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Pilots of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters typically need to meet certain physical requirements intended to promote the safety of passengers and crew. Among these are requirements for excellent vision, normal color vision, and height or weight requirements. Requirements vary according to the aircraft and employer.
Airplanes and helicopters are designed with standardized cockpit measurements. Pilots who are excessively tall or short might have difficulty flying if they are too large for the cockpit or too short to use the controls. In addition, body weight can be a safety factor, especially in helicopters. All aircraft have weight limits, and smaller aircraft have less ability to handle too much weight. Despite these issues, John Cox, a professional pilot writing for a September 2013 article in “USA Today,” notes that many commercial airlines do not publish height and weight requirements for pilots.
Although some military planes have considerable cockpit space, the military restricts pilot height and weight. A pilot might need to fly a plane of any size during her service. For example, the Air Force requires a standing height of 64 to 77 inches and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches, according to the U.S. Air Force ROTC website. These requirements ensure that the pilot can reach all instruments and controls, but not face difficulty getting in and out of the cockpit and pilot's seat. Weight requirements are based on height, with a required weight range from 160 pounds for a pilot 64 inches tall to 231 pounds for a pilot 77 inches tall.