Becoming a pilot

So I have been offered a Falcon Foundation Scholarship, which I am told is basically a golden ticket if I complete the program. My dream is to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, but I have no desire to become a commercial airline pilot later in life. If I become a pilot am I basically stuck with being a pilot for the rest of my life because that's all I am trained in, or are there other career opportunities after I retire? Any input would be appreciated!
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
So I have been offered a Falcon Foundation Scholarship, which I am told is basically a golden ticket if I complete the program. My dream is to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, but I have no desire to become a commercial airline pilot later in life. If I become a pilot am I basically stuck with being a pilot for the rest of my life because that's all I am trained in, or are there other career opportunities after I retire? Any input would be appreciated!
So, read this bio, this AF pilot did okay:

https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/about_usaa_corporate_governance_ceo?akredirect=true

If link doesn't get you to the bio, just google "USAA CEO Stuart Parker."


Your value to the civilian work force after you leave the AF, whether you separate after your initial obligation or retire after a full career or something in between, will be the white-collar skills you bring in leadership, resource management, your security clearance, your work ethic, your proven ability to master complex situations and make decisions.

There are numerous threads throughout all the SA and ROTC forums about the huge potential to build a great career out of uniform. Airlines, yes, but that is one of your many future job skills - corporate America actively recruits JMOs, junior military officers.

You will either get your Master's while serving or use the Post 9 /11 GI Bill after you get out.

Have some fun and google:
Service Academy Career Conference
Military MoJo
Bradley-Morris
Lucas Group
Orion
Hiring Our Heroes


There are hundreds of organizations who help veterans transition, as well as dedicated veteran recruiters at many large corporations.

First things first, though it's always good to look way down the road - ace your prep, get the appointment, succeed at USAFA, see where you find yourself going career-wise.

Military pilots do know how to do a few more things than fly...
 

6KDogwhistle

5-Year Member
It's good to know what you want and set goals early in life. I can totally relate to that. I'll throw in a couple of suggestions from an old man's perspective.
Historically, you have the best shot at getting a SUPT slot out of the academy, so you are headed in the right path. If you want to increase the odds of flying pointy nose aircraft, do well at the zoo/ROTC and secure a ENJJPT slot. F/A designated jets are never guaranteed in any program but everything you do is about increasing yours odds, right?!
You may think that you want to fly fighters and pull g's right now but you won't know fully until you hit the flight line in SUPT (or well into the T-6 program). Me personally, I'd stick with the regular SUPT to keep your options open. The military flying (especially the perceptive glamour) is nothing like what you see in the movies and/or ads. You'd have to experience it and talk to pilots in each of the weapons systems. There's a reason why the AF is short of so many fighter pilots at the moment. Perhaps, the Air Force leadership will learn from their past. I'll just leave it at that as I don't want to burst anyone's bubble.
In regards to your question...the short answer is "no". Though a pilot's primary duty is to be a pilot, Uncle Sam definitely doesn't seem to think so. Unless things have changed (I doubt it), you will be an expert at just about every additional duty there is, especially as a junior officer. After all, Uncle Sam seems to think that everyone will make O-7 or better. Seriously though, you will become intimately familiar with the day to day operations of your wing/group/squadron by the time they are through with you. If you take advantage of the higher education programs (ie. masters and beyond, safety school, TPS if that's your thing, etc.), you will have a nice little resume for your second career after you have successfully completed your 20+ years.
For now, keep plugging away at your immediate goals and getting through the program. Happy hunting and enjoy the ride.
 

DrMom

5-Year Member
In your life, you are never stuck! As an officer in the Air Force you will bring tremendous leadership and organizational skills to any future career or job. Eight to ten years from now you could decide to go to medical school--even after you are a pilot (maybe you will have a 'been there/done that/want to serve humanity' thing in your mind.)

Going to USAFA and becoming an aviator...this opens doors, not closes them.
 

pa_ptmom

Member
Are any particular majors better to pursue at the academy if the goal is pilot? Wondering if your major should reflect short term or long term career thinking by a cadet ?
 

6KDogwhistle

5-Year Member
Are any particular majors better to pursue at the academy if the goal is pilot? Wondering if your major should reflect short term or long term career thinking by a cadet ?
I don't know the current state of affairs but I'll chime in. The Air Force likes people with technical majors-engineering, science, and math. There are more technical scholarships than non-tech. After all, the Air Force is the most "techy" service of them all. Back in the day, cadets pursuing a technical degree had a leg up in getting a pilot slot. Again, I don't know what it's like these days.
Once you're in SUPT, none of this matters. Though not always the case, some of the worst pilots I've flown with (students as well) were Einsteins with an engineering/science degree and some of the best sticks were Joe average jocks with a degree in underwater fire prevention. If you can add and multiply in your head at an average pace, you'll be fine. Differential equation has no place in the cockpit.:rolleyes:
If you are a high achiever and want a shot at attending TPS, I believe a technical degree is still required but don't quote me. I personally recommend getting a technical degree, if you are able and have the desire, simply because it opens up more doors down the road. JMHO. It is quite a bit more work than pursuing a liberal arts degree but it's well worth it in the end IMO. It definitely helped me out in landing jobs in and out of the cockpit/Air Force.
 
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Badfinger

Member
Are any particular majors better to pursue at the academy if the goal is pilot? Wondering if your major should reflect short term or long term career thinking by a cadet ?
IMO, and what I told my two sons all along (now 17 and 19), that something related to the medical field would be a good to get into. The need for medical care, new medicines and new technologies will only continue to increase.
 

rkv

Member
... Me personally, I'd stick with the regular SUPT ...
While I've seen them in the acronym list and I don't mean to hijack this thread, would someone be willing to provide further details as to the meaning and differences between "UPT"and "SUPT"? Does "regular SUPT" imply there are different variants of "SUPT"? Are there dependencies or sequencing such as UPT before SUPT? Thanks.
 

Stealth_81

Super Moderator
10-Year Member
Founding Member
SUPT and UPT can usually be used interchangeably. Technically what people refer to as UPT is actually SUPT or Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. The "Specialized" was added back in the '90s when the T-1 track was added. Previous to that all trainees went from primary to the T-38. When the T-1 track was added and training split between the fighter/bomber (T-38) and the heavy (T-1) tracks they added the "Specialized".

The term UPT actually includes all pilot training programs such as SUPT, ENJJPT, and JSUPT (the joint training program at Pensacola which is now defunct).

Stealth_81
 

Stealth_81

Super Moderator
10-Year Member
Founding Member
Are any particular majors better to pursue at the academy if the goal is pilot? Wondering if your major should reflect short term or long term career thinking by a cadet ?
Any major can become a pilot. As was said above, your major really means nothing once you start UPT. It's a good idea to look down the road at what you want when choosing a major, but it has no effect on pilot selection. My son was a Behavioral Science major at USAFA because he finds people's behavior interesting. Having a major that he enjoyed made it easier for him to excel academically there. He is getting his masters now in a management field because he enjoys business. (He plans on an MBA as well but he is waiting on that to go through a better program than he could do right now).

In my opinion your major should be what you enjoy, regardless of pilot training.

Stealth_81
 

Stealth_81

Super Moderator
10-Year Member
Founding Member
So I have been offered a Falcon Foundation Scholarship, which I am told is basically a golden ticket if I complete the program. My dream is to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, but I have no desire to become a commercial airline pilot later in life. If I become a pilot am I basically stuck with being a pilot for the rest of my life because that's all I am trained in, or are there other career opportunities after I retire? Any input would be appreciated!
I'll just say that you shouldn't rule out anything in the future. My son had always thought that he had no desire to be a commercial pilot after the AF. However his exposure to others who have gone that route has led him to think that he may want that. The airlines are making the job more and more enticing.

Stealth_81
 

Cdiff

Member
I don't know the current state of affairs but I'll chime in. The Air Force likes people with technical majors-engineering, science, and math. There are more technical scholarships than non-tech. After all, the Air Force is the most "techy" service of them all. Back in the day, cadets pursuing a technical degree had a leg up in getting a pilot slot. Again, I don't know what it's like these days.
Once you're in SUPT, none of this matters. Though not always the case, some of the worst pilots I've flown with (students as well) were Einsteins with an engineering/science degree and some of the best sticks were Joe average jocks with a degree in underwater fire prevention. If you can add and multiply in your head at an average pace, you'll be fine. Differential equation has no place in the cockpit.:rolleyes:
If you are a high achiever and want a shot at attending TPS, I believe a technical degree is still required but don't quote me. I personally recommend getting a technical degree, if you are able and have the desire, simply because it opens up more doors down the road. JMHO. It is quite a bit more work than pursuing a liberal arts degree but it's well worth it in the end IMO. It definitely helped me out in landing jobs in and out of the cockpit/Air Force.
"Underwater fire prevention" this made my day
 

DrMom

5-Year Member
Thanks Stealth. I know that you all use UPT all the time--and I had no idea about the pilot training pipeline.
Actually. coming from working with Marines and the DoN, it is bizarre to read that you all use 'pilot' rather than 'aviator.'
 

Christcorp

10-Year Member
One little add on about your major; if it wasn't already mentioned.

As said, the air force couldn't care less what your major is, for being a pilot. You can have a degree in behavioral science, history, engineering, computers, or anything else you can think of. They don't care and your degree will not affect your chances of getting a pilot/UPT slot. Matter of fact, normally the academy CAN'T GET ENOUGH cadets to apply for pilot. As such, they turn over a lot remaining slots to ROTC.

I know, this sound pretty confusing when you hear how EVERYONE who applies to the academy wants to be a pilot. Well, the truth is, one of 2 things happen.
1. YOU GREW UP!!! A 17 year old doesn't necessarily think like a 20 year old does. Your tastes, desires, ambitions, etc. change.
2. REALITY SETS IN!!! Either you realize there are a lot more jobs in the air force than you thought and you find other interests, or you realize that maybe the air force isn't something you want to do for the next 20+ years. And therefor, you're not quite eager to commit to a MINIMUM of 10 years to be a pilot.

But there is one path as a pilot, that you will want to consider when deciding a major. If by chance, your dreams include possibly becoming a test pilot or getting involved in the NASA program, you will need a degree in the aero/astro/similar engineering type fields. Don't confuse test pilot with instructor pilot. Any degree will let you be a pilot. The air force doesn't care. But for test pilot, nasa, or similar special duty type flying jobs, the engineering type degrees i mentioned would pretty much be required.
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
I don't know the current state of affairs but I'll chime in. The Air Force likes people with technical majors-engineering, science, and math. There are more technical scholarships than non-tech. After all, the Air Force is the most "techy" service of them all. Back in the day, cadets pursuing a technical degree had a leg up in getting a pilot slot. Again, I don't know what it's like these days.
Once you're in SUPT, none of this matters. Though not always the case, some of the worst pilots I've flown with (students as well) were Einsteins with an engineering/science degree and some of the best sticks were Joe average jocks with a degree in underwater fire prevention. If you can add and multiply in your head at an average pace, you'll be fine. Differential equation has no place in the cockpit.:rolleyes:
If you are a high achiever and want a shot at attending TPS, I believe a technical degree is still required but don't quote me. I personally recommend getting a technical degree, if you are able and have the desire, simply because it opens up more doors down the road. JMHO. It is quite a bit more work than pursuing a liberal arts degree but it's well worth it in the end IMO. It definitely helped me out in landing jobs in and out of the cockpit/Air Force.
This made me laugh too.

Underwater fire prevention is handy for Navy sub officers, I will say.

You just never know who the natural pilot will be. We had two USNA sponsor mids, roommates, one a studious EE major who graduated very high in his class. His roomie stayed up late to play video games, majored in Econ, ensured he was high enough in the class to get aviation, but in general allowed himself a lot of play time. They classed up at Pensacola together, roomed together. Econ roomie settled down and did well in ground school. Guess who aced every training hop first time around and ended up higher in his section? EE major took too long to think about things in the cockpit, and Econ guy just relaxed into the groove. They both went on to success in their careers and are still doing well. They still rag on each other. Yes, it's good to understand theory and mechanics of your plane, but flying it involves others parts of the brain and skills.
 

raimius

10-Year Member
There are no required majors to be a pilot. That said, I recommend picking something you enjoy. The better your grades, the better your order of merit (which is the main factor in assigning you a career field!). Do well in your classes so you get "first pick" in your AFSC selection (it's more complex than that, but that's a different topic).

If you go to USAFA and pay attention, you'll have plenty of math and science to understand aviation.
If you want to be a test pilot or astronaut, get an engineering or hard science degree.
 

flieger83

Super Moderator
10-Year Member
I'll use me as an example...BSME grad from USAFA...went to UPT 20 days after graduation. I spent the next 12+ years flying on active duty in three aircraft types: trainer, heavy, fighter. I married a pilot; we were based apart...after Desert Storm we were going to be based apart on overseas tours; I left active duty for a traditional active reserve slot. EGAD!!! I had to find a job!! I still was a pilot in the AFRC but...at the time, nobody was hiring caucasian pilots...huge EEOC law suit with the airlines had just been settled. So...

I've worked as a tech support person for a major computer company (yeah, they guy you called on the phone for help) until my bosss realized I had an engineering degree; I then ended up in test/development and ultimately as the Director of Government Sales. From there I went to be an air ambulance pilot...loved that! Unfortunately I was furloughed from that...and was hired as a "Staff Electrical Engineer" at Motorola, working on micromachined accelerometers used in airbag systems. Note, my degree is NOT electrical engineering! I asked why they hired me? "Steve...you're a military officer so you'll understand hierarchy, the need to be self-reliant, and you'll know how to logic things out. And you got an engineering degree at one of the three service academies (they left out USMMA and USCGA, probably because they didn't know them) and we know what that takes. The EE stuff...we'll teach you that."

I did that for four years before Motorola imploded and I returned to full-time work training USAF pilots in the Stratobladder. I retired in 2011 and in 2012 I became a high school JROTC teacher and I love life!!

Oh, wait...I'm a pilot...you mean I can be an engineer, a test/development geek, answer phones and walk people through problems, and help develop airbag safety features, or teach high school?

To be a pilot you need a degree and a slot...to be an officer (or a good NCO) you need passion, drive, and the unending desire to learn and apply. Get a degree you LIKE, do well in it, go get your wings...and don't worry about the rest of it.

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83
 

Capri120

Parent
Another example...

DH, '79 grad with astronautical engineering degree, flew fighters. Separated after 8 years. Became an entrepreneur in the coffee service business then later in conjunction with a retail coffee shop ( before and similar to Starbucks). By a twist of fate, got into computer networking, first with Microsoft, then CISCO. Now a corporate, certified CISCO instructor, self- employed, making twice the hourly pay as I do as an aerospace engineer with nearly 30 years in the business.
 
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Capri120

Parent
We joke that he has the engineering degree, but I am the one employed as an engineer...and without an engineering degree, just 4 other degrees.
 
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