Aircraft pilots are easily one of the most sought-after positions in the United States Armed Forces. It has always been a lofty, coveted role that many aspired to reach yet only a select few were able to complete.
Becoming a pilot in the U.S. Military has always been competitive, but thanks to a new program offered by the U.S. Army it has helped make the opportunity far more attainable for recent high school graduates.
In the past, flight school in the U.S. Military was only reserved for those with a college degree.
However, thanks to the new program offered by the Army called “High School to Flight School,” that requirement is no longer a necessity.
Note: The Air Force also offers a “High School To Flight School” program that is substantially different from the one we’ll be discussing in this article.
We may post a full article on that in the future, but for now we’ll just be talking about the Army’s version.
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What is the High School to Flight School program?
The coveted role of becoming a pilot is generally reserved for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. The lone exception is the United States Army.
Sometimes referred to as “Street to Seat,” the High School to Flight School program provides recent high school graduates the opportunity to apply as warrant officers, where they can then progress to Army Aviation School.
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The unique opportunity has not always been present in the U.S. Military and previously opens up the doors to a number of new applicants.
Though it is still considered a very competitive school to gain admittance, just knowing that students do not need to spend at least another two to four years in college before even getting considered for Army helicopter or fixed-wing training is a relief.
What are the High School To Flight School requirements?
There are still several different requirements for the High School to Flight School program, even though members of the Army Aviation School are no longer required to have to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree before admittance.
- You must be at least 18 years of age when you enlist in the Army.
- You need to be a citizen of the United States. If you are not a citizen, you can apply as soon as you enlist with certain exemptions.
- You must meet the height and weight standards of the U.S. Army.
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If you meet the basic requirements for consideration, you should do everything possible to stand out from a long list of prospective candidates.
It is recommended that you write an essay and gather as many letters of recommendation as possible.
Prospective flight school students must do a series of aptitude tests.
Candidates must also take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests and receive a general technical score of 110 or higher.
Additionally, you’ll be required to take the Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT) test.
This test will measure your skills and characteristics that have been identified by the Army as being “crucial” to being successful as a helicopter pilot.
In order to be accepted into the High School To Flight School program, you’ll need to get a minimum of 40.
However, if you want to better your chances, it’s suggested that you score much higher.
Keep in mind that the acceptance rate into the High School to Flight School program is quite low, with some estimates putting it as low as 3% or less.
Essentially that means for every 100 applications the Army receives, only 3 will get accepted into the program.
You can learn how to increase the chances you’ll be selected towards the bottom of this article.
What happens if you get accepted?
Though it is exciting to meet the general requirements of the Army High School to Flight School program and gain acceptance – there are still other steps you need to take in order to remain active for consideration.
The ranking of warrant officer is necessary in order to attend Army Aviation School, so it does take some time to get the necessary credentials.
Furthermore, there are two levels of physicals you must take in order to prove physical aptitude:
- Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)
- Flight Class I Physical
The latter of which is performed at Fort Novosel, AL, by approved flight surgeons. One of the biggest factors for pilots is eye exams.
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Your vision cannot be worse than 20/50 in either eye and must be correctable to 20/20. In order to remain on flight status after training, pilots must maintain a vision that does not deteriorate beyond 20/400.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Army Flight School also does not accept candidates that are color blind or have issues with depth perception.
The U.S. Army military board selects candidates for flight school before they turn 33 unless a waiver is granted to individuals aged 33 or 34.
Once all of the above criteria have been met, you will attend basic combat training for 10 weeks as well as another 5 weeks of warrant officer candidate school.
As previously mentioned, it is not possible to attend Army Aviation School without being a rank of at least warrant officer.
A warrant officer is considered a technical expert that specializes in a particular battlefield skill, in this case flying helicopters. Warrant officers are different from commissioned officers in that they continue to work in their specialty, instead of accenting the ranks of chain of command.
What happens at Army flight school?
After all your hard work getting accepted and then passing all the testing and physical requirements, it is time to finally pursue your dream of becoming an Army pilot.
The Army Aviation Academy is located at Fort Novosel in Alabama. It is the Holy Grail for all aspiring Army pilots.
The program will launch with instruction learned in the classroom and progress to actual flight training.
The flight school covers the basics of aviation such as basic flight physics, flight systems, navigation, reading maps, and emergency procedures.
After the early stages, training advances to what is called Warrior Hall. Here, new pilots get the opportunity to learn piloting skills while operating simulators.
The U.S. Army currently requires over seven hours of training on the simulators before they’ll let students progress to actual maneuvers.
Each type of aircraft has different training standards that need to be met as well as time logged. Though the hours logged varies, it is reported between 70 to 150 hours, depending on the aircraft.
Regardless of the type of aircraft used, one of the most challenging aspects of training is reportedly being assigned night vision goggles that limit your vision in the air to only 40 degrees.
The goggles, which are mounted on the front of the flight helmet, are designed to test the advanced flying and survival skills of pilots.
All in all, expect at least a year to 18 months of training at the Army Aviation School in Fort Novosel in order to graduate from the program.
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What happens after Army Flight school?
Congratulations! Students that successfully navigate through the coursework in the classroom, as well as flight simulator and real-life scenarios, are finally acknowledged as official Army pilots.
Now that every graduating member has become an expert in one type of aircraft they will have the opportunity to be assigned to over 25 different different regiments of the U.S. Army, including the Army Reserves and Air National Guard too.
Pilots that wish to continue their accession into the ranking of some of the best pilots in the world try out for the Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The unit is known as the 160th SOAR.
Here, pilots are presented with rare opportunities to handle special types of helicopters such as the MH-47G Chinook, MH-60M Black Hawk, and A/MH-6M.
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The chances of seeing combat are definitely a possibility depending on where you are stationed. Army helicopter pilots are deployed regularly (including Army Reserve and Air National Guard members) to deal with air strikes or to assist troops on the ground.
Army pilots have served in large numbers including the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some pilots may remain overseas for 9 to 12 months. Pilots are traditionally stationed with the infantry unit they support.
Army aviation crews exist basically anywhere in the vicinity of ground troops, artillery, or tanks. As a result, you can see the world as a pilot – not only from the air but also on land.
Whether you want to get stationed overseas or hopefully remain close by in the United States, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Some of the most popular stations for Army pilots include:
- Wheeler Army Airfield – Hawaii
- Fort Bliss – Texas
- Fort Riley – Kansas
- Joint Base Lewis-McChord – Washington
- Fort Drum – New York
- Fort Liberty – North Carolina
- Hunter Army Airfield – Georgia
- Fort Campbell – Kentucky
- Fort Cavazos – Texas
- For Carson – Colorado
- Camp Humphreys – South Korea
What are my chances (and how do I increase them)?
Though the U.S. Army has loosened its restrictions on applying for its aviation school through the High School to Flight School program, it is not to suggest that it is far easier to become an Army pilot.
Helping students that do not have the money or time to spend four years in college before getting considered is helpful, yet the Army still has tight guidelines for getting qualified.
As a result, selection is limited.
The Army closely scrutinizes its large pool of candidates and only selects a certain few to advance to Army Aviation School in Fort Novosel.
As we mentioned earlier, the acceptance rate can be as low as 3%.
So the million-dollar question on most of your minds is probably the following:
How do I increase my chances of getting into the High School To Flight School program?
In order to be successfully selected, you should:
- Perform well on aptitude tests like the ASVAB
- Have a high GPA (3.0 or above)
- Take various SIFT practice tests
- Get good at writing essays
- Get letters of recommendation from various high-profile sources
- Get in great physical shape
- Visit an aviation medical examiner in your area and get a flight physical
That last part is actually more important than most realize.
If you don’t medically qualify for Army aviation, then it won’t matter how well you do on any test, how many sports you play, or how smart you are.
You will simply not get in if you can’t pass an army flight physical.
Having a high GPA will give the recruiting board extra incentive to consider you as a candidate.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the most important tests you’ll have to take is the SIFT test.
The better you do on that test, the better your chances will be of getting into the High School to Flight School program.
As you can see, you can go from street to seat and become an Army pilot. It is possible even for recent graduates thanks to the High School to Flight School program.
In order to learn more information about Flight Warrant Officers, please visit the official site at Army.com.
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What are the requirements to become an Army helicopter pilot?
The min. requirements are: Citizen of the US, a high school diploma, achieve a qualifying score on the SIFT test, min. of 110 on the GT portion of the ASVAB, meet the physical height and weight standards, and have vision no worse than 20/50 in either eye.
What's the age limit to become a helicopter pilot in the Army?
You need to be at least 18 years old, and the maximum age to appear before the Army selection board is 33 years old.
How long is training?
The entry level training for all Army helicopter pilots lasts 32 weeks.
What types of helicopters does the Army fly?
The Army employs the use of 4 different types of helicopters: AH-64 Apache, OH-58 Kiowa, UH-60 Black Hawk, and CH-47 Chinook.
How much do Army helicopter pilots make?
Army helicopter pilots have a minimum rank of O-1, which pays an average of $3,426 per month.