Should I Become an Army Pilot?
Army pilots help other soldiers by providing both field and technical support. They also need to be skilled in flying aircraft in combat and non-combat situations. Army pilots begin their service by undergoing the same basic training and courses of study as all members of the Army. Candidates then go through rigorous, specialized training to earn the ability to fly. This profession can be extremely dangerous because of the nature of the work, which is something any interested individuals should keep in mind.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Training||Basic training; flight training|
|Salary||$85,167 (2021 average salary for U.S. Army helicopter pilots)|
How to Become a Pilot in the Army
Let's examine the steps necessary to become a US Army pilot, as army pilot training consists of several complex steps:
Step 1: Join the U.S. Army
To become a pilot in the U.S. Army, candidates must first officially join the Army by visiting a recruiter. There are two options for aspiring Army pilots: they can complete a college education and seek to become a commissioned officer, or they can enlist and qualify to become a warrant officer. For those who enlist, the Army requires soldiers to be younger than 35 years old and have a high school diploma. Recruiters issue waivers for 17-year-old applicants after receiving permission from the applicants' parents. Recruiters give candidates the option of enrolling in the Delayed Entry Program, which gives applicants up to one year to prepare for basic training.
Step 2: Meet Army Pilot Requirements
Recruits report to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to take physical and written exams to ensure their ability to join. After passing FBI fingerprint checks, applicants are now U.S. Army personnel. There are also some basic requirements that must be met. Here is a list of all of the major requirements for becoming a pilot in the army:
- Completion of high school or equivalent: this is the only educational requirement outside of actual military training
- Completion of basic training and flight training: these must be completed in a military setting
- Pass a physical and written exam: this is a physically demanding job that requires excellent fitness
- Pass a background check, including fingerprint checks: nobody in the Army can have any kind of criminal record
- Hold U.S. citizenship: only U.S. citizens can join the Army; landed immigrants and others are not eligible
- Be between 17 and 35 years of age: those who enroll must be in the prime of health in order to work in the Army
Step 3: Complete Basic Combat Training (BCT)
Both commissioned officer candidates and newly enlisted soldiers complete a basic training program that teaches physical and mental military skills. During phase one of training, recruits attend classes to learn about Army values, military laws, weapon basics, and nutrition. Recruits also practice rappelling, marching, and land navigation in phase one. The second phase of BCT consists of rifle qualification drills, tactical marches, and obstacle courses. Recruits operate advanced weapon systems, including rocket launchers and machine guns, during the last phase of training.
Step 4: Attend Officer Candidate School
Commissioned officer candidates must attend Officer Candidate School in Ft. Benning, Georgia and complete the Officer Candidate Course before they can train to become pilots. Enlisted Army personnel who want to become pilots must qualify to be warrant officers and attend Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) in Fort Rucker, Alabama. All officer candidates who want to continue on to aviation school must earn a score of 90 on the Alternative Flight Aptitude Selection Test. Candidates must also pass flight physicals.
Step 5: Attend Aviation School
Both commissioned and warrant officers attend aviation school to learn the specialized skills needed to become an Army pilot. During aviation training, officers use Huey helicopters to learn basic and complex flight maneuvers. Flight simulators are used to teach officers how to depend on aircraft instruments to fly in all weather conditions. During the last 14 weeks of training, officers prepare for combat missions by learning advanced skills such as using night vision goggles. After completing flight training, commissioned officers become aviation officers, and warrant officers become warrant aviation officers. So how long is army flight school? According to the U.S. Army, this part of training takes around 32 weeks, during which students accumulate around 179 hours of flight practice.
Step 6: Career Advancement
After the completion of army service, pilots may consider transferring their skills to the private sector. To do so, pilots can pursue becoming licensed as a helicopter pilot. Doing so generally requires a broad license, as well as more specific certifications depending on a pilot's industry.
Army Pilot Salary
U.S. Army helicopter pilots earn an average annual salary of $85,167 as of 2021. Glassdoor.com provides salary information for military in a number of different positions as reported by soldiers and by the U.S. Army itself. $85,167 is the average base pay as of January, 2021, but there is additional pay added to many military salaries for a variety of different duties. With the average additional pay factored in, the average salary for helicopter pilots comes out to around $88,000 per year. Keep in mind that this salary is variable and depends very much on an individual's rank, experience, and specific duties.
U.S. Army pilots must have a high school diploma, complete basic and combat training, and complete aviation training.