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Flying for the Navy

  • Thread starter dcflyer10
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I've been hooked on military aviation since I was like 2, and it's nearing the point where I can finally make the choice to get involved.

I'll have my 4-yr degree shortly, and I intend to talk to my local recruiter about my options.

Is is possible for me to secure a pilot position before officer training? Or, must I first be commissioned, and take what is given to me.

I'm really interested in what life is like as a Navy pilot. Any summaries, or advice would be welcome.

What exactly is it like to fly for the Navy? Typically, what kind of aircraft do you fly? I'm guessing fighters and helos make up the majority; correct me if I'm wrong.

How much time do you spend flying per month? And, what exactly do you do when you're not flying. As an officer, I'd guess you'd have duties to attend to; anyone care to elaborate on exactly what those are?

Where are Navy pilots based? Is everyone based on a carrier? Or, are there fixed bases from which the Navy operates. Comments on what life is like on a carrier? :)

Lastly, how do pilots earn rank? Is it based on years of service, or other qualities such as leadership and dedication?

And, given a hardworking and dedicated person, how much rank can a Navy pilot expect to earn with a good 20 years of service?

Thanks for the help.
Okay, I don't mind being the first to take a stab at this. (deep breath)
You should be able to get an aviation guarantee if you are showing up to the OFFICER recruiter with a degree and you meet the minimums on the AQT/FAR exam. The only way to get a current good answer to that question is to talk a recruiter because the programs change with the wind as the "needs of the Navy" do the same.

To say what it's like to fly as a Naval Aviator is hard for one person to do. The lifestyle varies greatly from community to community. I won't try to speak for anyone but myself as a P-3 Pilot. My first 9 months as an officer were spent in Hawaii at a staff job waiting for my flight school slot. Then it was 6 weeks of preflight indoctrination; aerodynamics classes, swimming, parasailing, boxing (they don't do that anymore), obstacle course stuff and various other survival activities. I then was off to flight school in Corpus Christi and spent the next two years doing nothing but flight training...it seemed tough at the time, but having no other duties than to learn to fly was pretty cool.

I got orders to a P-3 squadron in Hawaii. In the first 18 months, you are given rather benign ground jobs as you are working toward qualification as an aircraft commander. the longer you are at your first squadron, the more responsibility you will be taking on as you spend less time qualifying and more time running the squadron. A P-3 squadon is made up of about 350 people, of which, about 60 of them are officers (about 36 pilots and 24 NFOs). The P-3 is landbased, so therefore never goes aboard ship..kinda rare for Navy flyers. They still call it "sea duty" because the squadrons deploy on a regular basis. You will spend 12 months doing a homecycle training period followed by six months deployed to an overseas location. While at home, there are hot and cold periods of working your tail off during workup excercises and periods of bigtime screwing off. My golf game didn't suffer and I got a lot better at surfing on the homecycle. Once you go overseas on deployment, it's pretty much all work and little time off, but you get to go to some pretty cool places with some $hitholes tossed in for good measure.
I think my average time per month on the homecycle was about 30-40 hours/month and about 100 hours/month on deployment. Bottom line; I left my sea duty squadron after 42 months with a total of 1850 hours, 1150 of which were PIC. Typical career paths have you in a sea duty squadron for your first three years or so after you get your wings, then shore duty doing something like being a flight instructor for another 30 or so months, back to sea and so forth...

There are many different planes in the navy...yes, lot's of fighters and helos, but also numerous others. F-18, Ea-6B, E-6, P-3, E-2, C-2, S-3, H-60, H-46, H-53, even the odd C-130, C-9, 737, C-12 and Gulfstreams, training aircraft include T-45, T-34, T-2, T-44, C-12... Im sure I've missed a few here, but you get the idea.

Trying to list where everyone is based is tough... Lots of bases and locations are determined by what kind of plane you fly. but I'll take a shot at a few:
P-3: Hawaii; Brunswick, ME; Jacksonville, FL; Whidbey Island, WA

others Naval Air Stations include places like: San Diego, Lemoore, Corpus Christi, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Key West, Oceana, and many, many, more worldwide.

If you aren't a dumbass, you will be advanced more on time in rank than anything else so long as you have done a normal "career path". Things start getting a little more competetive after about 15 years. After 20 years you will most likely have obtained the rank of O-5 and O-6 if you commanded a squadron without any serious problems. They money is good...not major airline pay, but certainly comfortable after you throw in allowances and bonuses, etc...

I've spent 20 years in the P-3 community as an Officer and enlisted guy and it's mostly been GREAT. There are a few $hit sandwiches to swallow here and there, but the experience has been well worth it. This is just a small corner of Navair and somewhat a-typical. I don't know many Naval Aviators who regret serving. I'm sure the Carrier-based and other helo guys will also have plenty of input for you. Good luck!
Wow, thanks very much for the narrative Hugh Jorgan. That was extremely helpful. I'll be sure to note those comments about finding the right recruiter.

Could you possibly elaborate on what is involved in commanding a squadron? Is it mostly management-type work, and do you enjoy doing it?


I'm the wrong guy to talk about Command. I was Enlisted for ten years, so at this point my rank is only Lieutenant. All those I know who have commanded a squadron in Naval Aviation (including my father) say it's the best tour they had in the navy, even those who went on to be Admirals. I do know a number of former CO's who ended up retiring after their command tours and flying for the airlines... not a bad way to go. I'm sure there's a CO or former CO somewhere on this board, hopefully you can get one to relate their experience first-hand.
Again, Good luck

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