Military

Flight School Survival for the Military Spouse

Lies about flight school:

  1. Flight school for Student Naval Aviators (SNAs) goes quick.
  2. SNAs will be entirely consumed by flight school, with little time for anything else.
  3. Every SNA wants to fly jets in advanced.
  4. SNAs will move quicker through the training pipeline in Corpus Christi vs. Milton.
  5. There is no crying in flight school.
  6. Mustaches look sexy.

Before my husband went away for Officer Candidate School (OCS) and ever since, I spend so much time trying to make timelines and predict when and where we will be going next. This may or may not be my first mistake. I’ve been warned numerous times, through various means, that you cannot make plans when you’re living life as a military family- but I try anyways. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. I cannot help it though. I’ve been a planner, a scheduler, a goal setter my entire life, and you know what they say about old dogs…

Thus far this has been my experience with the timeline of my husband being in flight school. (His branch is Navy btw)flight school timeline.png

OCS check in: May 2016; Graduation: September 2016. This was back when OCS was 12 weeks minimum. It took my husband 15 weeks thanks to an unfortunate timing of pink eye. You can read a bit about what OCS was like for me here. It’s my understanding that OCS is shorter now.

OHARP: September 2016- November 2016. Officer Hometown Area Recruiting Assistance Program (OHARP). Following OCS my husband returned home for about 3 months and would work at the closest officer recruiting office before he had to report to Pensacola, FL for flight school.

Flight School Check In: December 2016. He checked into the command for flight school, but it would be another couple months before actively beginning training. In the downtime he would have to muster for Physical Training (PT) 3x a week for about an hour and then he would return home for the day. Alternate days required a quick morning muster with the rest of the day to do as he pleased. Quite the tough life these aviators go through in the beginning (note the sarcasm).

IFS: Introductory Flight Screening. SNAs spend this time flying 14 hours in a small aircraft at surrounding airports with civilian flight instructors. They also must pass the FAA Private Pilot test. SNA’s that already hold a private pilot license (like my husband) do not need to do this portion of training. However, other students who reported about the same time as him completed their training in about 2 months. This will vary depending on weather, scheduling, and dumb luck.

API: March 2017. Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. API is 6 weeks long, 4 weeks of academics and 2 weeks of survival training. The academics portion includes aerodynamics, aircraft engines and systems, meteorology, air navigation, and flight rules and regulations. API is a very busy time for the SNA and will require ample time studying. My husband joined a study group with 4 other SNAs and said it made a big difference for him in a positive way.

4 weeks into API is Flight Suit Friday. This is for the SNAs who have passed all of their exams thus far and have earned the right to wear those super comfy flight suits. This includes a party at the Officer’s Club where families and friends are invited. Definitely take the time to celebrate this accomplishment and watch Top Gun that runs on a constant loop while you play pool and have a few drinks.

Then comes the survival training, or Disney week, as it is fondly called. The SNAs will be taught a crash course on- well….. survival.

Primary Check in: April 2017. 3 days after finishing API, we had to report to Corpus Christi, TX for Primary training. 3 days!!! Talk about stressful. If the SNA is going to NAS Whiting Field, they had to report the afternoon of completing API.

Primary Training: June 2017-January 2018. I say this with great hesitation. I fear I will be jinxing it. If the stars align correctly, then my husband will complete primary later this month (January). It has been longer than original sources said due to a hurricane, and an unheard of snowstorm, and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. The list goes on and on. My conclusion is: everyone is a liar and nothing ever goes according to plan.

When the SNA is actively training in primary-yes they are busy with studying and prepping for flights/simulators. The training includes more ground school, contact, basic instruments, precision aerobatics, formation, radio instrument navigation, night familiarization, and visual navigation. However, there is downtime to be had when the weather is crap or the schedule is backed up and training drags on and on and on. This allows for the SNA to spend unneccessary amounts of money on things because they’re bored and dreaming of greener pastures. Just my SNA? Didn’t think so.

Since Thanksgiving and Christmas occurred during this time in training, my husband was able to take leave for 5 days at Thanksgiving, Wednesday-Sunday, and then 6 days post Christmas, Thursday-Tuesday.

At the close of primary training (if it ever ends), the SNA submits their dream sheet for what they would like to fly for advanced training, and many cases- the rest of their career.  Their dream sheet of their top 3 choices is submitted on the Tuesday after they complete all of their training events and then the selection results are shared on Thursdays.

Advanced Training: TBD. The options include jets at either NAS Kingsville or NAS Meridian, E2/C2s at NAS Corpus Christi following on to NAS Meridian after a few months, P3s/P8s at NAS Corpus Christi, or Rotary at NAS Whiting Field. Word on the street is, it will be at least April of this year (2018) before he would check in for Advanced training. We shall see!

So why is the list at the beginning of this post a bunch of lies? Allow me to explain.

  1. Flight school for Student Naval Aviators (SNAs) goes quick.
    • We’re already over a year in, and it will be incredibly unlikely for him to be completed and winged in 11 months. But…. cue the motto: We shall see! 
  2. SNAs will be entirely consumed by flight school, with little time for anything else.
    • This is part truth, part lie. When they are actively training- Yes, they should be consumed with studying, if they want to keep their scores up and not kicked out of the program. However, there is a lot of downtime in between phases and when the weather sucks. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It’s nice to be able to spend time with your SNA. Bonus points if you can go a whole evening without talking about an airplane or the Navy.
  3. Every SNA wants to fly jets in advanced.
    • My husband, and many other SNAs want to fly jets. They’re the fastest and I think Top Gun has a lot to do with it. But there are a lot of SNAs who want to fly other aircraft for their career. Allegedly P8s have the best schedule flexibility for a homelife. And rotary opens up a lot of options for where you could end up after getting winged. Regardless of what they may want, the needs of the Navy will ultimately prevail.
  4. SNAs will move quicker through the training pipeline in Corpus Christi vs. Milton.
    • lies. straight up lies. SNAs in Milton that classed up for primary after my husband have already selected.
  5. There is no crying in flight school.
    • I may not have cried, but I have become increasingly anxious the longer it takes and the uncertainty of when and where we will go next.
  6. Mustaches look sexy.
    • They don’t. Why are mustaches a thing in flight school?!?fullsizeoutput_11c2

I’ll come back and update this post as we continue to move through the pipeline. Assuming we ever make it through. Flight School Survival.png

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