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Fighter's/Heavies Deak Jobs?

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Nov 26, 2001
Fighter's/Heavies Desk Jobs?

Some one had mentioned in another thread that flighter pilots tend to get pulled out of their aircraft more so than heavy's to do a tour on the ground. Is this generally true? If so do they force you to do this 'ground' tour or is it more of a nice break,a chance to relax a bit. (By the way, how long is a typical 'tour'?) Also as far as the AF goes does anyone know if they need more heavy drivers or fighter pilots...

Thanks in advance!
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There are plenty of non-flying/staff jobs in both the heavy and fighter communities. Right now the AF is so short of pilots that it is possible (not good for the career however) to avoid non-flying jobs. There are a few jobs such as forward air controllers (FAC) and air liaison officers (ALO) that work with the Army that are almost always fighter jobs. FAC and ALO tours are anywhere from 1 to 3 years depending on where you go. Most staff jobs are 3 years.
There are pilot shortages in both communities but your chances of getting a fighter are still roughly 25%. It comes down to being in the top of your class in flight school. Another advantage of the Guard and Reserve...you can avoid the desk job completely!
Basically, my take on the desk jobs is that the "typical" Air Force pilot is going to do his 10 years or so and then leave. It just seems to work out that way. Only about 40% or so probably stay past that point. So I was considering the case where you primarily WANT to fly, vs the case where you want to keep getting promoted.

Most "heavy" desk jobs will be given to guys who actually want those jobs so they can compete for major and lt colonel. These will be 2-4 year staff tours at places like AMC HQ or the Pentagon, and you can consider them "paying dues" to enhance your chances of getting to be a squadron commander later. The same would apply to a fighter guy: a headquarters staff job is a "square to be filled" if you hope to command. Typically, a heavy driver is going to take this job at the 8 year point, but he can usually still make major without it, so there is no "pressure" on him to take it until he's preparing for lt colonel. In other words, a heavy driver can "get away with" flying for 10 years straight with no adverse effects to his career, and...he's in a flying job when he's ready to get out--an important consideration if you're looking for an airline job. If you do take the desk job, the odds are good that you'll be going back into the cockpit on the next job, as a deputy commander or other leadership position, but at least flying.

For the fighter pukes, there's a whole 'nuther group of jobs that don't necessarily mean much for promotion, but simply have to be done by fighter pilots (or so the AF says), and there's enough of these jobs compared to the number of fighter pilots that you actually have to "compete" NOT to get some of these jobs. Unfortunately, this competition starts at around the 6 year point. So a fighter guy is going to get 2 3-year fighter tours "for free" and then he's going to have to actually fight for cockpits almost for the rest of his career. First he'll be fighting not to be an ALO or ground FAC, and then he'll be fighting other more senior guys for the leadership jobs in the squadron, instead of being the staff major at Red Flag or the command post chief at Kunsan.

Now, when there's a "shortage," as now, pilots can generally avoid ground jobs (at risk of not getting promoted later), but once the shortage evaporates (in about 6 months from now if the airlines don't bounce back pretty quickly) the old competition for cockpits will return. Then it's simply a numbers game. There just aren't enough fighter guys to fill those desk jobs with "volunteers" and there usually ARE in the heavy world.

Just my take on it, as a heavy guy. I worked with a lot of fighter guys, and they were constantly having to "meet boards" to decide who would get to go back and fly from ground jobs, and who would have to do TWO ground tours in a row. I never had to "compete" for a cockpit.

Not that that should discourage anyone. I certainly would've taken fighters had I been selected for it, and in my early years I would've applied for the "exchange" programs they have now for heavy guys to do a fighter tour, if they had had the program back then. The "coolness factor" of the job probably outweighs the drawbacks of having to do a ground tour. Just understand that your first ten years may or may not be "all flying," and if you do end up with a ground job, the timing of that job may not be very good for airline job hunting. That's true for heavies or fighters, of course; just my opinion that the fighter guys are a little more "vulnerable."

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