Learn How To Become A Pilot In The Indian Air Force

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Joining the Indian Air Force is a career ambition for many young people. A career as a pilot not only offers rewarding remuneration but also gives you a great deal of exposure and experience. Understanding what goes into preparation can help you plan and decide the right course of action. In this article, we discuss the different entrance exams, eligibility criteria and admission procedures to help you understand how to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force.

Related: How To Become a Pilot in India: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Become A Pilot In The Indian Air Force?

Knowing how to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force is essential for candidates wanting to pursue a career in this field. Before exploring the various exams to gain entry into this profession, let us have a look at an overview of how to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force. Getting into the Indian Air Force requires discipline, hard work and planning. It is important to prepare well to gain entry into this field. Here are the generic steps to follow to become a pilot with the Indian Air Force:

1. Write a qualifying exam

You can choose from a variety of qualifying examinations according to your eligibility and qualifications. Some popular exams are NDA, CDSE and AFCAT. The exam patterns for these tests vary and require thorough preparation.

Related: How To Qualify For NDA Exam? (Eligibility Criteria Guide)

2. Attend further tests and interviews

If an applicant qualifies for the above exam cut-off, they undergo additional medical examinations. An interview follows this to ensure that you are fit for the position. Preparing for these interviews can be helpful in joining the Indian Air Force.

Related: How To Prepare for A Walk-in-Interview (Plus 12 Tips)

3. Undergo required training

Once shortlisted, candidates undergo the required flying training before getting posted as a pilot. This is to prepare them for the actual job as a pilot. The training period is an important part of the process.

4. Get posted as a pilot

Once the candidate successfully completes the training period, they get posted as a pilot in the Indian Air Force. The posting can be a permanent commission or short service commission based on their eligibility and choice. A permanent commission allows you to serve as a pilot until retirement, while a short service commission lets you serve for a fixed number of years.

Related: Guide: How To Become A Lieutenant In The Indian Army

Eligibility Exams for Indian Air Force after 12th/10+2

If you are certain that a flying career suits you, you can enter the field right after completing class 12th with physics and mathematics as subjects of study. You can do so through the NDA examination. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) organises the NDA exam to shortlist candidates for the Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force. Eligible applicants are also screened through a medical test and interview process. Upon selection, cadets undergo a three-year training at NDA, Khadakwasla. This training is common for Army, Navy and Air Force cadets, followed by pre-commission training in their respective services.

Air force cadets receive flying training at an Air Force Establishment after the NDA training. After this, they receive the posting of “Permanent Commission Officers” at IAF base stations. Candidates are eligible to appear for the NDA exam after the completion of class 12th or equivalent with physics and mathematics. The minimum age to apply for the NDA exam is 16.5 years, while the maximum age is 19 years. Only unmarried male and female candidates can appear for the exam. The academy requires candidates to be physically fit and fulfill required physical standards.

Eligibility Exams For Indian Air Force After Graduation

If you have completed your graduation and are looking to serve as a pilot with the Indian Air Force, there are three entry schemes to consider. You can opt for a Short Service Commission or a Permanent Commission based on your aspirations, performance and mode of entry. Given below are brief explanations of each option and their eligibility criteria:

1. Combined Defence Service Examination (CDSE)

The UPSC conducts the CDS exam to recruit commissioned officers for the Indian Air Force Academy. Candidates who qualify for this exam go through an interview conducted by the Air Force Selection Board (AFSB) before selection into the Indian Air Force Academy. The CDS exam is open for unmarried male candidates between the ages of 20 and 24 years. Eligible candidates are required to complete or be in the final year of a three/four-year graduate course in physics and mathematics at 10+2 level. The UPSC conducts this exam twice a year in February and November.

Related: How To Get a Job in the Air Force: A Complete Guide

2. National Cadet Corps (NCC) Special Entry

The NCC Special Entry scheme is open only to Air Wing Senior Division 'C' Certificate holders of the NCC for entry to the Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force. Special entry candidates receive a Permanent Commission or Short Service Commission. Male candidates can opt for either a Permanent Commission or Short Service Commission, while female candidates can opt only for a Short Service Commission at present.

NCC Special Entry is open to graduates (three/four-year course) in any discipline from a recognised university with a minimum of 60% marks. The candidate requires to score a minimum of 50% marks at the 10+2 level in physics and mathematics. NCC Special Entry is available to unmarried men and women between the ages of 20 and 24. The upper age limit for holders of valid commercial pilot licenses (issued by DGCA) is 26 years.

3. Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT)

The IAF conducts AFCAT as an entry to the Flying Branch, Ground Duty Branch and the Technical Branch of the IAF. Candidates who qualify for the written exam are required to clear the AFSB interview at an AFSB center. Selected candidates obtain a Short Service Commission posting for 14 years.

The examination takes place twice a year in February and August. Unmarried male and female candidates between ages 20 and 24 years are eligible to appear in the AFCAT exam. The upper age limit for candidates with a valid Commercial Pilot License (issued by DGCA) is 26 years. Candidates are required to obtain a minimum of 50% marks each in physics and mathematics at 10+2 level and a minimum of 60% marks in a two/three-year graduate course by a recognised university.

Related: Interviews At Indian Air Force

Exam Pattern And Admission Process

All entry schemes such as NDA, CDSE, NCC Special Entry and AFCAT have various tests and interviews in place to help shortlist selected candidates. Apart from qualifying exams, all options require candidates to undergo an AFSB interview that gauges the mental ability and aptitude of the aspirants. The below sections explain the exam pattern and admission process for each option:

NDA exam pattern

The NDA exam is an offline/written objective exam that consists of two sections namely mathematics and general ability test. The exam duration for each section is 2.5 hours. The paper comprises 270 questions out of which 120 are from mathematics and 150 from general ability. After selection via the written NDA exam, the AFSB conducts interviews for a duration of 4-5 days. For admission to the Flying Branch, cadets go through the Computerised Pilot Selection System (CPSS) test prior to acceptance into the academy.

Related: 6 Things To Consider When Making A Career Change To A Pilot

CDS exam pattern

The CDS Exam is an offline/written exam comprising 3 sections: English, general knowledge and elementary mathematics. The exam duration for each section is 2 hours. It has 340 objective questions out of which 120 questions are from English and general knowledge each, and 100 questions are from elementary mathematics. Upon selection, candidates appear for a two-stage interview process to measure their potential as an officer. Cadets also go through a CPSS test along with a medical examination to ensure that they are medically fit for duty.

NCC Special entry admission process

The NCC Special entry admission process is open to Air Wing Senior Division 'C' Certificate holders of the NCC. There is no special exam for NCC Special Entry. To qualify for the Flying Branch of the IAF, candidates can attempt the AFSB interview process at an AFSB centre in India.

AFCAT exam pattern

AFCAT is a computer-based (online) test conducted over a duration of 2 hours. An AFSB interview and medical tests follow the online test for qualifying candidates. The AFCAT online test contains 100 questions from 4 sections: general awareness, English, reasoning and military aptitude test and numerical ability.

The general awareness section consists of questions pertaining to history, geography, civics, politics, current affairs, environment, basic science, defence, art, culture and sports. The English section covers topics like comprehension, error detection, sentence completion, synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary, idioms and phrases. Numerical Ability comprises subjects like decimals, fractions, time and work, average, profit and loss, simple interest, ratio and proportion, percentage and time and distance. Reasoning and military aptitude test covers topics like verbal skills and spatial ability.

Related: Skills Test: Definition And Examples

AFSB interview process

The AFSB test gauges the character, qualities and mental aptitude of the candidates aspiring to join the IAF. AFSB is a two-stage interview process conducted over five days. The Stage-I test is a screening test that comprises an Officer Intelligence Rating Test and a Picture Perception and Discussion Test (PP and DT). The Officer Intelligence Rating Test comprises 40 questions each from verbal and non-verbal categories. The PP and DT involves a picture perception test where candidates write a story on the image provided.

For candidates who qualify for the Stage-I test, Stage-II testing comprises various psychological written tests and group tests (indoor and outdoor) that involve mental and physical work. Stage-II also includes a personal interview with an interviewing officer and tests like CPSS Test, Thematic Apperception Test, Word Association Test, Situation Reaction Test, Self-Description Test, group discussions, group tasks and group planning activities.

Related: 9 Types of Aviation Jobs (With Salaries and Job Duties)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

Explore more articles