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Why are pilots not allowed to have tattoos?

Medical Standards

All candidates admitted to the United States Air Force Academy must meet, at a minimum, the medical and weight standards for commissioning in the United States Air Force or Space Force. Qualification for flying duties requires meeting more stringent requirements.

Visual Acuity

Current distant visual acuity of any degree that does not correct with spectacle lenses to at least 20/40 in each eye; current near-visual acuity of any degree that does not correct to 20/40 in the better eye

Refractive Error

Current refractive error (hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism) in excess of -8.00 or +8.00 diopters spherical equivalent or astigmatism in excess of 3.00 diopters


Current hearing threshold level in either ear that exceeds: pure tone at 500, 1,000 and 2,000 cycles per second for each ear of more than 25 decibels (dB) on the average with any individual level greater than 30 dB at those frequencies; pure tone level more than 35 dB at 3,000 cycles per second or 45 dB at 4,000 cycles per second for each ear

500 Hz30 dB
1000 Hz30 dB
2000 Hz30 dB
3000 Hz45 dB
4000 Hz55 dB

Height and Weight

Your standing height must be not less than 4’10” (58 inches) and not more than 6’8″ (80 inches). Weight standards are indicated in the following weight table. If you exceed the U.S. Air Force Academy weight standards, you must undergo a procedure to determine your percent body fat. The maximum allowable body fat is 18 percent for males and 26 percent for females. Once the weight standard has been exceeded, the body fat standard becomes the entry requirement.

If you exceed the U.S. Air Force Academy weight standard for your height, we will request you provide measurements on a USAFA Form 0-220. This form must be completed by a school nurse, family physician or qualified paramedic and will be available at your online status page. Once we receive this form, we will calculate your body fat and determine if you meet the U.S. Air Force Academy standards. If you exceed the U.S. Air Force Academy standards for body fat and if it is determined you are otherwise competitive for an offer of appointment, the admissions office will consider you for a waiver and/or ask you to be remeasured. Please ensure your file is complete by your deadline so you may be reviewed for an appointment. The admissions office will review all files in mid-March.

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4’10»119 lb
4’11»124 lb
5′128 lb
5’1″132 lb
5’2″136 lb
5’3″141 lb
5’4″145 lb
5’5″150 lb
5’6″155 lb
5’7″159 lb
5’8″164 lb
5’9″169 lb
5’10»175 lb
5’11»179 lb
6′184 lb
6’1″189 lb
6’2″194 lb
6’3″200 lb
6’4″205 lb
6’5″210 lb
6’6″216 lb
6’7″221 lb
6’8″227 lb

Other Requirements

As part of your medical examination, you will undergo an external visual inspection of the genitalia to determine if any abnormalities are present (women may have this part of their exam done by their private physicians at their own expense). You should also have a thorough dental examination by your private dentist and complete any treatment before taking the military dental examination.

Tattoos, Brands, Body Piercings

While having a tattoo, brand or body marking does not automatically disqualify you from consideration, they must meet the standards outlined in Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903. Tattoos, brands or body markings anywhere on the body that are indecent; commonly associated with gangs, extremist and supremacist organizations; advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination; or project an improper military or cadet image are prohibited. Tattoos, brands or body markings located on the hands, head, neck, face, tongue, lips, eyes and scalp are prohibited, except as may be permitted in AFI 36-2903. You may review AFI 36-2903, Chapter 3, for more information.

If offered an appointment and you accept, you will have to complete AF Form 4428 with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) disclosing information on your tattoo(s)/brand(s)/body marking(s) such as location, size and significance. The form will be maintained in your personnel file throughout your Air Force career.

All piercings must be removed prior to in-processing as a basic cadet. Following Basic Cadet Training, females may be authorized to wear one small, spherical, conservative earring per earlobe. Male cadets are specifically prohibited from wearing earrings at any time.

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Pilot Vision Requirements

All candidates admitted to the Air Force Academy must meet the vision requirements for basic commissioning in the United States Air Force. However, vision requirements for candidates for pilot, other aviation-related specialties and special operational duty career fields are stricter and will not be fully assessed until a complete Air Force vision exam is accomplished during your second (sophomore) year as a cadet.

Most cadets with visual acuity outside the medical standards may become medically qualified for aviation if vision is successfully corrected by corneal refractive surgery (i.e., PRK or LASIK), which will be available to you as a cadet if you meet preoperative qualification criteria. Applicants should NOT pursue refractive surgery PRIOR to entry to USAFA as this is disqualifying if accomplished within 180 days of the DoDMERB examination and strict preoperative requirements must be met that are often not adhered to by civilian ophthalmologists.

Note that color-vision testing accomplished during the DoDMERB medical examination is NOT the same as, and may not correlate well with, the more advanced color-vision testing employed for aviation and special operational duty clearance. The bottom line is the DoDMERB medical examination is not the official flying class examination used for occupational clearance for aviation and special operational duty career fields. The required flying class examination will be performed during the third academic year (junior year) at the Air Force Academy and will encompass more in-depth testing than was used during the DoDMERB physical exam.

Tattoos and Airlines: What’s Allowed & What’s Not for Pilots & Cabin Crew

Although nearly 25% of the American population now has at least one tattoo, many employers still enforce a strict tattoo policy. The airline business is notorious for such policies, regularly turning away potential hires due to their body art. These standards are made especially tricky to navigate by constant updates to the rules and subtle differences between what each airline will allow.

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Our laser therapy specialists have helped countless patients get rid of troublesome tattoos that get in the way of personal or professional goals. This has made us quite familiar with the importance of educating oneself on an employer’s tattoo policy in order to make the necessary changes to your look.


The standard female cabin crew uniform styles of Delta Airlines. Photo courtesy of Business Insider.

Common Standards for Cabin Crew

The majority of airlines operating from the United States will only permit tattoos that can be easily hidden underneath the standard crew uniform. Additionally, it is generally forbidden to use bandages, wraps, or makeup to conceal tattoos that violate the airline’s rules.

Those seeking employment with an international airline will find themselves under even greater scrutiny than most. Many of these companies will reject your application if they discover you have even a single tattoo, regardless of its visibility.


  • United Airlines: This airline forbids visible tattoos while in uniform. You may, however, still have tattoos that can be easily concealed under your clothing. Options for hiding your tattoo can be looked up in United’s employee guidelines if you fear your tattoo will not be covered by the standard uniform.
  • Delta Airlines: Like United Airlines, Delta does not allow cabin crew members to sport visible tattoos. This policy specifically includes tattoos on the neck, face, lower arms, legs, and hands.
  • American Airlines: This company forbids visible ink as well, though its standards for concealing body art are dependent on the latest update of the cabin crew’s uniform design.
  • Southwest Airlines: Although visible tattoos are still against the uniform policy, Southwest is more lenient with their employees when it comes to options for hiding larger pieces of body art. The airline’s guidelines state tattoos may be covered by “pants, long sleeve shirts, hair, makeup, or [a] scarf.”
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It may seem strange for a hiring policy based on appearance to be so strictly enforced in this day and age, but the leaders of these companies make a strong point in their defense. Because the flight attendant is the primary (if not the only) airline employee customers have direct communication with, the brand’s image depends on what sort of impression they leave. Conformity is one of the primary purposes of an employee uniform, and employers are less likely to hire someone who might stick out from the pack in comparison to their co-workers.


The standard pilot uniform of Southwest Airlines. Photo courtesy of The Business Journals.

Common Standards for Pilots

Members of the cabin crew aren’t the only ones required to conceal their tattoos. According to the ATP (Airline Transport License) Flight School, the largest private flight academy in the country, virtually none of the major commercial airlines allow their pilots to have any tattoos visible while in uniform. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association further warns that tattoos might “adversely affect airline job interviews.”

My Tattoo Violates Airline Policy. What Now?

Don’t panic! Thanks to our elite laser tattoo removal experts at Longevity Aesthetics & Laser Spa in Oklahoma City, your ink no longer has to be a lifelong commitment.

The PicoWay Tattoo Removal system is FDA-cleared to remove virtually any color of ink from virtually any skin type, tone or texture. The PicoWay device delivers short ultra-pulses of intense energy that are so fast they have to be measured in picoseconds, which are mere trillionths of a second. The laser light is absorbed by ink particles just beneath the top layers of your skin. This causes the particles to break apart and phase out of the body via the immune system.

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This laser’s rapid-fire pulsation method allows the laser to use less heat in order to emit the same amount of energy as traditional tattoo removal treatments. For this reason, the PicoWay ensures a more comfortable treatment while ensuring all ink particles are destroyed.

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