Questions on Military Pilot Life

FlyByWire22

Well-Known Member
Just had a few questions for you military guys on the forums. I just turned 20 and am a Sophomore in college, with my eyes set on a pilot slot through OTS or OCS. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

#1 - What are military check rides like? A buddy of mine just finished up with Viper B Course in AZ and it got me thinking what military check rides entail compared to civilian ones?
#2 - How do new assignments/orders work exactly? Another friend, just got checked out as a C-17 commander and will be flying the MC-12 out of Beale in the future. Do you request new aircraft/location or are they chosen for you?
#3 - The majority of military pilots I've talked with said that the older you get, the more you fly a desk. Is that fairly accurate?
#4 - If one chooses the T-1 track or T-44 to fly heavies, can you flip flop later in your career over to fighters or are you pretty much set in that "seat" for your career?
#5 - Any other advice/info would be great

- Adam
 

bunk22

Well-Known Member
I will answer but I see you are specific about the USAF. However, with respect to check rides, are you talking flight school or beyond wings? In flight school, you will have check rides at the end of phase training. For example, in formation flying, you will have a safe for solo check ride to determine if you can fly solo at the end of baby formation, or cruise forms, or division forms. Once in the fleet, there are check rides for certain quals but a yearly NATOPS check is done in the Navy. In the T-45C Goshawk, it consists of stalls, aerobatics, u/a recovery, precautionary approaches, and some circus landings. In addition, we have a bi-annual emergency procedure simulator.
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
#1 - What are military check rides like? A buddy of mine just finished up with Viper B Course in AZ and it got me thinking what military check rides entail compared to civilian ones?
In my opinion, military checkrides are similar to, but in general more difficult than, their civilian counterparts. The biggest difference with a military checkride is that the overall required knowledge level is significantly higher than on a civilian checkride: the 'horror stories' I hear about the oral part of guys initial CFI checkrides sound quite similar to many military checkrides I've taken. So far as the stick-and-rudder performance goes, it is somewhat similar :the CTS (the USAF version of the PTS) are basically at the Commercial and ATP level from the very start. Plus, in the USAF you'll be doing aerobatics right from the beginning, and other checkrides that the FAA doesn't touch, like formation, low level navigation, etc.

There are also different types of checks; throughout an initial training pipeline, there are what would be called "stage checks" in the civilian world (there are 8-10 in Undergraduate Pilot Training, and another 2-3 in follow on training). Additionally, once a pilot is out in the 'real world', he must do both an Instrument Check every 12-18 months, and a Mission Check every 12-18 months, which are roughly analogous to a Comm/Inst check or a 121 Line Check.

#2 - How do new assignments/orders work exactly? Another friend, just got checked out as a C-17 commander and will be flying the MC-12 out of Beale in the future. Do you request new aircraft/location or are they chosen for you?
In the training pipeline, you write down what you prefer, and the USAF assigns you something based on what is available and your performance/merit relative to your classmates. Guys at the top of their classes are more apt to get what they request more than the guys at the bottom. Either way, nothing is guaranteed.

#3 - The majority of military pilots I've talked with said that the older you get, the more you fly a desk. Is that fairly accurate?
In general terms, yes.

#4 - If one chooses the T-1 track or T-44 to fly heavies, can you flip flop later in your career over to fighters or are you pretty much set in that "seat" for your career?
Outside of some very narrow and rare opportunities, if you are a T-1 trained pilot you are not eligible to go fly a fighter.

#5 - Any other advice/info would be great
Baseops.net forums, a 12-pack of your favorite libation, and a weekend of searching, clicking, and reading!

There are actually a host of nice blogs and journals out there of kids going through UPT that can give you a lot of insight as to how that process works. I wrote one in the '98/'99 timeframe that is somewhat out of date now, but talks about the whole process start to finish.

http://www.studentpilot.com/training_aids/logbooks/category.php?category=6
 

kaudbron

Well-Known Member
RE #5 Look into the Air National Guard while you are at it. It is not for everyone being that it is a part timish gig and getting picked up is competitive but don't limit yourself.
 

Superfly7XAF

Well-Known Member
Just had a few questions for you military guys on the forums. I just turned 20 and am a Sophomore in college, with my eyes set on a pilot slot through OTS or OCS. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

#1 - What are military check rides like? A buddy of mine just finished up with Viper B Course in AZ and it got me thinking what military check rides entail compared to civilian ones?
#2 - How do new assignments/orders work exactly? Another friend, just got checked out as a C-17 commander and will be flying the MC-12 out of Beale in the future. Do you request new aircraft/location or are they chosen for you?
#3 - The majority of military pilots I've talked with said that the older you get, the more you fly a desk. Is that fairly accurate?
#4 - If one chooses the T-1 track or T-44 to fly heavies, can you flip flop later in your career over to fighters or are you pretty much set in that "seat" for your career?
#5 - Any other advice/info would be great

- Adam

#1 - I only took a PPL checkride but it was much easier than any checkride I had at UPT.
#2 - You get to express your preference, that's all.
#3 - Yup.
#4 - Pretty much set, with exception.
#5 - I hate to say it but I like the Navy's philosophy towards flying more than the Air Force (No FAIPs either). As mentioned before explore ANG/RES options before making a decision. Also, there's a lot of weird people at OTS/OCS, just a head's up.
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Any particular reason?
Without putting words into his mouth, I am guessing he is speaking toward the overall philosophy/attitude difference (which is mostly a generalization anyway and by definition incorrect) between the USAF and USN.

The old adage goes that "the USAF only allows you to do what is specifically approved in the flight manual, and the USN allows you to do anything so long as it isn't prohibited in the flight manual."

Of course, that's not precisely true, but it speaks toward a cultural attitude that is definitely different between the services.

In the USAF, flight discipline (knowing the rules and flying in accordance with them) is definitely a cornerstone to all airmanship, but sometimes it is taken to a religious-like fervor level that in many AF pilots' opinion is overboard. In some ways it constricts creativity and ingenuity in solving tactical problems (and sometimes in solving ordinary day-to-day aviation issues too!) because outside-the-container thinking is neither appreciated and cultivated -- it is sometimes even punished.

This type of strict by-the-book-only thinking even limits development of airmanship in the grand sense -- for example, certain communities within the USAF are so used to flying IFR operations all the time that pilots are not knowledgeable or comfortable with simple VFR operations.

So, I think this is what he's getting at in his post.

From my perspective as an old guy who has lived through a career of the AF's way of flying airplanes, I think it works. For all of its annoyances (and I've even been personally caught between the wheels of this philosophy when I've tried to do some outside-the-container thinking and acting), I wouldn't let it sway you from seeking a career flying for Big Blue. The benefits, IMHO, far outweigh the negatives.
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
#5 - I hate to say it but I like the Navy's philosophy towards flying more than the Air Force (No FAIPs either).
That isn't exactly true. In the jet/strike training syllabus, there are normally a couple in each training squadron. Helos and props don't do it, but they do in T-45's. We called them SERGRADs (selectively retained graduates), but it is the same thing essentially. I think the mindset is a little different, and it is seen by Navy guys as a good deal, which gives a guy basically a free year to bag a bunch of hours, and then basically have his pick of FRS airframe/location out the door. I understand this isn't always the way FAIP duty is viewed.
 

FlyByWire22

Well-Known Member
Is being an instructor straight out of the box something you can request or is that chosen for you by the officers in charge?
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Is being an instructor straight out of the box something you can request or is that chosen for you by the officers in charge?
In the USAF, that is one of the options that you can request, but it is the choice of the instructors to make.

That's an interesting topic in and of itself. I personally don't recommend that someone take a FAIP assignment, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing if it happens.
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
Is being an instructor straight out of the box something you can request or is that chosen for you by the officers in charge?
For the Navy side, I'm pretty sure that it was on our selection sheet (though I can't remember for sure). That said, it was more getting chosen than asking for it. It's also timing based, so if there are already some new SERGRADs (or they don't need any extras to augment the more fully qualified regular IP roster), chances are nobody is getting it for a while. In general terms, they are folks who did above average in the strike syllabus, and they were in the right place at the right time to get the job. Maybe Bunk can ellaborate on the process, but I'm sure there is some pretty heavy consideration given to one's personality, and if he/she is someone the other IP's would want to work/fly with for the next year or so. My T-45 "on-wing" for the fam stage was a SERGRAD, and he did a great job, which seems to be more of a common theme than the stories I hear of AF FAIPs. We are now in sister squadrons in the same air-wing, several years later.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
In the USAF, that is one of the options that you can request, but it is the choice of the instructors to make.

That's an interesting topic in and of itself. I personally don't recommend that someone take a FAIP assignment, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing if it happens.
When Willie was closing in the early 1990s, guys who had FAIPd there initially and who were at the 2 yr mark of their FAIP tour or less, got PCSd to another UPT base to finish out. Of course, Big Blue didn't initially tell them that because it was paying for a PCS for them, that their 3yr FAIP clock rehacked at their new UPT base, hence why you and I saw 5 to 6 year FAIPs during our time, coming into the CAF from ATC.
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
When Willie was closing in the early 1990s, guys who had FAIPd there initially and who were at the 2 yr mark of their FAIP tour or less, got PCSd to another UPT base to finish out. Of course, Big Blue didn't initially tell them that because it was paying for a PCS for them, that their 3yr FAIP clock rehacked at their new UPT base, hence why you and I saw 5 to 6 year FAIPs during our time, coming into the CAF from ATC.
Wow, that seems like a pretty big waste of resources (or at least just a bad deal for those few)
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
Wow, that seems like a pretty big waste of resources (or at least just a bad deal for those few)
it was a good deal for Big Blue, but a sucky deal for the individual, being stuck in Training Command for that long.
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
it was a good deal for Big Blue, but a sucky deal for the individual, being stuck in Training Command for that long.
Yeah, that seems like it would pretty much hose your career, at least as far as the beaten path is concerned. I don't know how things are in the AF, but I'd guess that being a senior Capt with no flight lead qual and no operational experience would be rough.
 

FlyByWire22

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the info, got another question for you all. I'm currently working on my PPL in a C150 at the local airport. In everyone's opinion, with the way the Air Force and Navy teaches you to fly, is there any point to going further than my PPL before getting to flight school? I know they teach you to fly "their" way, but would getting my Instrument or even Commercial be beneficial when the military re-teaches you everything anyways? Maybe a question for bunk22
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the info, got another question for you all. I'm currently working on my PPL in a C150 at the local airport. In everyone's opinion, with the way the Air Force and Navy teaches you to fly, is there any point to going further than my PPL before getting to flight school? I know they teach you to fly "their" way, but would getting my Instrument or even Commercial be beneficial when the military re-teaches you everything anyways? Maybe a question for bunk22
I came in with my commercial and IR ticket. I think having my instrument rating helped a little bit, along with being familiar with using the radio. Other than that, it really made no difference. By the time I got out of primary and went to jets, I was in completely unfamiliar territory and had to learn everything just like everyone else.
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Yeah, that seems like it would pretty much hose your career, at least as far as the beaten path is concerned. I don't know how things are in the AF, but I'd guess that being a senior Capt with no flight lead qual and no operational experience would be rough.
This is even the issue for the "mid-level Captains" who join the operational world after their stint as FAIPs.

To be fair, the raw-deal factor for FAIPs out of the T-38 track is much less today than it used to be, especially since T-38 students were made "universally assignable" and could go to non-tactical/heavy airframes right out of training. This policy has limited the number of fighters and bombers available on assignment night, and someone who gets a FAIP assignment gets another opportunity to go to a fighter or bomber after their initial tour when they otherwise would have not gone to either one.
 

bunk22

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the info, got another question for you all. I'm currently working on my PPL in a C150 at the local airport. In everyone's opinion, with the way the Air Force and Navy teaches you to fly, is there any point to going further than my PPL before getting to flight school? I know they teach you to fly "their" way, but would getting my Instrument or even Commercial be beneficial when the military re-teaches you everything anyways? Maybe a question for bunk22
I've been a primary and now intermediate/advanced jet IP. I call it the "it" factor, you either have it or you don't. If you have "it" then extra flight time, more the better, will help. If you don't have "it", all the civilian flight time isn't going to help. Recently, I've seen and flown with two airline pilot types, one had around 1500 and the other 5000, both did will in primary and beginning stages of intermediate. Once forms start, on to TACFORM's and into advanced, that ability to out distance your peers goes away. Mid and late stage jet is the equalizer. They both had or have "it" but even with experience, it's tough at this level and type of flying.
 
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