Royal Air Force

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Your role as a Royal Air Force pilot can be as varied and exciting as the aircraft you might fly. After initial training, you’ll be selected to enter either the fast jet, multi-engine or helicopter training streams.

Royal Air Force Pilot requirements

All applicants must pass an occupational health assessment – this is to ensure that you are medically fit for military duty. The RAF will also look for any issues that could have an impact on your ability to carry out your specialist role during your RAF career.

Medical standards for entry into the RAF are laid down by law, so they must test all potential recruits. The health assessment includes hearing and eyesight tests; they’ll also investigate any illnesses you may have suffered in the past.

Health & Fitness requirements


The minimum standards for both uncorrected and corrected vision vary for different roles and are determined by RAF medical staff.

Whatever role you’re applying for, your spectacle or contact lens correction must not be greater than -7 dioptres or +8 dioptres in any meridian. If you have impaired colour perception (colour blindness) it won’t prevent you from joining the RAF, but it may limit what roles you can choose.

If necessary, talk to your optician about what your eye prescription is and whether it may affect your application. Remember, you’ll need to take a copy with you of any acuity prescription from your optician when you go for your medical examination.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a correlation of height and weight. Candidates who do not meet the minimum and maximum BMI criteria will not be accepted into the service. The BMI standards acceptable for entry into the RAF are:

AgeMale and female minimumMale and female maximumMale maximum with additional assessment
18 +182832
16 to 18172727


When you apply to join the RAF as an Officer to be a pilot, you will be expected to demonstrate an appropriate attitude to physical fitness through regular training and participation in physical activities. As part of the selection process, and in addition to a medical examination, you will be required to undertake a Selection Fitness Test (SFT) in the form of a gender and age fair health based test in order to demonstrate your physical preparedness to enter Initial Training. Candidates will be required to achieve SFT standard for their age and gender through a combination of tests involving a 2.4 km treadmill run, press ups and sit ups.


Please refer to the list of medical conditions that preclude entry listed in this link: This list is for general guidance and is not exhaustive. Other medical conditions which allow you to work in civilian employment and practice sports may still make you unsuitable for military service.

If you have a recurrent medical condition that isn’t mentioned below, or if you aren’t sure whether your medical history may affect whether you can join the RAF, please ask your Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) However, bear in mind that Armed Forces Careers Advisers and their office staff are not medically qualified and that all final decisions regarding medical suitability for entry are made by the RAF’s medical staff.

Copyright Paul Heasman

Nationality and Residency Requirements

To be eligible to apply for any RAF job, you be a:

  • British Citizen
  • British National
  • British/Dual National
  • Commonwealth Citizen
  • Irish Republic National

If you do not fall into one these categories, you are ineligible to join the RAF.

For security reasons, there are stricter nationality requirements for some jobs. For a few, you must have been a UK citizen and UK resident since birth.

As well as meeting nationality requirements, you must also meet certain residency criteria to be eligible to apply for a job in the RAF.

UK Resident for a Minimum of 5-years

If you have been resident in the United Kingdom for a minimum period of 5 years immediately prior to your application and have not spent more than 28 days per year outside of the UK during this time, then you meet the RAF’s residency criteria. You should register your interest as normal.

If you have spent more than 28 days per year outside the UK in the last 5 years, the RAF will need to complete further checks on your eligibility. During the application process you will be asked to explain why you have spent over 28 days outside the UK. In the meantime, provided that you meet our other eligibility criteria, you should register your interest as normal.

UK Resident Between 3 and 5 years

If you have been resident in the UK for more than 3 years but less than 5 years immediately prior to making your application, and have not spent more than 28 days per year outside the UK during this period the RAF will need to complete further checks on your eligibility during the application process. In the meantime, provided that you meet their other eligibility criteria, you should register your interest as normal.

UK Resident less than 3 years

If you have been resident in the United Kingdom for less than 3 years, but fall into one of the following categories then they will need to complete further checks on your eligibility during the application process. In the meantime, you should register you interest as normal.

  • You spent time abroad for travel/study gap year reasons.
  • You lived abroad because your parents were employed by the UK government (including HM Forces) in a foreign country.
  • You are a British citizen with at least one parent who is a British citizen and you lived with your parents abroad and you attended secondary school within the European Economic Area or a Commonwealth Country.

If you do not fall into one of the above categories, then you are ineligible to apply to the RAF at this time.

Further eligibility checks

If you meet our nationality requirements but further checks need to be made on your residency, you will need to provide the following documents at a later stage in the application process:

  1. Birth certificate
  2. Passport
  3. Educational qualifications
  4. Overseas Police Certificate (only required if you have spent over 6 months in a foreign country)
  5. Supporting documentation when relevant (e.g., References from travelling companion if on a gap year)

The role of the Pilot

Your role as a pilot can be as varied and exciting as the aircraft you might fly. Once you’ve completed the demands of Elementary Flying Training, you’ll be selected to enter either the fast jet, multi-engine or helicopter training streams. You will then be taken through your paces at the various specialist Flying Training Schools. If successful, you will become a qualified operational front-line pilot.

As the pilot of a Typhoon, your primary role will be air-to-air combat or ground attack.

In a C-17 transport aircraft, you could be sent anywhere in the world on military support or humanitarian aid missions.

Flying a helicopter could involve anything from ferrying troops into combat zones to carrying out search and rescue missions at night into the North Atlantic

Age & Education

Age: 17.5 to 25, Male and Female.

GCSEs at Grade C/4 or SNE at Grade 5 or SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/SNE 5 in English and Maths and at least three other subjects. Have at least 2 A2 Levels/3 Highers at Grade C or above which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points

Please note the RAF does not accept A-levels in Critical Thinking or General Studies at any grade.

You will need to commit to a minimum 12 years service

Personal Qualities

Enthusiasm and commitment are two of the key qualities you’ll need if you want to join the Royal Air Force. You’ll also need to be keen to learn and to take on new challenges: someone who’s prepared to serve their country anywhere in the world.

The RAF is primarily a fighting force, there to defend the UK and our allies and maintain the UK’s role in the international arena. They will help you build up your confidence so you’ll be comfortable taking responsibility for yourself and others. You’ll also develop a sense of loyalty to the teams and leaders you work with.

What will really set you apart is your self-discipline, professionalism, initiative and working as part of a team. Above all, you’ll need to thrive on the challenge of doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

Copyright Paul Heasman

Pilot Selection Process

All successful applicants will spend up to four days at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. There you’ll undertake several aptitude tests using a computer. The career path you’re interested in may also determine what tests you need to pass before you can join.

The tests measure your ability to perform specific tasks, such as:

  • how well you respond physically to visual information
  • your ability to interpret information in two dimensions and devise a three-dimensional solution
  • your ability to complete several tasks simultaneously.

You will also be tested on a wide range of your natural abilities, including:

  • deductive reasoning
  • spatial reasoning
  • work rate and concentration
  • verbal and numerical reasoning

Interview Process

In most cases, your first interview will take place at your AFCO. Dress smartly and bring along your CV, details of any qualifications you may have and jobs you’ve done so far.

They will probably talk about:

Your family: the interests you share and what responsibilities you have at home.

Your education: what subjects you studied and where, and which ones you were most interested in.

Your work: any jobs you’ve done, including voluntary, seasonal or part-time work. If you’ve undertaken any work experience placements also.

Your leisure time: your special interests and hobbies; what you do in your free time. This might include out-of-school activities, or membership of clubs or societies.

Your interest in the RAF: Why you want to join the RAF and why you’re interested in the career you’ve applied for. They will want to know about any contact you may have had with the Armed Forces, and discuss what you already know about the training and lifestyle. You’ll only be expected to know things that are generally available to the public or that can be found in careers booklets, films or on the internet.

You’ll have a further interview during your time at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC). Your aim will be to demonstrate your potential to be effective as a member of the RAF team.

The first half of the interview is about what you’ve achieved at school and college; in sports; in your community; at work; and as a cadet, scout or guide. The second half will be about your motivation for joining the RAF: what you know about current affairs and the RAF’s role in the national and international arena. For example, you might be asked: ‘Outside the UK, what world events have caught your attention in the last 12 months?’

The interview, which will last about 45 minutes, will be conducted by two officers.

You’ll be assessed on your:

  • confidence and resilience
  • communications
  • influence
  • teamwork
  • motivation
  • awareness

Project yourself with self-confidence and give answers that highlight your qualities and achievements. It’s also useful to have a good basic knowledge of news and current affairs, so do your research: news websites, RAF websites and publications, and the Ministry of Defence website are good places to start.


There is no cost to learning to fly, unlike commercial aviation, you will be paid to learn how to fly from the outset.

See ‘What’s next?‘ for details of pay and conditions.

Management Training

Officer training is even recognised by civilian institutions and every cadet who makes the grade will earn themselves a Level 5 Diploma from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Professional Training

Initial Officer Training

Initial Officer Training (IOT) will prepare you for life as a leader; by the end of it you’ll be fitter and more confident than you’ve ever been. The transformation from civilian to RAF officer is challenging, but you will already have proven during OASC that you’ve got what it takes. Your training will be delivered by experienced RAF personnel and will challenge you both intellectually and physically. Officer training is even recognised by civilian institutions and every cadet who makes the grade will earn themselves a Level 5 Diploma from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

IOT is made up of three terms, each lasting 10 weeks. At the end of each term your performance will be reviewed and you’ll be given feedback, as well as advice for the next stage.

Term One

Weeks 1: 4 Basic phase You’ll master the basic military skills required by all RAF personnel. Fitness will become part of your daily routine and there will be regular inspections of your dress and living quarters. In addition, you’ll learn about how the RAF carries out its national defence role and works with other organisations all over the world.

Weeks 5: 10 Leadership development As well as learning about different leadership techniques, you’ll take part in exercises: in the classroom at first and later in the field. You’ll fire your weapon for the first time and will have the opportunity to spend a week at an adventurous training centre.

Term Two

Week 1 Foundation phase Learning how to gain the trust of people you will lead takes practice, so the first week of Term Two will be spent consolidating the leadership skills you learnt during Term One.

Week 2 Military aid leadership camp You’ll spend up to seven days in a military training area completing a series of time-sensitive exercises in full military gear. Using your new skills, you’ll guide your team through a variety of challenges.

Weeks 3: 6 RAF ethos and culture/Air power studies. As well as learning about the RAF’s ethos, culture and history, you’ll learn more about how the RAF expect Officers to present themselves and communicate with others. Finally, you’ll receive lectures from university academics about the concept and strategies behind Air Power, which you’ll be tested on later.

Weeks 7: 8 Military simulation A simulated military operation will give you the opportunity to demonstrate all the skills you’ve learnt so far. They will create a high-pressure operational environment that’s as close to the real thing as possible. By the end of it you’ll be ready to form an essential part of a powerful military team.

Weeks 9: 10 Recommendation to progress to the final term If you excel during the simulated exercises, you’ll be congratulated by your Flight Commander and recommended to progress to the final term. If you found the exercises too demanding, don’t worry, you’ll be re-coursed for further training and have another chance to prove yourself.

Term Three

Weeks 1: 5 Leadership academics/Carousel You’ll start Term Three with a week of academic study: learning about what might be expected of you on your first posting. Following this you’ll have four weeks of training exercises that will put your leadership skills to the test in various operational settings. One of these will take place at an adventurous training centre in Scotland.

Weeks 6: 8 Military simulation (Exercise Combat Operations Centre) Your second simulated exercise will be based around a combat operations centre, enabling you to gain more experience of life in an operational environment. By now, much of what you do will come naturally, so it’s a great chance to refine your leadership skills.

Weeks 9: 10 Graduation After 30 weeks of training you’ll be ready for your graduation parade. It’s one of the proudest moments in any Officer’s career, as well as a great day out for your family and friends. You’ll show off your new skills on the parade ground and receive your official commission as an Officer in the RAF.

Flying Training

After completing Initial Officer Training (IOT) at RAF College Cranwell, pilot training begins on the single-engine Grob Tutor with Elementary Flying Training (EFT) at No 3 Flying Training School (3FTS). First, student pilots are taught subjects such as the principles of flight, aircraft tech and meteorology during a ground-school phase. They are then taught essential flying skills such as taking off and landing, followed by more advanced skills such as instrument flying (which allows them to fly in cloud), aerobatics (which accustom them to flying an aircraft to its limits), formation flying and navigation. Elementary flying training is conducted on two EFT Sqns: 16 (R) Sqn at RAF Wittering and 57 (R) Sqn based at RAFC Cranwell. All elementary flying will be conducted on the Grob 120TP (Prefect), supplied and maintained under the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) contract by Ascent.



On graduation from EFT new pilots are streamed to fast jet, multi-engine or rotary training.

Fast Jet

Pilots streamed for Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT) move to 72(R) Squadron, No 1 Flying Training School, RAF Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire. There you will convert to the Tucano aircraft and complete BFJT.  Those who pass the course progress to No 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley, Anglesey, where they undertake advanced and weapons training on the Hawk T2 at IV(R) Squadron. Those who pass the course progress to operational conversion units on front-line aircraft types, such as the Typhoon and F35. From 2019 BFJT will be conducted on the T6 Texan II based at RAF Valley under the UKMFTS contract.



Multi Engine

Those pilots streamed for multi-engine training remain at 3 FTS to complete the Multi-Engine Lead-In (MELIN) preparatory course. This consists of a introduction to multi-crew operations flying the Grob Prefect aircraft at 57(R) Sqn , prior to moving to No 45(R) Squadron at RAFC Cranwell flying the Beech B200 King Air. Those who pass the course progress to operational conversion units on front-line aircraft types, such as the C-17, AWACS E3D, Hercules, Sentinel, Rivet Joint, A400M and Voyager AAR aircraft. From 2019 the King Air will be replaced by the Embraer Phenom operated under the UKMFTS contract.




Pilots streamed for Rotary Training will be posted to the Defence Helicopter Flying school (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire. Students carry out their academic training on the Ground Training School before starting rotary-wing pilot training on the Airbus Helicopter H135 (Juno) and H145 (Jupiter) operated under the UKMFTS contract. Those who pass the course progress to operational conversion units on front-line aircraft types, such as the Chinook and Puma in a variety of Operational roles.


Pay and conditions/Promotion

When you join the RAF, you’ll usually be asked to join for twelve years, but you may be able to join for longer depending upon the requirements of the RAF. Many people extend their career in the RAF well beyond the number of years they join for initially. But if you find that the RAF really isn’t for you, it is possible to make arrangements to leave early.

The RAF pays for your pension, your doctor, your dentist, your duty travel and even your driving licence (if your role requires you to drive military vehicles). While on operations, you won’t pay anything for your accommodation or food – and you could even receive an extra allowance for living overseas.  The RAF expect a lot from you on operations, but in return you will receive six weeks’ paid holiday a year, plus public holidays.

There is also an excellent non-contributory pension scheme, based around career average earnings. As a direct entrant Officer Cadet you will be paid £16,305 during Initial Officer Training, upon completion it will increase as you achieve promotion and progress through the Flying Training system.  A Graduate direct entrant will be paid £24,971 during Initial Officer Training. Your salary will then increase as you gain more experience, complete flying training and achieve promotion to a higher rank in the service. A Squadron Leader could earn £58,025 plus flying pay (up to a maximum of £44.68 per day).

Higher salaries are attainable upon further promotion to higher ranks. RAF pay and charges are reviewed annually.

With time, you could have opportunities to earn promotion through the ranks. Some promotions early in your career might be based on your time and satisfactory service. However, as you progress, promotion will be based on merit in competition with your peers: whether you’ve got what it takes to take on the extra responsibility given to more senior ranks.

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