The military definitely isn’t the only group who will train you to fly airplanes. It may be one of the few groups who will pay you while you learn to fly, but it certainly isn’t the only place you can learn to fly an airplane. The fact that the military will pay you while they teach you about flying an airplane is one of the reasons they are able to be much more choosey: To be a military pilot candidate you must meet a litany of requirements.
Don’t fret though; you can still be a pilot if you don’t meet all those requirements. You don’t have to train in the military to fly several types of aircraft such as airliners, private airplanes and helicopters, stunt planes and crop dusters. To learn to fly civilian private aircraft here in the US, you need only meet the requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA). These requirements are vastly different than military requirements and almost always less restrictive.
Myth 1: Flying an Airplane is Not an Option if You’re Colorblind
If you’ve ever seen the Jennifer Aniston film We’re the Millers, you might recall the scene where young Kenny discovers he is colorblind. This results in him having a meltdown on the side of a desert road after his pretend sister tells him he can’t be a pilot since he’s colorblind. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it’s easy to sympathize with Kenny. In the real world, your dreams don’t have to be dashed by your fake sister’s assumptions. While a certain severity of color vision deficiency might disqualify you from flying an airplane in the military, most color vision deficiencies are allowable in civilian flying. This means you may still be able to fly airplanes like private jets, airliners or biplanes.
Those who are colorblind are sometimes allowed to train after completing a simple test which demonstrates their abilities despite colorblindness. Pilots must be able to know and understand a variety of signals and light configurations when flying an airplane. Some of these lights are red, green, yellow, blue or white. You might be colorblind, but if you can differentiate between these light colors during a real world test, then you may still be able to fly airplanes. Many pilots have completed this process. If you would like to know more about it, check out this page on AOPA’s website for more information.
Myth 2: Flying an Airplane Requires Pilots to Have Perfect Vision
The same goes for those of us who don’t have perfect 20/20 vision. Pilots are not required to be perfect, nor are they required to have perfect vision. In most cases, pilots do, however, need to have vision that is at least corrected to 20/20. If you wear glasses or contacts, you will be required to wear those glasses or contacts any time you are flying airplanes. So if you lose your glasses one day, your feet are glued to the ground until you get a new pair.
Myth 3: You Can’t Fly if You’re Short
We all know Tom Cruise is rather short. Yet in Top Gun he flies fighter jets, saves the day, and gets the girl. Some people aren’t aware that during the filming of Top Gun great efforts were made to have Tom Cruise, while playing Maverick, appear taller than he really is. The purpose for this might have been rooted in military height limitations for certain pilots. Some cockpits can only fit a person between say 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall. Any shorter or taller and you simply can’t fit in the plane and fly it safely. Maybe your knees get in the way of the controls or your feet can’t reach the pedals. While some military aircraft are not accommodating to vertically challenged people, civilian aircraft seats are typically adjustable in a number of ways. In some aircraft, the pedals adjust as well as the seat. There is no law or agency that will stop you from learning to fly most types of aircraft just because you are excessively short or tall.
There you have it. You can be short, colorblind, and nearsighted and still spend your life flying airplanes. Find your local flight school and get started.