Air Force Academy vs PPL -> college

Hey everyone.

I was doing some research, and going into high school, it’s time for me to research about my future as a pilot and colleges. I live a short drive from Colorado Springs Air Force Academy, but my long term goal is to fly commercially. I was reading Sully’s book (the pilot who landed US airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009) and he talked about his time at the Colorado Springs academy. He was eventually able to fly F-4 Phantoms, and to me that seemed very cool.

I know this specific school requires a SAT of 1300+ (which is really high), and is hard to get into as well as hard to become a pilot. So my question was:

Which option is cheaper? Getting a PPL and an aeronautical engineering degree at a college and then going commercial? Or getting into the AF academy?

Which option is easier? Getting a PPL and an aeronautical engineering degree at a college and then going commercial? Or getting into the AF academy? Is going the academy route so demanding that it’s going to be very incredibly challenging that going PPL would be better?

I also require glasses, but after touring the afb a while ago one of the students at the visitor center told me that the Air Force could do corrective surgery. Would that affect the process?

What about the physical rigors? I’m not a very athletic person, I’m the kind that sits inside and flies flight simulators all the time. Would that limit me at all?

I’m also quite a soft, and emotional person. Sully described how the academy was designed to break the human inside them to turn them into a fighting machine. Is this true, and would it limit me emotionally?

Thanks everyone

Warm regards, Pie


I really want to go to the Air Force Academy to play football. Then fly fighters and after commercial

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First Answer - Air Force Academy, the Air Force pays for it but you owe 8 years of your life. So there’s that cost.

Probably getting your private cert. Anyone can get one dumb or smart, I know dumb people who are pilots and I know smart people who are pilots. Any Academy is extremely tough to get into.

You will need a wavier, make sure you talk a Military Flight Doc

Start working out, The Military demands you be healthy, when you go you better (and if you do) be in the best shape of your life lol


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I want to take the college route and go to Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach it is a great college for aviation learning.

This is my personal recommendation - If you go to school don’t go to a real expensive one, go to a community college and go study something useful. Economy, business, Safety ect. If you want to go fly go to a flight school locally and get your ratings that way, it’s cheaper. No one cares where you go to fly at. My company, as long as you have that piece of paper that says you can do airplane thingys then that’s all yea need! OH and a heart beat that’s extremely important.


What are some of the requirements for regional airlines? Multi engine cert, PTC, Commercial liscense, anything else college-wise?

No way! Me too! I live much closer to KCOS than to KDEN, and the AFA isn’t that far from me. Hello, fellow Coloradoan!

I’ve been wondering the same thing, sort of. However, my parents aren’t fans of me joining any armed service, so I don’t think I’ll be going down that route.

All depends on the company and what they require

Always think of the pros and cons, you’re in charge of your life, yes listen to those you trust but in the end it’s where YOU want to end up.
Military offers some good perks. You can get millions of dollars paid for for free BBUUTT you end up serving a few years, possibly going over seas ect.

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My parents too! I fly DCS world (a military sim) pretty frequently, and my orchestra went to CMEA (Colorado music educators association) to perform today and we passed by the academy. I saw a SR22 takeoff and thought what could be going through the mind of that future pilot.

I live a 7 minute walk from KLMO which is where I’ve done a few lessons.


That’s so cool. What a small world! Some of the bands in my district have been gone at CMEA too. You live pretty far from the Academy compared to me, though. In comparison, KLMO is 91 miles from me, and the Academy is less than 5.

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Well if you’re flying, it’s not really that. That’s 8 years to strart off his aviation career. Without a doubt the AFA is cheaper. I’m aware many pilots wish they could have attended AFA. It’s an honor to be there. @KindaAngrySliceOfPie if you get in there that’s a great decision but know what you are signing up for. I hope to attend AFA in a few years. Also what grade are you in?? The Air Force Academy offers a summer seminar program which helps you get a better view of what its like. It’s all up to you, I’m having to make the exact same decisions. But it seems that AFA is branching off with most of my interest.

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Yep, it’s a bit of a drive, but that’s very cool!

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Going into freshman year of high school.

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Sure starts off but… 8 years of politics, promotion, Military BS ect adds up very quickly. And let’s not forget as a commissioned officer you can be pulled out of the cockpit to fly a desk.

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Yes, that’s why I’m trying to emphasize to him “know what you are signing up for”

Evening, please note this disclaimer I am not an Air Force recruiter. First things first USAFA can offer alot to you. I work at Peterson have volunteered with the cadets a handful of times and its pretty amazing all that is offered to them, alot more than those of us who went enlisted. Secondly it will challenge you its like going through basic and college all at the same time cadets are pretty much committed to academics and not much else while they go through the program. but it is hard for a reason. USAFA graduates the future commanders, four star Generals that will shape the Air Force I serve. You do get alot of things for free, but not everything is but the benefits balance the costs at least in my opinion. For your vision yes the AF will pay for PRK eye surgery but you have to meet their criteria. You can even be granted waivers for corrective lenses. Not everyone who wants to be a pilot makes it into pilot candidacy, you have to test into it and test into the aircraft you select. Is the AF for everyone the answer is absolutely not and that’s okay its your journey to take and decide against or for. If you are serious in your commitment look into getting accepted into the prep school. It is designed to prepare you for the Air Force Academy you can apply staring your junior or Senior year I believe don’t quote me on this though. So really the choice is yours for me the Air Force has done well for me and my family but it was not always easy.

Good luck and contact an officer recruiter they can steer you in the wright direction if this is the path you want.



Isn’t that what every recruiter says?

Sorry had to make this comment!

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I’m not necessarily looking for a career in the military, however I would love to help protect my country in any way. At what point would the training be complete in the military where I could go into commercial?

lol yes, but no the Air Force has not selected nor trained me in recruiting I just give personal experience advice =)

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