I recieved notification of my nomination? The question still stands though...


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Nov 18, 2007
I recieved notification of my nomination by Representative Darrel Issa to both academies (Naval and Air Force), wooo!!!

As my previous thread was discontinued, I will ask it again (this time with more favorable circumstances :) I was wondering...I want to be the best pilot I can...Navy or Air Force?

Thank you very much.

p.s. Thanks to "Just a mom" and the diligent moderators. I also liked that letter that was posted. Very nice.
What else are you looking to hear, I thought our info was pretty thorough.
flyboy -

you are welcome. Good luck on your academy pursuit.

The answer to "the question" obviously is not a definitive one. It all depends. You can be the best pilot YOU can be in the Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army or Coast Guard.

I suggest you look at what kind of flying you want to do and which branch of service appeals to you. They are the same, yet vastly different.
Think about what you will do if you can't fly. If for some reason you go USNA and don't get Aviation - can you live with SWO? You still have the 5 year committment -at least.
If you go AF and don't get a pilot slot.

There are many variables involved - good luck in your quest, thank you for willing to serve in and welcome to the mightiest Armed Forces on the planet!
Flyboy, Bullet here again. Still just a WSO, but the pilots I fly with sometimes let me carry their helmet bags to the jet! :shake:

OK, I finally have to put my 2 cents towards your question. It will be a little long, so sit back, relax, and grab something cold to drink as you read this (in your case, it better be either a cola product, a water or a juice! :wink: )

OK, so you want to know which service has the better pilots? You even put your question on both the AF and Navy threads, hoping to get both sides of the story. (But in my opinion, all you'll get is biased bickering based on pride, one thread for the Navy and one thread for the AF, and not based on unbiased comparisons of the 2. Plus a warning from the mods telling you to keep the same types of posts in one forum).

You've maturely and correctly handled the standard "we land on carriers, so we're better" argument posted on the Navy forum. Landing on a pitching deck in a storm is a great feat of piloting skill, and I salute my Navy brothers for that skill, especially their courage and professionalism displayed daily in their amazing act of landing that way. Heaven knows, I wouldn't want to do it for a living! But it is just that, a skill. If the AF thought their pilots needed this skill, they would be trained on it and they would practice it. The AF has its own arguments why they don't think they need to do it. I could get further into this debate, but ultimately the debate IS POINTLESS! What makes great pilots, and what gets the respect of those either in the ready room or the squadron bar, are those who are the best at ACCOMPLISHING THE MISSION. Let me make an example, which I am paraphrasing from some famous (at least in the aviation community) quotes debating the merits of air-to-air fighters versus air-to-ground fighters: "If, after your sortie, you get back to the ready room only to find a bunch of Russians drinking your Scotch, toasting each other with your bar glasses over their victory, does it really matter if you hit the 3-wire?"

So, I've now shown you that it's mission accomplishment that determines the best pilots. So, which service gets the mission accomplished better? I have to say: ALL OF THEM! The US Navy is not about to declare war on the USAF, nor visa versa (well, perhaps only at the Academies, and then only on an athletic field). Is the President going to say, "We have a tough mission. Send only the XXXXXX pilots!" Never. We proudly fight jointly as a team, services side by side. What you'll really find is that all the US services have outstanding pilots, and all have some not-so-outstanding pilots. Each share equally in skill. What matters most, and what really matters to the country we are sworn to protect, is that as a country we have the best pilots in the world, with the best training, and flying the best aircraft the world has ever seen. Heaven help the poor sap dictator who foolishly decides to threaten our country's citizens or interests. It won't matter if the sidewinder that shoots down his warplane came from a Navy jet, an Air Force Jet, or a Marine jet; one of us will get 'em. And heaven help him if he sends his tanks against us; our Apaches will make short work of his "Mother of All Armies". No, what matters is that all the airpower in our entire military acts as a team, and without a doubt that team is the best in the world. (See how lucky you are to be born in this great country!)

So, I've shown you that the quality of pilots from every service is pretty much equal, and we fight together in the defense of this great nation Each service's pilots match each other in skill, dedication, courage, and professionalism. Now, which service should YOU choose? Like others have posted before me, it should come down to what your personal preferences are. Some argue that in the Navy and Marines, you'll spend months away from home at sea, while in the AF you have a more stable family life. That paradigm has left the building long ago. We in the AF now deploy with regular frequency, for months at a time and to locations that we usually can't pronounce or have "stan" somewhere in the name, all under the Aerospace Expeditionary Air Force model. (Just ask Pima or my kids, who have had to celebrate many a special occasion with only an e-mail from me.). Maybe not as often in a timeline as our Navy and Marie brothers and sisters, and certainly not even close to my Army compatriots as they fight this current war, but it' getting close. So, in this service of our country, each service member is now making similar sacrifices as to amount of time away from home.

So, investigate other factors. Look at the mission each service performs. You haven't mentioned what type of aircraft you want to pilot. Any interest in Long Range Bombers? Awesome machines with tremendous firepower and capabilities. Want to go there, AF it is! How about helos? No one does attack helo ops better than my brothers and sisters in the Army and the Marines. How about transports? See the world (multiple times), perform an important cog in our military's might, and be the first to be hired by United when you retire in 20+ years. Like that, then go AF! Fighters? I could go on forever about how great each of the AF's, Navy's and Marine' jets are. (However, none can come close to touching my jet, the F-15E! The best fighter in the world, and I'll be glad to argue this to anyone, anytime. But it will have to be by PM, because the debate will involve a lot of grunting, shouting, and bumping of chests! :biggrin: ) (person flying always claims his / her jet and his / her squadron mates are the best, bar none)

If it isn't the mission, then it may be other factors that help you make your decision. You haven't posted what your requirements are, so I don't know where to start. Give me a list, I'll gladly share my opinion (and I'll try to be less "long-winded")

Bottom Line: no one service can lay claim that they "own" the best pilots (people who make this claim are usually either on their fifth beer, or are on the outside looking in). We fight as a joint team, and always will, equal in skill and capability. No, what will help you make your decision is asking yourself what do you want to do during your career. Only you can make that decision.

And I'm spent.

Bullet :thumb:
Awesome answer Bullet. If you don't mind me paraphrasing a little:

Flyboy, you may be asking the wrong question. It's not necessarily who has the best pilots, but which service is best for you. And which Academy, since they do have different personalities.

But, asking questions is important. Good luck whichever way you go.

Thank you bullet, I appreciate the time and effort you are putting forth to help me in my little dillemna, and don't worry about long-windedness- i am getting great advice i cant get most places :). After reading your post, I have a lot of good info and have decided to rephrase my question. Since I do anticipate having a family, maybe the navy isn't the best for me, but then again you said the air force pilots are deployed quite as often too, so I'm not sure which is best concerning that issue.

I do want to fly fighters (hopefully), but if for any reason i cant do that, then i will still be happy to fly something else (but fighter aircraft-BY FAR- is my preference). Another factor is my future outside of the Air Force. When i am done with my years of service, i am seriously considering applying as an astronaut to NASA. Which branch is best for preparation? I hear that the navy makes the most astronauts, which suprises me, but whatever the case, I do want to factor that future career into my decisions now.

Also, does the air force complete just as many missions as the navy/marines? I hear that they don't, or that the air force is really the "chair force". (by the way, when people say that i just respond by telling them that the greatest acheivment of mankind-landing on the moon-was 99 percent "chair force").

Academy-wise, the air force is DEFINITELY for me. They have so many aviation programs that i am stoked about that annapolis doesnt have: i.e. soaring programs, propeller aircraft programs, SKY DIVING, etc. And i think that the air force academy has the better academics than all the rest because the air force is the "brains" of the military..so i hear. But career-wise, I am still not 100 percent sure, but i think that the evidence i am gathering points more towards AF, as i have been thinking, yet i am still open to advice and suggestions.
Although the Navy has more astronauts to date, AF is catching up. Navy had quite the headstart since the first AF class was in the early 50's. ;) Be careful with what you are hearing, statistics and what not still don't mean better pilots, YOU WILL DECIDE not the service!

Bullet, I need help here, but isn't the fall-out rate for fighter training (once into IFF) quite high? And to get the fighter slot, you have to be in the top students in your UPT (undergrad pilot training) section anyways. So, while so many of us want fighters, it is very difficult and you may find flight to be more difficult that you anticipated or thought. I am certainly worried because I can be pretty inconsistent in my flying, especially in the cross-country aspect!

I'm sure bullet will tell you that he works most of his time in a flight suit doing more than sitting behind a desk. ;)

And, where are you hearing all these stats from?

Lots of good questions. Give me a little while to collect my thoughts. Another "long-winded" response coming soon....

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"Since I do anticipate having a family, maybe the navy isn't the best for me, but then again you said the air force pilots are deployed quite as often too, so I'm not sure which is best concerning that issue."

Yeah, every service is pulling it's weight in the "time away from home department" these days. The nature of our business has changed (no longer sitting around staring down "the Red Bear"). For AF squadrons, the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotation is now a way of life. We deploy for 4 months, then on our return we train for 18 months, then we're back "in the barrel". So, in a typical 3 year assignment in your squadron, you'll probably deploy twice (not including deploying for a few weeks during our 18 months home to exercises like RED FLAG or COPE THUNDER).

For Navy, I think it's 6 months at sea, then a year at home (any Navy compratriots surfing the AF side of the house who can confirm this information?) ANd don't even get me started in what the Army is doing lately. These guys are in theater for 15 month rotations now, and usually are only given a year before they're shipping out again. :frown:

What you need to consider is what is available when you are home, and how your family is treated in your absence. The AF is usually ribbed by the other services because we tend to have nicer facilities (see my reference to golf courses in your first post). I admit it, we tend to be spoiled. Why? Well, the AF leadership undertands that they've spent oodles of money training us; they want to keep us happy so we stay around and they get a return on their investment. I think they also like to tweak the other services noses with how nice our bases are. :biggrin: So, they're willing to spend the money on "niceties". Also, a typical AF base has about 5000 personnel on it, plus our families. An Army Post, you're talking 30,000 troops plus (not including their families), so keeping up facilities for a population that big definetly requires more bucks. We both have Base Exchanges; theirs are just more crowded. Navy and Marine bases, the joke I usually hear is that their ships get painted more often than their base houses. (please, do not get offended by my sense of humor. The Navy bases I have visited are very nice!)

But what about your family? Well, they get to use those nice facilitities while you're gone. And as a service, the AF tends to take care of our own, to include our dependents (but I'm sure you can ask around and hear horror stories form some of the dependent spouses who visit this site). Another great thing I've experienced is the flight doc. Each AF flying squadron has it's own doctor specifically attached to it. They fly with us (usually once a week), but more importantly, they're job is to take care of our medical requirements. Once again, the AF wants us happy and healthy, and is willing to pay the bucks to give us our own doctor. Even better, he also sees our dependents. Think family doc, who will take your call in the middle of the night when your 6-month old has an ear infection, and will meet you first thing in the morning in his office to take care of it (watch the current news, most Americans would give a kidney (no pun intended) to have something like this!). Again, they know that to keep us happy, they need to keep our families happy. Overall, I can truly say my entire family has enjoyed our AF experience. But htey have to be understanding as you deploy often, and we ask a lot of them to keep up the home while we're away (Trust me, it takes a special person to be willing to do this. I was lucky enough that Pima allowed me to marry her. God, I love her so for allowing me to follow my dream! :smile: )

Good grief, this is getting long! I think I'll split up my reponses to each of your questions into seperate posts.

You'll hear again form me shortly...


Next up: How to become Buck Rogers!
Buck Rogers in the 21st Century

"When i am done with my years of service, i am seriously considering applying as an astronaut to NASA. Which branch is best for preparation?"

First off, to my compadres in my sister services, please excuse me if my last post was AF-Centric (as will the rest of my posts answering Flyboy's questions. I am an AF guy, for goodness sake!) Please feel free to chime in and give your services side of the story at any time. Honest advice is always welcome!

OK, I've seen guys and gals I know pursue this dream before as well. Why did the Navy historically produce more astronauts? Well, first off, the USNA has always been a fantastic instution, with a world-class reputation for it's acadmeic programs, especially in engineering. They continue to produce some of this nation's finest people in this field. When NASA first started out, they quickly and correctly determined they wanted pilots with a scientific background, and many Navy test pilots fit this mold perfectly from the beginning, so they were well represented fromthe start. The other academies, especially the AFA, followed their lead, and have made it a point to make their academics achieve equal excellence. This is the case now (you'll be getting a world class education at any of these fine establishments, on top of your daily experiences in military "leadership" (yeah, that's a good word for the pain you'll experience at Beast! :biggrin: ) So now, you'll find a pretty equal representation from all the services at NASA.

OK, so how do you get there? Well, like I said the first and best step would be to get an engineering degree while at the AFA. The aerospace engineering program at the AFA is one of the best in the world, for obvious reasons. Next step (and this is the hardest for some) is once you finish pilot training, you're focus should now to be the best pilot, and not focus on your next dream job. You need to prove to your commanders that you are the best at what you do now, then they'll support you. If you're only focused on your next job, your not going to get your commanders support for your next step.

Next step: test pilot. If you've proven to your commander you are the best pilot, they will push for you. But getting accepted there is tough. But once there, you'll fly EVERYTHING that the military owns, I mean EVERYTHING. And you'll do things in those birds that would make ME puke! (OK, I admit I did it, once. But I had "extenuating (-5 sp?) circumstances". What a great party that weekend!). Do you have to be a test pilot? No, but having it on your resume helps you for the selection process.

OK, now it's time to apply for the NASA job. You think all the competion you've had to go through up to this point (SA, pilot, fighter, Test) was tough, you ain't seen nothing yet! I've known a few who have made it, but they had to apply several times. They only take the best!

But I don't want to discourage you, it can be done. I have an old crew mate who's there now. Check out NASA's site and look for the profile for Col Mike Good. Flew with him yeeeears back (F-111s). He's scheduled to go up this year as a Mission Specialist to do some space walks to repair the Hubble.

Keep up with the dream. You'll have to work harder for it than anything you could possibly imagine. But I think it's worth it, don't you? If you do get up there, I expect you to send me some pictures afterwards!


Next topic: types of missions and flying the desk.....

Don't worry, Hornet. I'll get to your question as well. However, it may be sometime tomorrow night as I have to get to bed soon to get some sleep, since I'm flying early tomorrow.
So, what do you want to fly, son? A chair, sir!

"does the air force complete just as many missions as the navy/marines? I hear that they don't, or that the air force is really the "chair force"."

Just look at the numbers. The AF has more pilots (and WSOs:shake: ) than any other service. (Awaiting my friends from the other services to respond to that! Forgive me if I'm just too lazy to link the AF's manpower statistics at this time. :wink: )

Why is that? Simply put, if has something to do with flying, we do it. The list is long, but allow me to spend a few brain bites jotting some of them down. (please forgive me if you're a flyer and I leave out your plane. Feel free to add to the list anytime)

Transports (C-130s, C-17s, C-5s); Tankers (KC135, KC-10); Fighers: air-to-air (F-22, F-15C), multi-role (F-16CG, F-15E, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (coming "soon")), CAS (A-10, AC-130), Wild Weasel (F-16CJ) (they actually go out and hunt the SAMs on purpose!:eek: ); Bombers: (B-1, B-2, and that old workhorse the B-52); Jammers (EA-6Bs (Navy owned and rn, but we fly them in mixed crews with our Navy bros), EC-130s); recconaisance (RJ-135, JSTARS); Command and Control (AWACS, ABCCC C-130s). I'm sure I missed a few.

Heck, we even fly a few helos, and we're adding more and more UAVs everyday ( being flown by guys sitting in trialers half a world away). And I haven't even talked about space assets. The AF is the Defense Department's Executive Agent for space (we control the mission), and we own about 90% of the military's assets up there.

So yes, if it is any type of air mission, you can be a part of it in the AF (please forgive me if I sound like a recruiter)

Now,onto the "Chair force" comment. Don't know where that's coming from. Is it true that as you progress in rank, you become less of an "operator" and more of a "leader sitting in the HQ building". Sorry to say it is (and is so in my case, as my hours in the jet have decreased but my e-mail container at my office get fuller everyday). But this is the case in every service. As an AF pilot, your first 2-3 tours will be centered on you flying. We throw the most sorties at our youngest guys (and the middle ranking instructors who lead them in the air). Piloting is your job, you need to learn the best way how to do it. Expect 3-4 sorties a week when you first start out. That's not to say you won't be given extra duties in the squadron; everyone has one. Whether your the Snacko (you keep us happy by keeping the snack bar stocked), or your working in the wepaons shop, the IT shop, life support, etc.; they are a lot of things that need to get done to keep a squadron running. As you get higher in rank, your additional duty has more responsibility. My rank, and your additional duty is your primary duty! I still get to fly weekly, it's just not as often as I would like (which would be every day :thumb: )

So, "chair force"? You'll have a long time into your career before you have to worry about that!

Flyboy, I hope I given something t chew on with all these posts. Am I going to sell you on one service or another? Nope. I leave it to my compratriots in the other services to tell you their sides of the story. Take all the inofrmation we're giving you, digest for a few days, come back here and ask more questions, get more answers to consider, and only then make the best choice that is the best fit for you. Hey, you're only 17 or so (guessing there), no one here expects you to have your entire life mapped out perfectly at this point.

I am proud to help you out with your questions (even though it probably seems to many that I need a life). I guess being here helping young men and women just like you is more important and more fulfilling to me than keeping up with the Boob Tube.

Now I have to go. It won't do any good being sleepy while I'm pulling G's over the Atlantic tomorrow.

Good night, God speed, and here's hoping for all the best for you. Keep reaching for those dreams!

Pima speaking.

I am only speaking from the outside looking in, but I believe only 50% of the cadets receive a flying slot and from what I know the class rank is how/when you get to choose...thus if you are in the bottom you probably won't see a pilot slot. HORNET...INSERT ANSWER HERE:wink:

Next, currently right now I know that one of the active duty profs at the academy went to UPT, however, for 18 yrs he has not flown...why? Washed out of UPT. What if you do wash out, the nav pipeline is slowing down and you may not get it, as in my example, now you have 5 yrs of committment left and you are stuck

Hornetguy is right, you need to be the top of your class to get fighters, and back in the early 90's they had too many in the pipeline, basically you could be the top, but you got a heavy since they weren't handing out fighters. We knew guys who got accepted to UPT to only find out that they stopped the fighter pipeline.

I know you don't want to be a nav b/c you want to be an astronaut, Mike Goode took a totally weird route, 1st flew a desk., accepted to UNT, became a WSO and then selected for the test program at Edwards. So you see even astronauts can make it from a desk or a right seater (F-111)

At our base we have several lts. walking around (yes in flight suits) on casual status waiting for their pilot slot...one lost it...got a dui:thumbdown: He received an article 15, not going to be easy to get a job after this.

I know you are young, but Zaphod has asked what I think is the most important question what if you can't fly? Another friend who was an acad professor that lost his ability to fly...he pulled his back playing football with the squadron...medically dq forever b/c of the ejection seat. He was a major(sel), selected for ACSC residency at that time and spent 10 more yrs flying the desk...retired as full bird

DH (Bullet) has stepped out of the jet, which to get promoted you will have to leave it at sometime. He can speak about the Army b/c 1 assign was to "jump out of perfectly good airplanes":shake: with the 82nd AB, however, by taking that route he was 1 of 60 selected for CGSC (AF's ACSC), best yr of his life (afterall, you can't be the DG as an AF officer at an Army Officer school, so you just go to class, do well and play golf)

I have always said to him and my s what is more important wearing the blue or the bag, think carefully...you will not be commissioned Pilot So&SO, you will be commissioned Lt. So&SO, so in the end you are an officer 1st and a flyer second...I only know 1 person who said Scr*w the AF regs., I am going to always fly and not take a desk, "I will be happy to retire as a major if I get to fly my entire career"...well he will be retiring Apr.1 as a Major passed over 2x for not expanding his horizons...(BTW big pay difference over the course of your career and retirement @700 a mo. difference in retirement pay alone, and more than that if you figure he had maj. pay for the last 4 years)

So as you can see from my examples, your military career can take a lot of different turns and paths, it should all come down to which branch will I be happier in or at least this is how this humble ADAF/DS sees it ...and yes when I check in for anything on base I must sign in as ADAF/DS-30 (Active Duty Air Force/Dependent Spouse---1st wife
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Pima said:
I am only speaking from the outside looking in, but I believe only 50% of the cadets receive a flying slot and from what I know the class rank is how/when you get to choose...thus if you are in the bottom you probably won't see a pilot slot. Each class gets around 500-550 (I think 525 coming up next year?). Usually, almost everyone that wants pilot will get it. There are enough of the 800-950 graduates each year that do not persue pilot for one reason or another so that even many of those toward the bottom quarter will get pilot slots. If you can keep in the top half, then all other circumstances withstanding, you will get pilot if you want it. Keep in mind the original policy this place was built on required ALL grads to enter flying fields.
Hi Flyboy,

Go luck with whatever you decide. I have nothing to help in your decision making:redface: (sorry) I just wanted to share something. Our family was just at Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago. (It was great to see Shuttle Atlantis still sitting on the launch pad.) While there, we met former Astronaut Mark Lee-- USAFA graduate. He went into space in 1989, 1992, 1994 and 1997. He was fabulous to talk to. I believe he said that he loves receiving email and that he can be reached via the Kennedy Space Center website. Again, good luck.
Thank you!

Thank you very much for letting me know, i will definitely look into that!
When i am done with my years of service, i am seriously considering applying as an astronaut to NASA. Which branch is best for preparation? I hear that the navy makes the most astronauts, which suprises me, but whatever the case, I do want to factor that future career into my decisions now

Flyboy - don't know why but totally missed this the first go - just saw that Pima had picked up on it.

As far as being an astronaut - if you go mission specialist - just about anyone can do this, even a teacher. :smile: Their backgrounds do vary widely - they come from all branches of the service and many professional backgrounds.

If Commander or pilot is your goal - then you should strive to be a fighter pilot, then test pilot. You also most likely will need at least a Master's degree.

NASA selected classes every two years during the 90's and there was a full class in 2000. 2004 saw a very small class - only 2 pilots and they are scheduling another class for 2008.
A friend is applying for this class and he has taken the normal route of most recent SS pilots - that is fighter pilot, test pilot and master's degree.
It takes years and of course there is no guarantee - much also depends on the whims of Congress. I doubt many Space Shuttle pilots found themselves in that seat by chance though.
I suggest you research who made it to the most recent classes and how they got there - model your plans on their career paths.

It takes years to get there - even then there is no guarantee of ever going into space - but the only way to have a chance is go for it!
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All I am gonna say is BRAVO to everyone posting on this thread (I am in the exact same situation with the SA and ROTC). I pretty well made up my mind that the AF is all for me. I cant offer any advice but I just want to commend everyone on here especially Mr. Bullet for doing a terrific job of answering these questions.

The willingness to help when one is in need, magnificent!!!

Thanks again everyone!!! ;-)

I am glad you found this site, geared toward helping you get your dreams. What I love about this site is the way everyone here is willing to go out of their way to help young men and women just like you. Please keep us in mind as you go further into the process; there are quite a few here with varying levels of experience in this process. I'm sure someone here can answer the questions you or your parents are sure to have.

Each of us here has something to offer, even a WSO like me. Take our advice for what it is worth, but most of all, take our encouragement and hopes that you can get what you desire.

We're here to help. It's always our pleasure to do so.
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Nothing like keeping the flyer family happy to have a happy flyer. Corporate America forgets and remembers a similar adage every 10 years or so. Load 'em up with benefits - take 'em away. Thankfully, for most folks in both the AF and the Navy, there does seem to be a trend to keep both flyer and family happy and healthy.