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Military Aviation USMC

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Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
Having achieved the goal of becomming an airline pilot, I find myself unsatisfied and unchallenged. The fact that I got furloughed probably has some effect on these emotions. I find myself at a cross-road, having reached 28 years of age, it is my last chance at military flying. This has been a dream of mine since childhood and I would like to fullfill it. I have several questions for felow pilots who have experience in these matters.
I have a preference in joining the USMC, the officer recruiter has pilot slots allocated to him which he can offer me. There is no assurance if those slots are fixed wing or rotary. Also, he has informed me that the AC type flown will depend on my performance on tests. I have an ATP and consider myself to be a good pilot.
1) What are my chances of getting to fly fixed wing AC?
2) What is the most sought after AC by applicants?
3) What about sign-up bonuses, what should I be aware of, ask
4) What are important items on a contract to know about?
5) What is the experince level of the typical applicant,ie
6) What is the typical first year pay?
There are many other questions that come to mind, I will leave them for another session!! Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer these questions. :confused:

I am currently a Navy T-34 instructor at Navy Flight School and I'll try to answer some of your questions.

1) What are my chances of getting to fly fixed wing AC?
As a Marine your "unadjusted" chances of getting helo's are probably 60% just because of the high number of helo's the Marines fly. However, with your experience you are likely to burn up the program (at least the first half) and you'll likely have grades good enough for fighters. Very low numbers of students get C-130's.
2) What is the most sought after AC by applicants?
3) What about sign-up bonuses, what should I be aware of, ask
for? No bonus until you get through your 1st obligations, I think it's 7-8 years after wings.
4) What are important items on a contract to know about?
Not sure how Marine recruiting works but make sure the flight training part is in writing, not just a handshake.
5) What is the experince level of the typical applicant,ie
competition? Typical applicant...no prior training.
6) What is the typical first year pay? 1st year pay somewhere around 25k as a 2LT.

Now, just because you'll likely have jet grades does not mean you'll like it at all. If helo's is a no-go for you, remember that you can't just quit. Even if you attrite out of flight school, DOD has you for some length of time. Oh, and I think you'll go to 6 months of junior officer infantry training before you ever start flight school as a Marine. At your age and experience level, this is not a good furlough plan. I would only go ahead with this if you really want to be a Marine and maybe a Marine Aviator.

Good luck!
Good reply from shootr. I think the best point was that this is not a good idea if you're just looking to get through the furlough. It's changed since I went through, but I think the committment after wings is 6 years now (it takes 2+ years after commissioning to get your wings, so figure 8-9 years with a goofy haircut).

With your experience, you should have your choice of acft. But in the USMC, whether you like it or not, flying comes second. Your first job is to be a Marine and that takes up a good amount of your time. If all you want to do is fly, go USAF, then USN, then USMC.
I appreciate the replies. This is not a furlough plan for me. It is some thing I wanted to do for myself. I did not want to turn 50 years old and look back at my youth with regret everytime I saw a fighter jet fly by. Also, after the recent events I feel like I should give some thing back to our country. I know that I would not be happy flying helos, so maybe I will look into the USAF or the USN. How are the programs at the Airforce and the Navy? Since I have previous experience do I start at level 1 or do they bypass some of the initial training? Thanks.
No bypass, everyone starts the same, as Joe Blow 2nd LT. In fact yoiu will likely have to unlearn some of your civilian training in order to conform to the military way of flying (ex. control/performance method of instrument flying).
Current AF commitment is 10 years after graduation from pilot training, so count on at least 11 years of your life to be in uniform. Historically, fighters make up about 25-35% of each graduating class (now from T-37/T-6 graduation, I guess), so be prepared to fly something else. That is, if you are not one of the 20-30% who wash out entirely. Then you would be able to fulfill the remainder your military commitment in a ground-pounder job.
Not trying to be pessimistic, but you need to know the facts.

Hopefully someone younger will reply with better scoop, but with the USAF (assuming you have a 4 yr degree) you will go to Officer Training School for 90 days, then straight to UPT (undergraduate pilot training). Helicopters are not a possibility unless you request. UPT is 12 months, regardless of your background. The first half in the T-37 or the new T-6, the second half in the T-38 if you do well enough in the first half to get a fighter, or the T-1 if you get heavies (preferred by many --- different lifestyle).

What I am unsure about is the new pre-UPT program where you go to a local airport for a specified number of flights (USAF pays). I assume this is only required if you don't have a license, but I really don't know (it may be required for all).

After UPT you will have an 8 or 9 year commitment (not sure). At that time you can sign the bonus through your 25th year of service, or any portion thereof (as of today---this is sure to change over the next 10 years).

It's not a bad life, as long as your wife can handle you being away and having an unpredictable schedule. It is not worth it to trade her for the USAF. Best of luck to you. I hope someone will fill in the holes I left.
Don't forget the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. If you want to fly fighters the Guard has F-15s, F-16s, & A-10s. AFRES has F-16s and A-10s. ANG & AFRES also have all the heavies. Well, the B-2 ain't there yet.
There should be at least one unit close to your home. You'll
go through Air Force pilot training and follow-on training. When
you get back to your unit you'll be on active duty with them for
several months, depending on the aircraft you're flying. After
that there is usually enough flying and other stuff to keep you
busy. The one weekend a month and two weeks a year goes
right out the window. Many folks do quite well as "bums." The
three years I bummed before finally going to a regional I averaged over $50k a year. As a 1Lt, which is what you'll
be upon going part-time, you should be able to make around
$30k a year while having a ball and seeing the world. Most of
the guys in the squadron are a lot of fun and almost all of the
part-timers are major airline pilots.
With the Guard and Reserve you will serve your country and have a good time. Believe me, you will enjoy the camaraderie
and will enjoy the mission.

BEST of luck,


P.S. Guys, please correct anything I may have buffooned.
If you know you want to fly fixed wing in the military, the Air Force is the way to go. Better yet...the Reserves or Air National Guard are even better. Why? The pros far outweigh the cons and there are fewer "what ifs" than with any other route. I'm not knocking the other services...it's just been my experience from talking to guys that the Air Force generally gets a uniform drop of 25% fighters with each class where the Navy/Marine Corps may get 100% jets one week and 100% helos the next. Guys in the Navy...let me know if I'm wrong here. I'd hate to see you work hard to be the top guy in the class just to get stuck with something when you deserve better.
As far as the Guard and Reserve, each unit does their own recruiting so assuming you make it through training with passing grades, you are guaranteed to fly that aircraft. Trust me...it's nice to be in a position where you only have to worry about your own grades and not everyone else in the class as well. Another pro...if for some reason you don't make it through, you are not stuck with an active duty commitment though I'm sure you could get one if you wanted it. As far as starting from Level 1...the Air Force is paying for people without a Private license to get one through local FBO's in a program known as IFT (You guessed it...Introductory Flight Training). With your ratings, you could skip this but you'd have to do everything else. Your experience would probably make T-37's easy until you get to the formation phase since that's something you've never done before. That's also a phase they look for future fighter guys to excel in...just something to think about.

If you're looking to serve and have fun, the military is definitely the way to go! One thing though...you mentioned that you find yourself unchallenged as an airline pilot. I've noticed with your time that your probably still in the right seat? Ask yourself if that challenge will return once your responsible for the aircraft. I too was bored as a co-pilot but that changes whenever I sign for the aircraft. Just sharing my experience. Let me know if I can help and sorry for the long post. Good luck!

All good replies here. I'm still flying as a USMC reservist. There are 2 main points here:

1. Don't go Marine Aviation unless you REALLY want to be a Marine. You very well might end up flying Helos, or even worse ... Tiltrotors!. You will have to go to 6 months of The Basic School (infantry) before flight school. You will probably spend a significant portion of your career NOT flying. Much of the rest will be spent floating around on a big boat for 6 months at a pop.

2. If you REALLY want to be a Marine ... go for it! I wouldn't change a thing! While I completely love the flying (been doing it for 7 years AFTER getting out and getting hired by UAL), I also love everything else that comes with being a Marine.

Look into the National Guard. If you are willing to relocate, you can find a unit and know what you will be flying before you even go to flight school. I think you can switch from a "full-timer" to a "part-timer" earlier in your career, too. This way when your airline calls you back, you can go on a leave of absence until your active duty obligation is complete.

fly safe

You have received lots of good feedback from pilots in all the services. You'll be put to work in each service. Just remember, your chances of spending some time on a boat are higher in the USN/USMC/USCG.

If your priority is to fly fixed wing then I'd suggest: Guard, USAF, USN, USCG, USMC, USA; in that order.

Don't plan on being able to get out until about 8 years after you join (at the earliest) unless you find some USAFR or Guard job. That was a good suggestion by someone above.

As far as competition: You will probably be more mature at 29 or 30 when you get to flight school and that will be your biggest advantage. Your flight experience will probably help also but prior flight time does not always lead the way to jets. You may end up stuck with a C-130 flying rubber dog poop out of Hong Kong. Now that is the job I want!

Good luck with your decision and efforts. The hardest part is getting all that freakin paperwork done. It is part of the screening process!


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