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Re: The road ahead to becoming a pilot.

  •  09-06-2005, 8:53 PM

    Re: The road ahead to becoming a pilot.

    From what i've read it appears the best roads into getting into pilot training (upt) are either through the airforce academy or by enrolling into afrotc while working on getting some sort of technical degree at your college. chances of you becoming a pilot if you enlist into the airforce after highschool or go into officer training school (ots) after college seem pretty steep. so rotc is what i'm doing while majoring in computer engineering. Get good grades and perform well in afrotc and you shouldn't have to worry too much about getting into upt. Extra things help too. Like for me i'm currenty taking lessons to get a private pilots license which will look real good. For you it could be sports or something. Anyways once in upt.....well i'll paste you an email a usaf pilot sent me about that. Its a few months old and by the time you graduate the f16s and f15s might say f35 and f22...

    "There is very little luck that comes into play when being selected for a fighter assignment. UPT is tailored around performance so let me take a minute to explain what happens in UPT.

    There are 3 phases to UPT. The first phase is about 6 weeks and consists only of academics. You will learn about general aviation stuff and aircraft systems. You will have a handfull of academic tests during this period as well. As this phase comes to a close you will move over to the flight line and join a flying squadron.

    This is phase 2 and consists of flying either the T-37 or more likely in your case, the T-6 Texan II. While each sortie is graded, the only flights that really have a large impact on your standing are the checkrides. There are 3 parts to phase 2. You have the contact phase which you will learn how to fly the jet, land the jet, stall and recover the jet and learn other basic airmanship skills. After this you will practice aerobatics. You will have a checkride on all of this at the end of the contact phase. You will then start flying formation and learning those skills. You will have another checkride at the end of formation. The last phase in Phase 2 is the instrument phase where you learn to use your instruments for navigation in the weather. You will have a checkride at the end once again.

    After all the flying is done, your flight commander will rank everyone in the class based on the folling things in order of weight:

    1. Checkride scores
    2. Flight Commander ranking
    3. Daily Scores
    4. Academic scores

    Checkrides hold the most weight and can make or break you. After everyone is ranked the each member of the class turns in a preference worksheet. This paper requests the aircraft you fly for Phase 3 which is the last phase of UPT. The selection options for Phase 3 are:

    1. T-38 Leads to Fighters/bombers
    2. T-1 Leads to transport/tanker
    3. T-44 Leads to C-130's
    4. UH-1 Leads to helicopters

    The flight commander then starts the matching process giving the number 1 student their first choice, number 2 their first choice if still available and so on. A typical class size is 24-28 student and there are usually between 3-7 T-38's to be assigned out. This is where the luck comes in. If you're lucky your class will have a heavy T-38 drop. If you are ranked 1 or 2 you don't need to worry about what the drop will be however as you can be pretty sure you'll get a T-38.

    After getting selected for T-38's the same process begins again. The difference is that you only have 2 weeks of academics this time before you start flying. You basically have the same phases in Phase 3. Contact, formation, instruments but now we add low level. You get ranked again based on flight performance, flight commander ranking and academic performance. This time new assignments come out. Each T-38 student ranks the following aircraft:

    1. F-16
    2. F-15E
    3. F-15C
    4. A-10
    5. T-38 Instructor
    6. T-37/T-6 Instructor
    7. B-1
    8. B-2
    9. B-52

    Those are in no particular order. You'll notice that numbers 5 and 6 are instructors. They do select people to graduate pilot training and return right back to teach. At the end of that 3 year tour they then find out which airframe they will be going to. A typicall drop for a class of 6-7 is 2x F-16, 1x F-15C, 1x T-38, 1x T-37/T-6, 1x B-52. Some classes will not have a T-37/6 or a B-52 but will have other aircraft instead. A-10's are pretty common but not as common as F-16's and F-15's. F-15E's are pretty rare to see in a drop. B-2's are extremely rare and are given out maybe twice a year.

    Ok, so all that being said how do you become a fighter pilot? You need to be at least a good pilot to get fighters. You don't have to be magically great, just good. They will teach you everything you need to know and give you every opportunity at UPT to become a good pilot. As long as you work hard at it, the average UPT student should not have a difficult time becoming a good pilot.

    You need to be able to make decisions in the jet and then live with your decisions. The IP's (instructor pilot) want to see that you're thinking and at least taking some action. They expect the majority of your decisions to be bad ones because you just don't have the experience, but they at least want you making them. They know you'll learn to make the good decisions throughout the year of training, that's what its for.

    Have a good attitude. This one will probably carry you the furthest. You need to have a good attitude no matter what happens. If you have a bad day and you bust (fail) a ride you need to keep that good attitude. You need to be willing to help your classmates out even though some are competing against you for fighters. If the IPs see you holding back information or not helping your classmates you will have a very hard time getting fighters. Don't be cocky and think you know more than the IP. There is a reason why they are IPs and why you'll be a student. Understand this but know that if you've got a question about what they are saying or about something they're doing in the jet ASK. IPs are people and people make mistakes. Just don't be cocky about it.

    Be prepared every day. You WILL have very long days. Days will last 12 hours during phase 2. You will then go home, eat dinner, study and prepare for 2-3 hours and then go to bed. If one night you think you don't need to study at all or do anything to get ready for tomorrows flight you are wrong. During UPT there is always something to be looked at, read, reviewed whatever. That's your only purpose in life for those 3-4 months in Phase 2. Phase 3 is a lot more chill and requires a little less time, especially if you learn what you need to in Phase 2. You will hear about chair flying at UPT. This is a must and will really help you on your flights. Chair flying is just going through the whole flight in your head from how I'm going to start the jet to the radio calls I'll be making down to where I'm going to be looking durning X maneuver. I still do this today but to a very different extent. Even today I still mentally review what I'm going to do, maybe not in very great detail, but I still walk myself through the flight.

    That's a lot of info but hopefully it'll give you some perspective on how the whole thing works. There's not much you can do right now to prepare. You can get your PPL if you want. That will help you get a pilot slot. Other than that, just do well in school to set yourself up to get the UPT slot to get all this rolling. If you don't get a slot the rest of this is a moot point.

    Last bit of advice to you. If you look at the whole process it is very easy to become overwhelmed and thing there's no way I'm going to get a fighter. However, if you break it down things are very managable, and thats what you need to do. Take things one day at a time. If you decide that tomorrow is going to be a great flight and I'm going to do everything to make it great you're on the right track. Before you know it tomorrow's flight will be a checkride and you'll be set up for success. The next checkride will be here before you know it and next thing you know you'll be standing up infront of everyone getting your T-38 assignment for Phase 3. Break it down and its very possible to get fighters. If you don't you'll be more worried about the whole program than tomorrow's ride and lose sight of what's important."
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