|Written by Ken McKay|
To arrive in the aviation community working for a major air carrier will take time, and planning. The bottom line: you CAN get there from "here." Even if "here" is in the 9th grade. With cost of flying being almost prohibitive, many aviators turn to the military to obtain training. GREAT IDEA! Even in choosing the military path, there are many options, today let's examine three typical paths through the military to arrive at your goal. These aren't listed in order of preference. Service Academy (example: USAF Academy, Naval Academy, West Point, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy)
As a student in high school, the best thing you can do for yourself is study, study, and study some more. Beginning with 9th grade, make high grades your primary goal. AND while you're at it, get involved in a "team" activity, whether it be a sport, a club or scouting........get involved.
Goal: by the end of your junior year in high school, you want to be able to show a demonstrated leadership ability. Don't forget, great grades, and demonstrated leadership ability. Two goals. Hint: top rank in Scouting is a biggie. Second step: Now that you have great grades, and are competitive, it's time to apply for attendance to the Academy of your choice. A studentmust obtain a nomination AND an appointment to attend a service academy. (Accomplishing this task is a lesson in itself) Once you have BOTH of these, you attend the academy of your choice for 4 years on a "full scholarship," and they pay you in excess of $500 per month while attending.
At the end of your Academy stay, you earn a commission as an officer in the related branch of service (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, Coast Guard). ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps).Another excellent avenue to obtain your goal. ROTC offers a VERY wide selection of colleges to choose from, and preparation for winning a scholarship employs the same strategy shown for going to a service academy. With ROTC scholarships, the military pays for tuition, books, lab fees and related incidentals, and supplies you with $200 to $400 per month stipend depending on the number of years completed. To win an ROTC scholarship, apply for it as the end of your jUnlike a service academy, you can attend college ROTC without a scholarship, and still get a commission (and a pilot training slot!) In fact, if you enroll in college, simply pick ROTC as one of your courses, and you are started toward you goal, simple as that (Note: You must complete the ROTC curriculum to receive a commission). Whether on a scholarship or not, each ROTC student competes for a slot at UPT (once again, I'm talking about the Air Force).
Officer Training School (OTS) For those students who already have a college degree, OTS is an excellent choice. The military could select you for entrance to OTS and UPT depending upon their needs. Contact a recruiter to get the ball rolling. OTS lasts 90 days, and covers a basic orientation to the military. Upon graduation, you get a commission, and you're on your way.
Finally, Pilot Training
Once commissioned, you begin the process of "earning your wings" (becoming a military pilot). I chose the Air Force, so I will describe the process that I went through. Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) is a 49 week program broken into several areas of training: academic ground school, contact flying, solo flight, instrument flying, formation flying, etc. Please note: my description is GENERAL in nature, not intended to be an official brochure on the topic.
Upon successful completion of pilot training, you then attend an "upgrade" training to the aircraft that you will fly on active duty. Service committment varies from time to time, and currently graduates incur an 10-year committment from the date of completion of UPT. I looked at it as guranteed employment for that period of time!
Active Duty Flying
Now you have an aviator's rating (titles vary depending on the branch of service) and will fly an aircraft in an operational unit. This is the part that deserves more than a passing thought. You need to "wave your personal flag of patriotism" in advance. You may be called upon to act in a capacity defending the USA in battle. You could be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country. THINK ABOUT THIS! It's not a video game, it's REAL; so give it the attention it deserves. When you approach the end of your committment, you might choose to exit the military, or you might be caught up in the comradery and adventure of it all to stay even longer. That choice is yours. Either way, you will be well qualified to serve as an airline pilot, and fly with me. See you there.