All flight training begins at NAS Pensacola, Fla., the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” Young men and women report to NAS Kingsville and Training Air wing TWO from three recruiting sources: Just under 40 percent come from the U.S. Naval Academy, just over 40 percent from Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) units, and just over 20 percent from Officer Candidate School (OCS). Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard flight students spend about six weeks in Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) at the Naval Aviation Schools Command. There they are challenged both academically and physically. Classes include: engineering, aerodynamics, air navigation, aviation physiology, and water survival.
Upon completion of API, student pilots, also known as Student Naval Aviators (SNA), and student navigators, known as Student Naval Flight Officers (SNFO), proceed to their separate primary training pipelines. Primary SNA training is conducted at three bases: NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL; NAS Corpus Christi, TX; and Vance Air Force Base (AFB), Enid, OK. For the SNAs reporting to Navy bases, primary training is approximately 22 weeks. It includes ground-based academics, simulators and flight training in either the T-34 Turbomentor or the T-6A Texan II. Primary training consists of six stages: Familiarization (FAM), Basic Instruments, Precision Aerobatics, Formation, Night FAM, and Radio Instruments.
Pipeline selections occur upon completion of primary training. This is based on the current and projected needs of the services, the student’s performance and preferences. Student Naval Aviators are selected for: Maritime (multi-engine prop), E-2/C-2, Rotary (helicopters), Strike (jets), and the E-6 TACAMO.
Maritime students complete their advanced training at NAS Corpus Christi flying the twin engine T-44 Pegasus or TC-12 Huron. Particular emphasis is placed on single-engine flight in varying conditions. Upon receiving their Wings of Gold, Navy pilots report to the P-3 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) while Marine pilots report to the C-130 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS). In addition to training all Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard Maritime pilots, VT-31 and VT-35 train Air Force students pilots bound for C-130 duty. Similarly, Navy TACAMO pilots complete advanced training in the T-1A Jayhawk, a militarized business jet complete with digital cockpit displays. This training is done at the Air Force’s 32nd FTS at Vance AFB.
Those SNAs selected for E-2/C-2 training must complete multi-engine training as well as receive their carrier landing qualification. After primary training, students report to VT-31 at NAS Corpus Christi to complete 44 hours of flight training in approximately 17 weeks in the T-44. After intermediate training, E-2/C-2 students report to NAS Kingsville for advanced training in the T-45. Students earn their wings in approximately 27 weeks and after receiving their carrier landing qualification.
Student pilots selected for helicopter training report to NAS Whiting Field and complete advanced training in the TH-57 Sea Ranger. Students learn the unique characteristics and tactics of rotary-wing aviation. They are also introduced to shipboard landing on the Helo Landing Trainer, the Navy’s only ship dedicated to teaching helo pilots how to land on board a moving vessel. Once they receive their Wings of Gold, Navy helicopter pilots report to their respective FRS for SH-60, CH-46 or H-53 training. Marine helicopter pilots report to an AH-1, CH-46, MH-53 or UH-1 FRS for training. The Navy also trains helicopter pilots for the Coast Guard and several allied nations.
SNAs who enter the Jet/Strike pipeline complete their training at either NAS Kingsville or at NAS Meridian in the T-45 Goshawk. During Strike training, pilots learn strike tactics, weapons delivery, air combat maneuvering, and receive their carrier landing qualification. After receiving their Wings of Gold, Strike pilots report to an F-14, F/A-18, S-3, or EA-6B FRS, and eventually report to their first Fleet squadron.