The question, “Should I take flying lessons before I take the Military Flight Aptitude Test?” comes up more often — and sparks a far greater number of differing opinions — than any other subject.

On the pro side of the argument, anything that gives you an edge on the test has to be a good thing, right? Flying lessons not only teach you the basics of such topics as aviation fundamentals (including lift, drag, weight, and power), aircraft parts and control surfaces, and instruments and controls but also give you time in the sky.

On the other hand, many feel that the military is seeking only a potential skill level and that, after you’re selected, you’ll receive all the required flight training you’ll ever need — and perhaps a bit more.

After all, the military’s goal for the test is to find those who are potentially best suited for a career in military aviation, not those who are already talented aviators. Some observers will even tell you that previous flight training only ensures that you’ve developed bad habits that a military instructor pilot will have to correct.

Although this last argument has some validity, it is still true that a minimal amount of flight training can provide you with enough conceptual knowledge to give you an edge on the flight aptitiude test. You won't need hours and hours in the cockpit; a minimum of two to three hours of flight experience and the associated ground schooling can give you a leg up (though we recommend getting a private pilot’s license if possible).

If you’re determined to pass the exam, even a slight edge may be well worth the time and the relatively small amount of money you spend for flying lessons at a local airport. In fact, the U.S. Air Force actually increases (on a graduated scale) your chance of being selected for pilot training for up to 200 hours of flight time.

Before you begin your flight training, be sure your instructor knows your goals for taking the flight training (that is, getting a better score on the military flight aptitude test).