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In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, we see Luke Skywalker being assigned to fly an X-Wing, a powerful space superiority fighter; but oddly, until only a few days prior, Luke was just a moisture farmer on a desert world.

How does one get checked out or qualified to fly a fighter such as an X-Wing? I would not think that Luke flying his small hopper through the valleys of Tatooine would be the same as Biggs going to an Imperial Academy and learning to fly TIE fighters. This sounds like any old real-life crop-dusting pilot would be able to take up an F-22 Raptor and be successful with it.

So, how does one get qualified to fly an X-Wing?

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    Have you watched Independence Day? – Ashterothi Mar 11 '13 at 18:02
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    "And just sign here, here and initial here." – Xantec Mar 11 '13 at 18:19
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    Define "Qualified." They were hurting for pilots, after all. – Kevin Mar 11 '13 at 18:41
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    And he used to be able to bullseye Womp rats out by Beggar's Canyon as well. :-) – beichst Mar 12 '13 at 0:36
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    It's a little known fact that the R2 droids, with their much faster reaction speeds, do most of the flying. The flight stick is there just to make the humans feel like they're accomplishing something. – Mark Rogers Mar 12 '13 at 3:35
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According to Wikipedia, Luke got in purely on the recommendation from Biggs

Biggs assured the rebel flight leader that Luke could handle the X-Wing fighters. This scene was reintroduced in the 1997 re-release of the film. However, a line in which the flight leader referred to Luke’s father and said that if he had his skill he would do fine remained on the cutting room floor.

But you have to consider that it was a scenario like Independence Day where the Rebellion was willing to accept any capable pilot. There was a big, planet-destroying imperial weapon about to obliterate Yavin, damn right we're going to throw everything at it, including the kitchen sink.

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    Not to mention that the "skyhopper" that Luke was always getting parts for was an Incom T-16, a close cousin of the X-wing. So he had plenty of time behind a stick before he jumped into that X-wing. – sarge_smith Mar 11 '13 at 19:19
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    To my mind, a scenario where a big, planet-destroying imperial weapon is about to obliterate Yavin is not a time when you'd want an untried, potentially incompetent pilot flying around. Unless you were counting on him going kamikaze. – Kyralessa Mar 12 '13 at 1:45
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    They obviously had more ships than trained pilots. Every second that untrained kid is getting shot up is one more second that your highly trained pilots have to complete your objective. Also, when your planet is about to get shot out from under you is a great time to throw absolutely everything you have at the problem, even if you don't think it might work. – sarge_smith Mar 12 '13 at 15:43
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    At least from the books, it was common practice for good bush pilots like Luke's friend Biggs to be recruited into the Rebellion, then apply to and attend the Imperial Academy to get their flight and combat training, then abandon the Empire back to the rebellion after their training. – BBlake Mar 13 '13 at 13:00
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    Even if he was experienced with Incom controls - an atmospheric T-16 would be different to a space-flying T-65. Plus, he would have had no combat and no tactical training. Then again - in 1940, Britain was so desperate for pilots that they would literally only get a few hours of flight and combat training. – HorusKol Oct 8 '13 at 21:47
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The 1981 National Public Radio adaptation of Star Wars has a scene where Luke is tested (by Biggs) in an X-wing simulator; Biggs’ recommendation is—if I recall correctly—based on his simulator score. As explained on Wookieepedia:

Luke joins Biggs Darklighter, who tests his flying abilities using a flight simulator. It is revealed by Commander Willard that Luke was only “killed” twice, despite Biggs pitting him against the virtual equivalent of the entire Imperial Starfleet. (Whether Willard was actually exaggerating or not is left for the listener to determine, though regardless Luke does well enough that the Rebels are willing to put him into a starfighter for the assault.)

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I don't know if I can even post this, because it relies strictly on Legends Material, but the opening of Rogue Squadron (Novel) has Corran Horn being run through a simulator program. While this is post-Endor, it seems clear that at least for Rogue Squadron there is a clear training program that they use to ramp pilots up. The Rogue Squadron Comic Book series (which takes place even earlier in the timeline) even has a bank of X-Wing AND TIE Fighter simulators on board Home One that is used to weed out pilots and their skills.

Going back a bit further, Pre-Yavin, Keyen Farlander is trained using a simulator system that has him flying historical missions. This system is implied to be aboard a Mon Calamari Star Cruiser, though it's never explicitly stated as such. This also introduced the concept of the Pilot Proving Grounds, and if you completed enough back-to-back bases through the gates (which were on sort of floating platforms with turrets on them) you earned a proficiency badge for the ship you were flying. Navigating these platforms is pretty tricky - you have to engage the turrets and manage your speed while piloting yourself through the gates and around obstacles. While I would not say it's a close approximation of combat, the actions forced on the pilot are going to require developing similar skill sets.

It's never stated when exactly it was created, but there is a base on Folor that was dedicated to the training of new pilots, it is strongly implied in the Wraith Squadron novel that this base was established at some point after the Battle of Yavin. This base had a satellite field that the fighter pilots preferred and a canyon run that the Y-Wing pilots preferred. This base was abandoned shortly after the formation of Wraith Squadron.

X-Wing Alliance also details a little bit of this - the main character in that game is previously a cargo pilot (I would say smuggler, personally) who undertakes a number of training missions and spends much time in the simulator (again, it's implied this is standard aboard most Mon Calamari Rebel Ships). Some of his training also occurs at a semi-abandoned Smelting Facility that stretches between several factories and asteroids (this maybe the satellite feed from Folor? Wookieepedia says this was established 'shortly after Endor' with no annotation for the source of that information). This game takes place before Endor - establishing the existence (in Legends at least) of simulators aboard these ships well before the Rogue Squadron comics set them there.

And this is where a lot of the Rebel Pilots came from - Imperial Ranks, Smugglers, and Bush Pilots. People who already had a natural aptitude for flying and had been in some 'harry' situations (sometimes in the case of smuggler pilots [Lando Calrissian, Battle of Taanab] actual combat) that would prepare them for the stress of combat.

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Luke dreams of becoming a star-fighter pilot like his father and friends, despite his aunt and uncle trying to keep him around on the farm. Luke states multiple times throughout A New Hope that he knows how to fly and shoot, and that he owns (or owned) a T-16 and has practiced flying and target shooting with it.

When talking to Han Solo:

I'm not such a bad pilot myself.

During the briefing before the Battle of Yavin:

I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than two meters.

On top of that, many of Luke's old friends such as Biggs and Wedge have joined the Rebellion and could vouch for his skills as pilot.

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