cycles are crazy, if they need pilots, they'll waive many things....so just don't give up....
I think the current vision requirements for AF pilots is 20/70 as long as it is correctable to 20/20 (one eye can be as bad as correctable to 20/25). Ive heard that RK has been approved by the AF, but I'd be sure to get it in writing before I did anything like that. As far as the waivers go, RichO was right on, it depends on whether they need pilots or not at that time. Right now they are hurting for pilots candidates, but you are looking at 5 years down the road. Im not sure how the scenes gonna look then, I guess it could go either way.

As far as ROTC vs USAFA, I was commissioned through the Academy, as the major reasons I chose that path were a guarenteed pilot slot at graduation for those who were pilot qualified, and the fact they would apply the 20/70 correctable to 20/20 vision rule to you, vs. the 20/20 uncorrected for non-AFA candidates. Of course, that was then... can't speak for today.
Being a ROTC guy myself (1 more year) I'm admittedly biased, but I'll tell you that it's a great way to go. USAFA is a great place but there are no longer automatic pilot slots. AFPC is sending more slots to AFROTC and OTS. All three are competitive, but it seems to me that OTS is by far the most competitive for getting a pilot slot. Personally, I wouldn't reccomend OTS at your stage of the game unless you plan on having at least 100 hours and a sierra hotel GPA by the time you apply. I'd reccomend calling the AFROTC office at any school you're thinking of going to. As far as vision goes, as long as you're a good candidate for PRK, that's probably the way to go. BUT, no matter what commissioning source you decide to take, get into the program and talk about the surgery with your commander (PAS in AFROTC) before you do anything - you won't need the vision for a few years anyway, so take your time and make sure everything gets done right and follows procedure. Anyway, if you've got any questions on ROTC, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]. Best of luck in your future endeavors!
Laser Eye Surgery

The AF has just Authorized Laser Eye Surgery. In the 14 years I have be in the AF I have seen the AF go from NO waivers to waiving everything. I forsee the AF getting to the point that as long as Lasers can correct your vision to <20/50 you will be in. We want good pilots, not just people with good vision. We have lost out for so many years on the talent and energy of dudes who couldn't get into pilot training because they didn't have 20/20. It has been a long time coming thank goodness.

By the way, at Columbus we a student that had 20/200, I kid you not. We also had a Student that had a waiver to age 32 from OTS. That was before they changed the the max age from 27.5 to 30.

My point is, what ever the rule is now will be deleted in 5-10 years. My recommendation to you is join a local Junior ROTC in High School if they have it or join a local Civil Air Patrol. Either way these groups will get you better in-line to get an ROTC or Academy slot or a position in a State Air Guard unit.

Don't confuse LASIK with LASEK. I copied the following off another message board. He was talking Navy, but it also applies to the AF (see the link below):

LASEK is not a form of LASIK, it's a form of PRK, which is the ONLY waiverable laser surgery for pilot applicants, GURANTEED. Don't let anyone tell you difference. All LASEK does is instead of burning straight through to your cornea and burning it, they remove your epithelium(outer layer) of your cornea, then burn your cornea, then put the epithelium back. Decreases healing time, pain, and post-surgery problems. On the plus side, it's nearly EXACTLY like PRK, without all the potential problems. My bill says PRK, and the paperwork sent to the Navy to get a waiver says PRK, only I wasn't dying of pain for a week. Hope this answers part of your question.

These message boards are an excellent source of information but always remember to validate your information before acting on it.

Now here are some links for you to check out:

The Official USAF Policy Regarding PRK and Laser surgeries (it's dated 02 Aug 00, but recent publications still refer to this version as the current policy for aircrew.)

Air Force Medical Exam Standards --->Appendix 7 pertains to flying. As an applicantm you'll be going for the Initial Flying Class I (IFC1). Class 1A is for new Navs and Class II is existing pilots.

Good Luck to you!

If you want a pilot job in the AF, you might want to take a look at the Air National Guard. Talk to the director of personell (DP) at a unit near you home. They can answer any questions about getting into the cockpit and they won't push you into enlisting. If money for college is an issue, you can enlist in the guard while you go to college full time and the ANG will pay ALOT of money twards your BS. www.ang.af.mil

Also, call the Squadron Commander and ask him if you can come to a drill weekend and talk to the pilots and ask questions. You won't find any better info than talking to the source.

I didn't find out about the guard until I was in my senior year of college and then it took me four more years to get to UPT. There ae lots of different ways to get into an AF jet. Just make sure the path you choose is right for you.

Good luck

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