Best chance to pilot?

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by brovol, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. brovol

    brovol Member

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    Son hoping for appointments to USMA, USNA, and USAFA (has nominations and completed applications for all three), but would like ultimately to fly jets, although not a requirement in his mind. He and I were discussing which Academy would be best in terms of chances to fly jets, USNA or USAFA (which service has more pilot spots for Academy graduates?). We know zero chance at USMA.

    I understand that it is impossible to predict the future of a particular person, so asking this as a generic question, and looking for opinion and perspective. And while on the subject, who's pilots serve longer, USNA or USAFA?
     
  2. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    It depends. I'll add as a strong caveat that the things that appeal to him now about being a jet pilot are probably not what being a jet pilot (or any pilot) is actually about. The things that will appeal to him (or not) when he gets to that point are things he probably hasn't considered yet, and so I would advise him, and anyone considering the Academies, to not focus on one particular job.

    Traditionally, it's not that hard to get a Navy or Marine pilot spot from USNA (situationally dependent). There are fewer spots by the numbers but fewer people want to fly than at USAFA. In flight school, most people walk away happy from selection provided their performance aligns with their desires. But, again, it depends.

    The missions of the Air Force and the air-side of the Navy are very different, even in seemingly similar aircraft. The possibility of not flying jets (by which I assume you mean F/A type jets, not C/KC type jets...) can be pretty high, and the "other" options are different between Navy/USMC and Air Force. What kind of deployments would he be interested in? What sort of place does he want to live in? What kind of culture does he want to be a part of? What kind of people does he want to be around? Those are just as relevant questions (especially the third one) as "what does he want to fly."
    Both services incur long service commitments after wings: 8 for Navy/USMC and I want to say 10 for USAF. It's very possible to make careers as aviators in either service, but don't discount that a lot of people get burned out after their initial commitment and are ready to move on.

    Also, my fiancee is an USMA grad who now flies hornets in the Marine Corps...so those odds aren't exactly zero.
     
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  3. brovol

    brovol Member

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    Thank you for your great and thoughtful reply. Gives a good perspective, which you have and he doesn't. Very helpful.
     
  4. brovol

    brovol Member

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    Under what circumstances can a grad of west point serve in the marines? Son is very open to marines, but only considered marines as a post USNA option.
     
  5. Usnavy2019

    Usnavy2019 Member

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    Second the advice from Hurricane. Air Force assigns most of their pilots to the Heavies (C-17, KC-135, C-130, etc.) and most USNA grads who graduated from Flight School are flying helos. USMC Aviation is mostly helicopters too. Your DS should base his decision on which service he likes more, not which branch gives him the best chance for jets. I also encourage your son to look at the Naval Flight Officer (NFO ) community. Goose from TOPGUN was an NFO, so that's another avenue to aviation. Both services are offering six figure retention bonuses for their pilots as many people are getting out and joining the commercial airlines.
     
  6. Usnavy2019

    Usnavy2019 Member

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    There is the possibility of doing an inter-service transfer. Usually, there needs to be a one-for-one deal. In this case, the West Point Cadet had to find somebody going into the Marines out of USNA that wanted to go Army.
     
  7. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

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    Always keep in mind--needs of the service--you don't always get what you want. Choose the service you have the greatest interest in.
     
  8. brovol

    brovol Member

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    There are more things that my son would love to do, be it Army, Navy, MC or AF, than what he can think he wouldn't like to do. Essentially, he would love to serve, and looks forward to the opportunity. But when he dreams, more often than not he sees himself flying. His heart won't be broken though if he ends up elsewhere. We were curious about the numbers, and knew many here have a great understanding. So thank you, and please keep educating us.
     
  9. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    The 1 for 1 cross commission thing is a myth. It is not a 1 for 1 trade. We had a West Point grad in my TBS Platoon many moons ago. There are many threads on cross commissioning. These are extremely rare and I would not count on them as a path to a career you want. There are tons of threads on this on the forum.
     
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  10. md403

    md403 Member

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    Latest figures that I was able to scrounge up for FY15. Apologize if numbers are off or out of date.

    HM/HSC/HSL/HSM PILOTS $75K
    VAQ PILOT/NFO $125K/$100K
    VAW/VRC PILOT $125K VAW NFO $75K
    VFA PILOT $125K NFO$75K
    VP/VQ PILOT/NFO $75K
    VQ (T) PILOT $75K NFO $100K

    more information is at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/officer/Detailing/aviation/OCM/Pages/ACCP.aspx hope this helps
     
  11. brovol

    brovol Member

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    How often do they pay those bonuses, and when do you start receiving them? That's pretty attractive.
     
  12. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    On the Air Force side the bonuses are contracted at the time that your aviation service commitment would end, usually about 11-12 years into your career. There is an option for a 5 year extension bonus of $125,000. That money is paid in annual installments of $25,000. There is another option of a 9 year extension bonus of $225,000. This bonus can be taken with 50% ($112,500) in an up-front lump sum at contract signing, and then annual payments of $12,500 for the remainder of the contract term. I am not sure of the Navy bonus terms.

    An additional thing to keep in mind is the flight pay. In addition to their regular pay, pilots get aviation pay which is based on years of aviation experience. It starts out at $125/month in UPT training and goes up incrementally to $650/mo. at 6 years or more. There is another jump to $840/mo. at 14 years of aviation experience. This pay is on top of the bonus money discussed above.

    My son has found that being a jet (fighter) pilot is a lot more than flying fast in jets. There is so much more time devoted to studying, briefing, planning, etc. than there is actual flying. Also, you will have another job in the squadron (weapons, scheduling, training officer, tower duty, etc.) that will take up as much as, or more time than your flying duties.

    To your original question about the chances of a fighter from each Academy, I can't say which has a better chance overall. For actual numbers, the Air Force has 1,970 F or A designated airframes. The Navy has 773 and the Marines have 378 (1,151 between them) so the odds are not too different based solely on numbers. Air Force has more, but as others said above there are not as many USNA grads who are looking to be a pilot.

    Stealth_81
     
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  13. brovol

    brovol Member

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    Fantastic reply. Great info. Thanks a lot.
     
  14. Rocket17

    Rocket17 Member

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    First ya gotta pass the physical... Then there's service selection. Then flight training, which never stops (the toughest school I completed was for a B757/767 type rating at age 57. Career and retirement depended on it).

    USAFA was not an option for me, too competitive in the early '60's. But...
    As a kid I loved boats and airplanes. At USNA the chips fell my way. Happily retired but still flying.

    Bottom line: Do your best, opportunities will be there.
     
  15. JaxNavymom

    JaxNavymom Member

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    Keep in mind there's a reason for the bonuses. My son is wanting to follow in his dad's footsteps and be a military aviator. My husband always thought he would fly jets and after primary training (and graduating from USNA) he was positive he did not want to fly jets. In his selection board the top 3 aviators chose other airframes than jets.

    During my son's application process to plan A and B my husband was away. He missed Christmas and New Year again this year. Our son has moved 9 times in 17 years. The bonuses are nice if you want to make a career out of the military but there are many sacrifices.
    Good Luck and Happy New Year!
     
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  16. Rocket17

    Rocket17 Member

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    Ps: If you want to fly jets off carriers there's only one way. USAF flying is far different.

    +1 what JaxNavyMom said. There's a reason... Most of my holidays were spent "away".
    Among other "factors ". I've got the T-shirts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
  17. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    It is true for the AF too that the bonus is there because you can expect to be away from home quite a lot. Bullet flew the F15E, and between the time my youngest was 4 months old to the time he was 7, he was never home for 1 Halloween. He missed our DS1s 1st Communion and too many birthdays for me to count on top of Thanksgivings, Xmas, Valentines and Easter.
    ~ Our friend left the AF at 11 years when his DS was 8. He had figured out that if he added up all of his deployments and TDYs, he had missed 4 years or 1/2 of his DSs life. He said that he didn't want to look back at retirement and realize he missed almost a decade of his kids life.

    However, those were not hard for me because what you will find as a spouse is a close knit group of friends where you celebrate together. What is hard is when the kiddos get older and the tears start flowing because you tell them that it is time to move again. Bullet and I moved 11 times in 21 years. My eldest two from kindergarten to HS went to 6 different school systems. My youngest went to 5 different school systems. 2 years at 1 school was about average.
    ~ It is easy to make friends when you are the new kid in elementary school, but the time they start hitting middle school it starts to get harder and harder to break into those social circles where the other kids have known each other since 1st grade. Harder to compete for HS fall sports if the folks move in the summer because tryouts may have been at the end of the school year before you even got there. Same with class President or club positions.
    ~~ This is 1 of the reasons a Presidential nomination exists, they know that the kids might have these issues.

    Believe it or not many do not take the bonus, at least for the AF. The reason they don't is many spouses start saying they have had enough already. They want their kids to stay in the same school system, they are tired of buying and selling homes every 2-3 years, and since the kids are probably old enough (in school) they want to start up their career again, instead of changing jobs every few years.

    Do I agree the AF lifestyle is much different than the Navy's lifestyle? Heck, yes! It even starts at how they operate for UPT. If you make it through UPT you will wing with the people that you started with in the beginning. You start and stay at 1 UPT base the entire time. For the AF UPT from start to finish is barely over 1 yr (@54 weeks). If not flying, you are in the squadron studying.
    ~ Our DS is AF pilot (AFROTC), our friends DS is a Navy pilot (USNA). They both graduated/commissioned within days of each other. The USNA grad started UPT in mid July 2012. Winged July 2014. DS startd UPT Apr 2013, and winged April 2014. USNA grad went straight to his carrier where they finished up his airframe training. He was operational @Aug 2015. DS went to a school house for his airframe for 6 months and than to his operational base in Feb. He was operational Mar. 2015.
    ~ The AF is constantly called the corporate branch.

    Finally, just a little correction for the AF bonus. The fighters get the 225K, not the heavies. The heavies get the 5 yr. with the ability to sign another 5 year. Tallying out to be about the same. Both bonuses work the same. 50% upfront with the remaining done in installments every Oct 1st. The big difference is that for fighters there is no 5 year option, it is 9 years. For heavies there is no 9 year option, it is 5 yrs.
    ~ Caveat maybe it has changed again.
    ~ Also the bonus, at least the last I knew is offered at 10 yrs (right when the initial commitment is up). The idea for the 9 yrs is because what pilot is going to leave at the 19 year marker? Thus, from a manpower perspective they basically know the number on the hook for field grade fighter pilots for the next decade.

    Now with all of that being said, so much can change in the next 5-10 years for him personally and the military. Our friends DS entered USNA wanting to be a SWO, than it was subs, and eventually it became pilot. He went with all options on the table. His parents had whiplash everytime he changed his mind...aka where the heck did that come from since it was really 180 degree turn!? ! ?
    ~ He met his bride at USNA, and she too is a pilot now (she flies heavies, he flies fighters) Thus, in reality in years to come when babies come, my bet is 1 of them will not accept the bonus. This is why you can't really gauge which branch has members that stay longer because life gets in the way. In this example, maybe her career at that bonus time is on fire, and he decides to go airlines. I have seen that happen several times. Maybe they will both stay in, or maybe they will both get out.

    Take 1 day at a time, and just enjoy these moments. When he needs to decide it will all work out the way it is suppose to be. Trust me, it goes by in a blink of an eye.
     
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  18. JaxNavymom

    JaxNavymom Member

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    Pima, you are spot on that things can change fast! My husband planned while at USNA to select jets do the required time and fly commercial. At 18 years in He flies C40's for the Navy and did get to fly in a jet once - loved it but not for a career. His buddy that flew him got out of the Navy first chance he had. My husband is thinking 25. After this tour the move will be tough. Another high school, middle school, and elementary school. Our oldest son is thrilled to be graduating hoping NROTC or USNA pick him up but he has C&D all set. He's happy to go to a school for 4 years straight without having to move.
    Now this was a few years ago but coincidentally my roommate in college was dating a AFA cadet while I was dating a mid. Her boyfriend did not select pilot
    but I don't think he was top of the class either! Whereas mine did. Obviously much has changed but it was an oddity to talk about!
    The military becomes your 2nd family! It's a ride I never expected. The friends along the way are amazing though!!!

    The Presidential nomination us a blessing when your child attend 3 high schools. Not easy to be part of student council or captain of sports team when no one knows you! Sports have been his saving grace during the moves though!
     
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  19. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    You'll need to read the FY16 bonus details that were released on December 15.

    Stealth_81
     
  20. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Notice my caveat stating it may have changed Stealth.

    This also goes back to my point...things change, especially for the bonuses and commitments.

    I remember when Bullet was young there was an upheaval because the commitment changed almost yearly. There were pilots that owed 9, and the next thing they knew the new pilots owed 8. There were pilots that because of their yr group got 100K and the next yr group got 125K.
    ~ Getting in the weeds here, but you know that bonus is not tied to commissioning, but winging. Wing in FY 15, and wing in FY16 will matter when it comes down to the fact if they change the bonus.

    Timing is everything!

    I would also say to brovol, I would throw any of this conversation of bonuses out the window.
    1. Airlines will be hiring at a very high rate for the next 5-10 years, but for your child you are looking at 16 years from now when they can bolt.
    ~ Nobody saw 9/11 happening. Airlines took a huge hit and stopped hiring. The huge hiring rate is due to the fact that many of their pilots come from the military. The FAA requires them to stop flying at a certain age. Hence, right now they are losing pilots at a very fast rate because they took the bonus and retired out of the military, thus hitting the FAA age limit in the next 5-10 years. Now the military is throwing money hand over fist to keep the younger ones from going commercial.
    ~~ Commercial pilots is simple...line number. Keep your nose clean, and you will move from the right to left seat based purely on the fact of when you were hired. Very appealing to some pilots. No 2nd job like Stealth discussed. Commercial pilots are commonly referred to as busdrivers in the sky.
    2. Nobody can predict the future.
    ~ Bullet checked the square for Gulf I, ONW, OSW, OIF and OEF between 1990 and 2008.
    ~ Nobody really believed that sequestration would happen, but it did and it is still in effect.

    I am only a spouse, but I will say that if I was granted 1 wish, I would ask to turn back time and do it all over again without a blink of an eye. It is not only because I still have friends that I met in 1989 as an O1 wife, but because Bullet would come home and say...I can'y believe they pay me to do this!

    Do not mistake this with the fact that it is a hard life at times too.
    ~ My DS (AF C130J pilot) was unable to come home for his grandmothers funeral.
    ~~ He has not been home for a Thanksgiving or Xmas since 2013. He will celebrate his 2nd wedding anniversary with his wife on a different continent.
    ~ We bought and sold 5 homes times in less than 13 years.
    ~~ By my count, we also packed and unpacked 250,000 pounds of household items over those 20 years. Don't even get me started on the damage/stolen claims! Basically, you just get to a point where you say...screw it I won't claim it because of the amount of paperwork required to get back the $30 crockpot that was broken.

    In the end, for me is if he wants to fly, that is great. However, at 17 he has yet to think about being 30 with a wife, mtg, car pmts and kids in preschool. He is yet to think about the little things like the holidays. He cannot fathom any of it.
    ~ My DS did not apply to USNA or USMA. He wanted to serve, but not in a tank or on a boat, He would have been happy chair flying for the AF if he did not get UPT. He knew he could not say the same for the Army or Navy
    ~~ No offense to either branch. Bullet as an AF flier also was an ALO with the 82nd and went to CGSC at Leavenworth, so he also saw the Army life as a dependent child.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
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