Basics of Becoming a Pilot

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by IrishDancer, Jul 28, 2009.

  1. IrishDancer

    IrishDancer Member

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    While I've always thought that I'd go SWO if I went to USNA I've recently been thinking about flying. However I don't really know much about the path to get there and what happens after. Could anyone give me a basic picture of what your career would look like, starting with what you should major in? Also, I've always wanted to be an astronaut but never thought it could happen until I started looking at the Naval Academy. So does anyone have any idea about how you get into the space program and how hard it is to get accepted?
     
  2. Iceman

    Iceman New Member

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    From going to the summer seminars at the USAFA and USNA. They all said it really doesn't matter what you major in to become an aviator. Becoming an astronaut is based on how well you're a pilot and experience.

    Straight from NASA website:

    The first U.S. astronauts were selected in 1959, before human spaceflight operations began. NASA asked the military services to provide a list of personnel who met specific qualifications. After stringent screening, NASA announced its selection of seven men, all pilots, as the first American astronauts. NASA has selected 18 more groups of astronauts since the “Original Seven.” The backgrounds of NASA’s latest group of Astronaut Candidates include schoolteachers, doctors, scientist, and engineers.

    NASA selects astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds. From the thousands of applications received, only a few are chosen for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program. Including the “Original Seven”, only 321 astronauts have been selected to date.

    Hope this helps. Goodluck
     
  3. SteveHolt243

    SteveHolt243 Member

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    Major doesn't matter at all. No matter what people will tell you. It won't help you get pilot, and it won't help you do better in flight school. Choose what you want to study and what you will do well in.

    Beyond that, um, what do you want to know? Kind of a broad question.
     
  4. mombee

    mombee Banned

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    Definitely doable but start now. There are two ways now to get in, pilot or mission specialist. I would think that the moon missions will have the same two types. Probably the best odds is pilot. Set yourself up to excel at USNA. Top 10% of your class. Major in aero. Do an internship or two at NASA and get to know people. Hit Pensacola running. Get tactical jets. Do well in your squadron. Apply to and select TPS. Do well. (This is why you major in aero). Complete the masters degree which partially comes with TPS. Fly. Build tactical jet hours. Make friends with recent selectees. Mentors are invaluable. Apply at around your 10 yr mark. If you have done all the above and done it well, you will be surprised how small the pool you are competing in.

    The qualifications for mission specialist are much more varied so the pool can be huge. Education is probably more important. Also, further down the line, rumor is that the Mars probe will carry a couple of MDs. A TPS grad tactical jet pilot with a MD would probably be almost a guarantee. How bad do you want it?

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  5. SteveHolt243

    SteveHolt243 Member

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    I just wanted to see that printed again.



    Anyways. I should clarify. If you want pilot, any major will do, and you don't even really need to be that high ranked. If you decide you really want to be an astronaut, follow mombee's advice.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  6. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I can't speak for the Navy, but for the AF it is a very, very long haul.

    Col. Mike Goode, was on the last shuttle (repaired the Hubble). Mike went to UNT in 1987, FTU in 88, Operational 89, Test Pilot School in 92, spent 5 yrs at Edwards, was selected for NASA in 97, and spent 12 yrs there before his family sat in the stands and heard T-10 to lift off.

    You can't apply for test pilot just because you want to, you need command support (squadron and wing), and then the TPS board must select you to be able to attend. You need jet hours and be the best of the best at your operational squadron. The same with NASA, you meet a board and they select you, just because you went to Test Pilot doesn't mean you can put NASA on your dream sheet.

    I am not trying to be a downer, just putting the reality, that it is highly unlikely that you will be up in space at the ripe old age of 32!

    I will also say we probably know 5 guys from the 111 that went to Test, Mike was the only one selected by NASA...we all thought it was going to be a different Mike, but he never got the call. The other Mike was DG out of UNT, FTU, and TPS. He was selected for TPS as a newly minted Capt, Mike Goode went to TPS when he had 8 yrs under his belt. The beauty of Col Goode's story is that he washed out of UPT, was given a desk to fly, and then accepted to UNT. He never gave up or lost sight that one day he would be seeing the Earth from outer space.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  7. mombee

    mombee Banned

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    Someone made a very pertinent observation in another thread today that each service is different. If you want to be an astronaut, it is probably a good thing you are looking at USNA. Equal or greater selection from a much much smaller pool. The last class had two Navy and one Air Force.
     
  8. mombee

    mombee Banned

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    I can see it now. Some 2014 candidate reads this, files it away, and follows this exact career path. Half way through med school he finds out that NASA has discovered that the only individual in the world with a bigger ego than a jet jock is a doctor and putting two of the combination of both in a space capsule for two years would certainly result in a disaster so they have scrubbed the whole idea.

    However, two of the selectees this year were MDs.
     
  9. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    mombee,

    I know you are new to this site, but every yr this topic comes up, and every yr it goes into which branch has more Astronauts, yadda, yadda, yadda(typically I believe it always comes out 50-50, or 51-49, the Navy is not a blow out winner 2 to1 as you are suggesting). I am not going down that road. The point and only point is that it is not an easy path, you suggest they intern at NASA, and make connections there. The reality is they 1st need to go to flight school, graduate at the top, be the TOP GUN in their operational squadron, get support to go test pilot school, knock it out the ballpark there to be able to apply to NASA and get accepted, the connections they made a decade ago are long gone or they won't remember you.It really takes a decade to just get to the pt where you submit your name for NASA, and your Wing King could give a rats behind if you knew someone there 10 yrs ago. He/She is looking at how you handle the stick, because it is his name on the line that says supports.

    If you are saying intern as a doc, it is also more than that. Our last 2 flight docs were Flight docs for NASA, F-15E flight docs. They never got the call to go up in a shuttle, instead they were always sent TDY to the divert bases for the shuttle, one was always sent to Edwards, the other was sent to Australia. There are alot of hoops that they go through to become a flight doc for NASA, and it takes a long time to climb that ladder.
     
  10. mombee

    mombee Banned

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  11. SteveHolt243

    SteveHolt243 Member

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    A much better plan than all this junk.

    Get real rich.

    Pay the Russians.
     
  12. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Yeah, but that isn't even true since Lance Bass never got his ride!:shake:
     
  13. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    "Astronaut MDs" Seriously? They are FLIGHT SURGEONS.

    Gets better. TWO USAFA grads, 0 USNA grads in that link.

    EVEN BETTER. 3 Air Force, 2 Navy.

    Great link to MSNBC
     
  14. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    You know I love you hornet, but you just proved my point that the thread will not take a hard turn and become about AF vs Navy, who has more, where you have a better chance...or worse yet, it will become Astronaut MDs vs Flight surgeon, or the words jet jock and fighter jock.

    None of that is important. the fact is you probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning than going up in a shuttle, or flying for the Thunderbirds/Blue Angels...Think about it, how many aircrews are in the Navy, AF, Marines or Army, and how many are at NASA? Maybe 1 in tens of thousands get selected out of all that are current flyers. Mike Gode went with 2 other guys to TPS out of 300 flyers from our base, also the 1st guys to ever be selected in the 3 yrs we were there...Wings PCS about 1/3 a yr, that means just out of our base the number was closer to 500-600(300 in 89, 100 leave, 100 new =400 flyers for 90, 100 leave 100 replaced, means 500 for 91). The other 2 were never selected for NASA Add into the equation you will probably be close or past retirement when you get up there. We haven't spoken to Mike or Joan in yrs, saw him at the O'Club 2 yrs ago, but I would bet that Mike has now officially submitted his retirement papers and will move over to the dark side working for NASA.

    Not saying don't go for it, just saying the path is very long and the reality is you first need to be accepted to the SA, graduate from the SA, get a UPT slot, graduate the top of the top to get a fighter, graduate from FTU, go operational, get command sponsored to apply for TPS, get selected for TPS, graduate, get command sponsor to apply for NASA, and get selected. You have at least 8 MAJOR hurdles to clear, and that is for a Pilot...now most flight surgeons out of the AF, go UPT first, than apply for med school, they don't go TPS, they apply as a flight surgeon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  15. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    mmm, I'm more making the point that mombee's assessment was absurd. Didn't mean to do a AF vs. Navy.
     
  16. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    You didn't, but somebody else will take the ball and run with it to argue over Astronaut MDS...or that Navy has more, it's just how it works.

    I agree, nobody in the flying community would call them Astronaut MDs they would call them FLIGHT SURGEONS...just like I have never heard in 20 yrs as a spouse to a fighter guy the term, jet jocks, fighter jocks, yes, jet jocks no, but both of these could be Navy terms and we are wrong. Always give the benefit of the doubt.
     
  17. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Tough?

    AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

    The #1 Astro grad in my class, TPS graduate (#2 in his class) and the guru of all things F-16...applied annually for about 10 years to NASA and made it to the finals...but was NOT selected.

    It's incredibly difficult!!!

    He's still a brilliant guy though!

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  18. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Bullet felt the same way when he was an ALO and they came in with air support!

    BTW back on topic, Mike knew for over 4 yrs what his mission was going to be, and what shuttle he would be on...it is not like UPT for pilots, and go operational in a yr...they are selected and train for a specific mission. Mike probably got selected because his undergrad from NOTRE DAME was in EE, and they didn't need an aerospace engineer to fix it, they needed an electrical engineer. That's my guess, and it was his too when we saw him at the Club for an airshow
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  19. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Luckily Bullet never had broken parts, but as ALO FC he was thankful for the fire dept, when one of his guys fell and got caught in a tree after a night drop. They had to bring the cherry picker.

    The funniest part of the story, is they all got back to Ft Bragg, did a cranium count and realized that they left him out there...I still chuckle about it, one, because I can imagine him screaming "Yo guys up here" and then cursing as the buses drive away. The second is 30 guys coming back and scouring the zone to see him stuck in a tree, and them realizing it will be a couple of hours before they get home (real home not base)...I am sure that every swear word ever created was used, plus some made up ones!
     
  20. mombee

    mombee Banned

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    First off, this is a USNA candidate asking about the space program, not an AFA candidate. My advice was that the pilot position was probably 'easier' than the mission specialist position for somene headed for the Academy. "Easier" being meaning they have more control over their destiny. The paths between the two services are similiar but not the same. Even though the TPS opportunities are much smaller in the Navy, again the competition is less. Most of those who want to excel as Naval Aviators and are the very best will attempt Fighter Weapons School instructor duty out of their first squadron. Then for TPS, college grades and majors are paramount. This is the major hurdle, to get into TPS, probably as important as NASA selection itself. If Pima is correct, it seems that the AF squadron CO's endorsement might perhaps be of greater importance in the AF than the Navy but we can never know for sure and it really is not that important. And when Astronaut selection time comes, TPS being the major hurdle, the Navy pool of qualified candidates is much much smaller. This was my only comment. Pima and hornetguy have tried to escalate it into an interservice rivalry. All I was saying was that a Navy candidate has an EQUAL (or greater) chance with much much less competition than an AF candidate. True. Probably one can count on one hand the number of Navy applicants who were truly qualified for pilot positions this year. Then I pointed out that this year it was a 2:1 Navy/Air Force ratio for pilots. The pilot ratio was important only because this is the focus of my advice, not mission specialist. Pima could very well be correct, it could be more likely to be struck by lightening than to be selected as a mission specialist. But I haven't heard of any pilots getting struck by lightening in the last 40 years so probably she is exaggerating grossly. Anyway, I made no reference to the Academys here or attempted in any way to start an interservice discussion. It seems perhaps that this is hornetguy's agenda.

    Secondly, the msnbc article is for ASTRONAUT selectees, not staff NASA positions. Two are MDs who happen to presently be staff flight surgeons. However, they are now Astronauts. They competed for and were selected from the thousands of mission specialist applications. They will go into space, unlike the staff flight surgeon positions Pima described earlier.

    Pima, hornetguy, please do not read into my posts that which was not intended. My advice was to a NAVY candidate and my advice was to go pilot. There are many many dissimilarities between the Navy path and the AF path.
     

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