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Flying for branches of military other than Army?


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As a senior in high school last year, I was seriously considering doing the Army WOFT high school-to-flight school program. However, out of the responses I had gathered from here, kiowapilots.com and the military.com boards, it seemed unlikely that a civilian applicant would get selected straight out of high school without ANY sort of college experience. So I decided that I would go to college for four years and get my engineering degree... then if I still felt strongly about wanting to fly for the military, I could decide at that time.

 

Up until now, my research into flying choppers for the military have been solely of the Army's program. I realize with a college degree though, I could possibly have the opportunity to fly for ANY of the branches. At this time the Army pilot program looks the most appealing, since they have the most choppers... but what have any of you helicopter pilots flying for the other branches thought of their respective helicopter programs?

 

Edit: In terms of flying hours, the "culture," quality of life, airframe selection, likelihood of getting a pilot slot, etc.

Edited by rotarywing43
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I have a unique perspective in that I flew for the Navy and am now in the Army National Guard. I would say that for any direction you go in the military, flying is flying. Each aircraft and service has its own mission. If you fly helicopters in the Navy, you will almost certainly end up in an H-60 airframe. But the missions vary greatly with the specific model. Some look for submarines, some do cargo ops, some do combat search and rescue, some search for ships with radar and other sensors. All do some degree of search and rescue, either as a primary or secondary mission.

 

Flight training in the Navy begins in the T-34C, a single engine turbo prop airplane. This will soon change to the T-6 Texan II. At the end of primary flight training, you get selected for jets, props, or helos. Jet guys go to the T-45 and helo and prop guys stay in the T-34C a little longer. Then the helo guys go on to TH-57s (Bell JetRangers) and the prop guys go to the T-44 (Beech QueenAir). If you go helos, at the end of flight training you can take your FAA equvalency exam and get a commercial airplane and helicopter, instrument airplane and helicopter rating. You'll get about 100 fixed wing hours and 100 - 150 helicopter hours in flight school.

 

At the end of flight school, which can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years, you get your wings. I went SH-60Bs. After flight school I went to the fleet replacement squadron (FRS), also called the replacement air group (RAG). Because of the multiple missions the SH-60B conducts, this training was 8 months long. There were a few months of basic training in the airframe, then they add day and night rescue ops, external cargo ops, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare tactics, and finally day and night shipboard landings. When you come out of the FRS you are a fully qualified helicopter second pilot (H2P) for ALL missions.

 

The Army is a bit different. I did not go to "flight school" in the Army, but will attend a 6 week AQC for the H-60. Army aviators get their wings after AQC. You get the basics of flying the H-60 and that is about it. You then go to your unit and get the remainder of your qualifications in an "RL" progression.

 

Both ways are effective, just a different approach to training and qualification.

 

As an officer in the Army or Navy, you will have considerable collateral duties once you get to your unit. These duties can be flight, maintenance or admin related. The more senior you get, the less important flying is and the more important the collateral duties become, to the point that they are no longer "collateral" duties. As an Army warrant officer, flying and flight related duties remain a much higher part of your job.

 

If you want to be "in charge", go the officer route. If you don't mind not being in charge and you want to fly, go warrant officer. BTW, there is a VERY limited Navy flying warrant officer program they started a few years ago. Check with a recruiter to see if it is still available.

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The Navy pilot program definitely sounds interesting. Although for a kid who really wants to fly helicopters, it would be kind of a bummer to end up not getting selected; then again, I understand "needs of the service" would affect me no matter what branch I ended up choosing. On the other hand, getting the FAA equivalent ratings for both FIXED and ROTARY wing would be excellent.

 

Thank you for the thoroughly detailed reply! :D That was very helpful.

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The Navy pilot program definitely sounds interesting. Although for a kid who really wants to fly helicopters, it would be kind of a bummer to end up not getting selected; then again, I understand "needs of the service" would affect me no matter what branch I ended up choosing. On the other hand, getting the FAA equivalent ratings for both FIXED and ROTARY wing would be excellent.

 

Thank you for the thoroughly detailed reply! :D That was very helpful.

 

If rotors are your first choice in the Navy, you will most certainly get them. You will fill out a 3 choice "wish list" once you finish Primary in the T-34C.

Edited by Mike Murphy
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Mike Murphy-

 

I take it the Navy is in need of filling RW slots? That's interesting to know. If you don't mind me asking: What are your guys' flying hours like after completing training? What kinda time could I expect to fly while deployed? What airframes tend to get the most hours?

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Mike Murphy-

 

I take it the Navy is in need of filling RW slots? That's interesting to know. If you don't mind me asking: What are your guys' flying hours like after completing training? What kinda time could I expect to fly while deployed? What airframes tend to get the most hours?

 

I heard as many as 1/2 of all Navy pilots these days are helicopter pilots. Considering that the jet spots are usually the most sought after, if you ask for helicopters, I am sure you will get them.

 

I averaged 25-30 hrs a month as an FRS instructor. Flight time while deployed was usually closer to 30-35 hours a month, with a few 50 hr months. It could have easily been more during high operational tempo periods, but we had few of those and only one aircraft on all of my detachments with 5 pilots. High tempo ops can net you up to 75 hrs a month, but usually maintenance and parts become a limiting factor. There is only so much that can be done on a small ship.

 

Now, with the aircraft carriers and supply ships also using H-60 variants, the maintenance and parts issues are less of a factor.

 

I flew HSL (SH-60B Seahawk) in the Navy. Based on Mike Murphy's avatar, he flew the same mission with the SH-2 Seasprite. Same mission, different airframe. Now, the Navy is going to all H-60 airframes. HSL will drop the SH-60B for the MH-60R. HS will has dropped the SH-3 for the SH-60F and HH-60H and will add MH-60S. HSC has dropped the CH-46 for MH-60S. I can't say how the exactly the different communities vary in flight hours, but operational tempo has more to do with it than airframe and mission.

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As an officer in the Army or Navy, you will have considerable collateral duties once you get to your unit. These duties can be flight, maintenance or admin related. The more senior you get, the less important flying is and the more important the collateral duties become, to the point that they are no longer "collateral" duties. As an Army warrant officer, flying and flight related duties remain a much higher part of your job.

 

If you want to be "in charge", go the officer route. If you don't mind not being in charge and you want to fly, go warrant officer. BTW, there is a VERY limited Navy flying warrant officer program they started a few years ago. Check with a recruiter to see if it is still available.

 

I don't mean to lurk on someone else's post... but I have a question I think could be answered here. Referring to the above quote, if I wanted to fly helicopter for the Navy, but I was going the OCS route (as I'm a recent college graduate), would I not have much of a shot as a helo pilot? Of course, the helicopter thing is only a recently developed interest (I work at a private airport, where we sometimes host military flights, so this is where the interest was sparked); my original interest was translating (I earned my BA in a foreign language and thought the military would be a good way to put it to use)... is there any sort of hybrid occupation which would allow me to do both? I guess that turned out to be two questions.

 

Thanks in advance!

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I'd echo Rob's comments. I went through the pipeline a LONG time ago, but he's generally right with a couple corrections.

 

The T-44 isn't a Queen Air. Its a King Air C90.

 

That's about it. He's right about selections. Unless there's a "jet draft" on to fill billets, anyone who asks for helicopters gets them. I had a guy in my group who had the top flight school grades of the year. The jet detailer wanted him bad, but he joined the Navy to fly helicopters. If you've got the best grades, you get what you want.

 

Helos are generally on the bottom of everyone's wish list. At one point, they actually had to shuffle billet assignments because the helo FRS' were getting all the lowest grade aviators.

 

Of course, that was in 1980, so things have changed a lot by now. Rob can give you the latest skinny. I didn't even realize my H-46 was getting replaced by the H-60, so that shows you how current my info is.

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My assumption that certain airframes may get more hours than others was based on the idea that different helicopters had diff. operational readiness rates; but I guess on a boat, availability of parts would mean all the airframes are limited. That's reassuring to know that you're pretty much almost guaranteed helicopters in the Navy if you ask for them, though. Thanks again for answering all the questions! You guys were very helpful

 

So where are all the USMC, USCG, and Air Force aviators at? :D

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My assumption that certain airframes may get more hours than others was based on the idea that different helicopters had diff. operational readiness rates; but I guess on a boat, availability of parts would mean all the airframes are limited. That's reassuring to know that you're pretty much almost guaranteed helicopters in the Navy if you ask for them, though. Thanks again for answering all the questions! You guys were very helpful

 

So where are all the USMC, USCG, and Air Force aviators at? :D

 

Now, this is 20 year old info, so take it with a grain of salt. Squadron flight time is basicly all about your mission. I was a VertRep pilot. We did the actual mission every day...resupplying the fleet at sea. We flew A LOT.

 

Now, the HM guys (mine countermeasures) never did their mission. Add to that the MH-53E was a maintenance nightmare. We had a squadron that shared our hangar. Those guys had to do 110 man hours of maintenance for every flight hour.

 

Needless to say, their helos didn't fly much.

 

H-60s flew quite a lot, but I was a North Island where the FRS squadrons were, so that might have skewed my impressions.

 

The HC (Combat Support) squadrons flew the most because our mission was the same, peace or war.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I was an Army pilot and am now a Coast Guard pilot. The lifestyles are completely different as one would expect. My wife and I were just laughing about the fact that in the Army as warrant officers we would all be as comfortable in a poorly lit biker bar as we would be at work. In the Coast Guard most pilots would be quite at home in the Country club. Just a different mindset but both are great.

 

I enjoy the Coast Guard for a few reasons. I do my mission every day and fly pretty regularly (about 30 hours a month). I am treated like an adult. I have yet to be told to be at a formation thirty minutes before we were actually supposed to be there and I don't have to find all sorts of folks to sign my risk matrix before I fly. Most importantly, I haven't had to stay in a tent unless I am camping with my family.

 

I do miss blowing things up though.

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I was an Army pilot and am now a Coast Guard pilot. The lifestyles are completely different as one would expect. My wife and I were just laughing about the fact that in the Army as warrant officers we would all be as comfortable in a poorly lit biker bar as we would be at work. In the Coast Guard most pilots would be quite at home in the Country club. Just a different mindset but both are great.

 

I enjoy the Coast Guard for a few reasons. I do my mission every day and fly pretty regularly (about 30 hours a month). I am treated like an adult. I have yet to be told to be at a formation thirty minutes before we were actually supposed to be there and I don't have to find all sorts of folks to sign my risk matrix before I fly. Most importantly, I haven't had to stay in a tent unless I am camping with my family.

 

I do miss blowing things up though.

 

Tru-Dat! And depending on what airframe you fly, you might not have to deploy on a ship either.

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