Steps in Becoming a Naval Aviator

by Will Charpentier

It takes about nine months to earn the gold wings of a U.S. Navy aviator. First, you have to meet the requirements to become a naval officer before advancing to aviator training. Then, you're sent to a Naval Air Station or an Air Force base where you're whisked away into flight training in the aircraft of your – and the Navy's – choosing.

Navy Officer Qualifications

You must graduate from an accredited, four-year college or university. You must be a U.S. citizen, over 19 and under 35 years of age. You must have no more than two dependents. Your financial obligations must be current and you must prove you can meet those obligations. Drug or alcohol abuse, or a history of drug or alcohol abuse can disqualify you. You'll undergo a stringent physical before you're admitted to officer training and a Navy flight physical before you're admitted to naval aviator training. The Navy investigates more than your criminal history; they'll talk to neighbors, friends, old girlfriends, ex-wives and others to learn everything about you to ensure you meet the Navy's moral standards.

Navy Officer Training

There are three routes by which you can become a naval officer. The first is through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps on your college campus. When you complete NROTC and graduate, you receive your commission as a naval officer. The second is to attend the U.S Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. The third route is to enter the Navy and go to the Navy's Officer Candidate School at Naval Station Newport, in Newport, RI. OCS is a 12-week boot camp for officers where you learn about the Navy, officers' responsibilities and the military way of life.

Initial AviatorTraining

After you complete officers' training, you leave for the Naval Aviation Schools Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, for approximately six weeks in aviation pre-flight indoctrination. In API, you study the fundamentals of aerodynamics, aviation weather, aircraft engines and systems, flight rules and regulations and an introduction to air navigation. After you complete API you begin flight training as student naval aviators.

Into the Pipeline

As a student naval aviator, you're assigned to one of three Navy installations for training based on the Navy's needs, your interest and your performance. You might be assigned to NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL, if you're training for helicopters or NAS in Corpus Christi, TX, if you're training for multi-engine propeller-driven aircraft. If you're training for jets, you're assigned to the Naval Air Training Unit at Vance Air Force Base in Texas. Training includes classes, simulator training and flight training. During training, you receive a familiarization with the type of aircraft you'll fly and the basic flight instruments. You'll learn precision aerobatics, formation flying, night flying familiarization and radio instruments and operations.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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