What does it take to become a Pilot?

To compete for a pilot or navigator allocation you need to:

  • Be enrolled full-time in a school offering Air Force ROTC and qualify for the program
  • Meet all physical requirements
  • Achieve qualifying scores on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. Maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average
  • Receive a waiver for any civil involvement (for example, speeding tickets, minor infractions, etc.)
  • Be commissioned prior to reaching your 29th birthday

If you are interested in becoming an Air Force pilot or navigator, start talking to your detachment admissions officer (for college students) or Regional Director of Admissions (for high school students) as soon as possible. If you are medically qualified and desire a flying career, you must compete for pilot and/or navigator allocations about 15 months prior to graduation and commissioning. Your junior year in college is when things really take off.

Order of Merit

Categorization is the process by which AFROTC cadets are selected for rated slots (e.g. Pilot, Navigator, Air Battle Managers). Categorization occurs the Spring prior to graduation. Competition for rated slots is based on an “order of merit” numeric score and is very competitive. A selection board at AFROTC Headquarters determines rated positions based on nationwide scores. A cadet’s order of merit score is made up of the following:

Just like the Professional Officer’s Course (POC) selection process, your RSS is computed based on your AFROTC Detachment Unit Commander’s Ranking (UCR). Based on that ranking and the size of the class, AFROTC computes a RSS. The RSS ranges from 5-10 and is multiplied by 5 to arrive at up to 50 maximum possible OM points. This is the single-most important factor in your Order of Merit score. The significance of your Commander’s Ranking cannot be overstated. Your RSS is based on the “whole person” concept and is based on you being racked and stacked against all of your classmates. Your class ranking includes all of the members of your class, regardless of whether or not they are competing for rated slots. Your AFROTC Dommander determines your class ranking, then applies the following formula. For example, if you are ranked #3 and your class size is 25, then you are number 23 in your class. Using that example, view this RSS calculating formula: (23/25)*50 = 46 points. The #10 person in your class would have an RSS of: (16/25)*50 = 32 points.

Your Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) , on a 4.0 scale will be computed to include ROTC courses. Next, your GPA will be multiplied by a factor 3.75 to give you up to 15 maximum possible OM points. You must also meet a GPA minimum of 2.0 in order to get commissioned in AFROTC.
You must pass the Air Force Physical Fitness Test (minimum score of 75) given every fall and spring while you’re in the POC. Your PFT score ranges from 75 to 100 and can earn you a maximum of 10 OM points. During Field Training, your PFT score will also factor into your Field Training performance rating.
Field Training is the four or six week AFROTC training camp usually accomplished the summer after your sophomore year in college. Your Field Training rating translates to the following score:

  • Distinguished Graduate, top 10% – 10 Points
  • Superior Performer, next 10% – 9 Points
  • Top Third (not including DG or SP) – 8 Points
  • Middle Third – 7 Points
  • Bottom Third – 6 Points
  • Not yet attended Field Training – 5 Points

The Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) score (applies to pilot candidates only) is worth up to 15 maximum OM points. The PCSM is an index that is supposed to quantify a pilot candidate’s aptitude for success at Undergraduate Flying Training (UFT). It incorporates your AFOQT Pilot score, the results from your TBAS test, and your flying hours. (For more on the TBAS, see below). Click here for more PCSM information.

After you have taken the AFOQT and TBAS tests, you can check your PCSM online. Along with your PCSM score, you are given a scale indicating what your PCSM would be with additional flight hours. If you can afford to spend time and money, we recommend achieving more flight hours to not online increase your PCSM, but also to get more practice and become a better aviator.

After flying, make sure you formally log your flight hours and submit them to the PCSM office at HQAETC no later than January 15 of your categorization year. That is the last point at which you can update your PCSM.

Work hard, prepare for the AFOQT. Your AFOQT score is factored into your overall score differently depending on whether you are competing for a pilot, navigator or ABM slot. All candidates must have a minimum score of 15 (Verbal) and 10 (Quantitative). These are absolute minimums and not waiverable for categorization even if you were able to get a waiver to get into the POC.

Pilot candidates must have a minimum score of 25 (Pilot), 10 (Navigator) and cumulative 50 (Pilot + Navigator). Also, your AFOQT Pilot score will factor into your PCSM score for OM purposes.

Navigator candidates must achieve a minimum score of 10 (Pilot), 25 (Navigator) and cumulative 50 (Pilot + Navigator). Also, you will receive up to 15 maximum OM points from your AFOQT Navigator score.

For ABM candidates, your AFOQT Academic Aptitude score will count for up to 15 maximum OM points.

You can take the AFOQT twice with a 180-day minimum interval between tests. You cannot take this test more than twice. Regardless of which test scores are higher, the most recent AFOQT scores are what count – so be careful when you decide to re-take the test.

Study hard, review the study guides and spend the time preparing for the AFOQT.

Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS)

The Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS) replaced the Basic Attributes Test (BAT) as of August 2006. All pilot candidates must take the TBAS, which just like the BAT, is a computer-based test designed to aid in pilot selection. Typically, you are offered an opportunity to take it at field training. It will be incorporated into your PCSM score and thus into your OM score. You can take the TBAS twice as long as there is a 180-day interval between tests.

You will never receive an official TBAS score. But there are indicators that can tell you whether you scored low on the test. If when you check your PCSM score online, and it is low despite a decent AFOQT Pilot score, you might want to consider a TBAS retake because this may be an indication your first TBAS attempt scored low. Only the most recent TBAS score is the one that counts.


You will not receive an additionally physical prior to the categorization board. Instead, whatever physical you used to enter onto contract status will be screened for PPQ (Potential Pilot Qualification) and/or PNQ (Potential Navigator Qualification) status. The requirements for PPQ/PNQ are:

PPQ 20/70 (distant vision), 20/20 (near), refractive limits +2.00/-1.50, .75 astigmatism

PNQ 20/200 (distant vision), 20/40 (near), refractive limits +3.00/-2.75, 2.00 astigmatism

Source: AFOATSI 36-2011, para. 3.11

Once you have been selected you will have to complete a Flying Class I (pilot) or IA (navigator) physical prior to commissioning. Check our Aerospace Medicine Archive for FAQs or join our online discussion forums and ask a Flight Doc a question.


Because pilot and navigator candidates must enter training prior to their 30th birthdays, you must be scheduled to graduate and receive your commission prior to your 29th birthday. This cannot be waived (refernce: AFROTCI 36-2013 paragraph 3.2.4).

RSS 5-10 5 50% (50 points)
GPA 2.0-4.0 3.75 15% (15 points)
PFT 75-100 0.15 10% (10 points)
FT 5-10 1 10% (10 points)
PCSM (Pilot only) 1-99 0.1516 15% (15 points)
AFOQT-N (Nav only) 1-99 0.1516 15% (15 points)
AFOQT-AA (ABM only) 1-99 0.1516 15% (15 points)

NOTE * :

  1. The formula for calculating the RSS is (10*((1-R/C)+0.5/C)) where R=UCR and C=Class Size
  2. The PCSM is used for categorization processing if applying for pilot slot.
  3. The AFOQT-N is used for categorization processing if applying for CSO slot.
  4. The AFOQT-AA is used for categorization processing if applying for ABM slot.

Excerpt from AFROTCI 36-2013:

9.7. Detachment Pilot/CSO/ABM Categorization Processing.

9.7.1. The Det/CC will assign each individual a UCR based on the entire Fiscal Year (FY)
commissioning class, regardless if the individual is competing for a pilot/CSO/ABM slot. As
with PSP selection, consider the cadet’s potential based on performance as a cadet before
assigning the UCR. WINGS will compute the RSS based upon the UCR and class size based
on formula in Table 9.2.
Table 9.2. Pilot/CSO/ABM Order of Merit
RSS (Note 1) 5-10 5 50%
Cumulative GPA 2.0-4.0 3.75 15%
PFT 75-100 0.15 10%
FT 5-10 1 10%
AFOQT-N (Note 2) 1-99 0.1516 15%
PCSM (Note 2) 1-99 0.1516 15%
AFOQT-AA 1-99 0.1516 15%

9.7.2. Submit pilot/CSO/ABM candidates to HQ AFROTC/RRFP by entering categorization
data into WINGS prior to nomination cut-off. Wings will compute each candidate’s OM
score using the most current information available. Once the OM is calculated and the
applicant has met the categorization process, the OM will not be adjusted. Exception:
Cadets not completing FT prior to the March board will automatically receive FT score of
“0.” Once FT is complete, upward adjustment to the OM is authorized based on FT results
only and happens automatically.

9.7.3. Cadets: Must submit preferences via memorandum to the commander prior to the
established cut-off date. Cadets competing for pilot must indicate their Undergraduate Pilot Training
(UPT) preference (Figure 9.4). Preferences must be updated in WINGS prior to
nomination cut-off. NOTE: Cadet’s volunteering for ENJJPT must understand that
ENJJPT is a fighter-oriented program and if successfully completed, will likely
result in a fighter or bomber assignment based on Air Force needs; and if
eliminated from ENJJPT, they will not be eligible for any other UPT. All cadets competing for CSO must provide their track preference: Heavy or
Strike/Strike Fighter track (Figure 9.4). Track preferences must be updated in WINGS
prior to nomination cut-off.

Check out this handy Order of Merit Calculator

AFOQT Test Advice

“I would highly recommend the ARCO book. There is one called Officer Candidate Tests and another called Military Flight Aptitude Tests I studied for about four weeks and did a few full strictly timed practice tests and ended up making a 98 on Pilot and 95 on Nav when I took the real one last July. I found that many of the practice problems were more difficult than those on the test. The book was a great asset to my scores. Good luck!”

“Study advice: The Military Flight Aptitude exam book is good for mazes, mechanical comp, word knowledge etc. However study the Officer Candidate Tests book, it is much better and more challenging in the math and arithmetic knowledge sections (spelling is obviously not my strength). Study to realistic times ONCE YOU HAVE mastered the problems.”

Air Force Pilot Training Topics

  1. Typical Training Day in Pilot Training
  2. Life as an Officer in Undergraduate Pilot Training
  3. Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT)
  4. Road to Wings
  5. Physical Fitness and the FACT
  6. Welcome Letter & What to Bring
  7. Acronyms & Terms Glossary