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 to those with a college degree. However, thanks to the new program offered by the Army called “High School to Flight School” – those requirements are 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 helicopter pilot is generally reserved for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. The lone exception is the United States Army.
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 consider for Army helicopter 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. One is the revised Flight Aptitude Selection Test which requires a score of at least 90.
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 Flight Aptitude Selection 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 5% or less.
Essentially that means for every 100 applications the Army receives, only 5 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 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 Rucker 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. In order to remain on flight status after training, pilots must maintain 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 has been met you will attend basic combat training for about nine weeks as well as another six weeks of warrant officer candidate school.
As previously mentioned it is not possible to attend Army Aviation School without being a rank of 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 Rucker in Alabama. It is the Holy Grail for all aspiring Army helicopter pilots.
The program will launch with instruction learned in the classroom and progress to actual flight training.
As you would expect, the training is specific to rotary-winged aircraft and its own distinct challenges. The flight school also covers the basic 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 helicopter simulators.
The U.S. Army currently requires over seven hours of training on the simulators before they’ll let students progress to actual maneuvers using a TH-67 training helicopter.
Students currently have the option of specializing in one of our helicopters:
- AH-64 Apache: The primary assault helicopter of the Army.
- OH-58 Kiowa: Popular for reconnaissance work.
- UH-60 Black Hawk: Designed for medical evacuations as well as search and rescue.
- CH-47 Chinook: Designed to provide transport.
Each type of aircraft has different training standards that need to get met as well as time logged. Though the hours logged varies, it is reported between 70 to 150 hours, depending on the helicopter.
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 advanced flying and survival skills of pilots.
All in all, expect at least a year of training at the Army Aviation School in Fort Rucker in order to graduate from the program.
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 members has become an expert in one type of helicopter they will have the opportunity to get 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 tryout for the Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The unit is known as the 160th SOAR.
Here, pilots are presented with the 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 or 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 Bragg – North Carolina
- Hunter Army Airfield – Georgia
- Fort Campbell – Kentucky
- Fort Hood – 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 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 Rucker.
As we mentioned earlier, the acceptance rate can be as low as 5%.
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 Flight Aptitude Selection test.
The better you do on that test, the better your chances will be of getting in to the High School to Flight School program.
You can become an Army helicopter 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.