Naval Aviation - Pilot And Naval Flight Officers' - Qualification

Training for Navy Pilots

pilot training
Navy Pilot School.

In the Navy, Pilots and Naval Flight Officers are officers that fly jets, propeller aircraft, and helicopters and some will be trained to land and take off on ships. To become an officer, a candidate must first be a citizen of the United States, a college graduate, and attend one of the three commissioning sources in the Navy: United States Naval Academy, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) or Navy Officer Candidates School (OCS).

Navy Pilots and Naval Flight Officers (NFO)

Navy pilots are members of the select, highly skilled Naval Aviation team. The Navy maintains and operates more than 4,000 aircraft including carrier-based jets, land-based patrol and reconnaissance aircraft , transport planes and sea and land-based helicopters. The Navy offers extensive training for candidates who qualify as skilled aviation professionals in a high-quality organization. Civilians transition to aviation officers during 13 weeks of intensive academic and military training at Officer Candidate School (OCS), at Newport Rhode Island. Then they attend Flight School at Naval Air Station Pensacola. NAS Pensacola is the birthplace of Naval Aviation. All Ensigns entering aviation programs will then complete a six-week air indoctrination course at NASC, Pensacola. After indoc, students will continue training for 18-24 months depending upon the aircraft selected.

Candidates will serve a minimum of eight years on active duty from the date of designation as a Naval Aviator. Typically, it can take 18-24 months before a student "get his/her wings" and that is when the 8 year clock starts. Consider it a 10 year commitment. Candidates who do not complete the Navy pilot program will serve four years from the date they leave flight status unless released by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, and Training).


Applicants must be at least 19 years old and of such age that they will not have passed their 27th birthday on commissioning. Maximum age limit may be adjusted upward to their 31st birthday on a month for month basis for active duty and prior military service applicants. The applicant must have a Bachelor of Science Degree from an accredited College or University; have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. Major: No restrictions, but degrees in technical disciplines preferred. Scores on the ASTB (Aviation Selection Test Battery) should be in the zone: Mental: AQR 3/ PFAR 4/ PBI 4.

The Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (CNRC) will endeavor to select candidates with the highest mental qualifications, accepting minimum scores only when market conditions or exceptional cases warrant.

Physical: Must be physically qualified and adapted to fly in planes in accordance with the physical standards established by the Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (CHBUMED). Applicants must have 20/40 or better, uncorrected vision correctable to 20/20, normal color and depth perception. Active duty military members accepted as candidates must obtain an aviation physical exam from a qualified Flight Surgeon to determine aeronautical adaptability.

Training Pipeline

The student pilot will learn basic airmanship skills, instrument and formation flying, and basic acrobatic maneuvers. They will also master the art of solo flight, earning the qualification to move on to more demanding training in a specific type of aircraft. The intermediate and advanced pilot training will occur in one of five naval air communities. These five "pipelines" are

  • jet (strike)
  • turboprop (patrol and reconnaissance),
  • multi-engine jet (strategic communications),
  • carrier turboprop (airborne early warning) and
  • helicopter (rotary).

The pipeline will determine the specialty flying skills you are taught, such as basic air combat tactics, gunnery, low-level flight and carrier landings. Students also learn land and water survival techniques - key aspects of the Naval Aviation challenge. Before being assigned to the first operational squadron, students join a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for training in the specific type of aircraft they will fly in the fleet.

Before being assigned to your first operational squadron, you'll join a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for training in the specific type of aircraft you'll fly in the fleet. As a Pilot, you may be detailed to various locations on the Pacific Fleet, Atlantic Fleet and overseas.

Naval aviation officers receive aviation career incentive pay in addition to their regular salary. Student aviation officers receive $125 per month flight pay during flight training. The monthly amount of flight pay received depends on time in service and increases by hundreds of dollars within a few years to the current maximum of $1000.00 per month. In addition, you may be eligible for a retention bonus at the end of your initial commitment. All FY-19 ACRB contracts will be worth $100,000; all eligible officers will receive an initial payment of $34,000, and two anniversary payments of $33,000. Participation carries a three-year obligated service obligation, to include full completion of a post-command commander tour, which may be between 24 and 36 months, depending on assignment. 

Height and Weight Limits

There are no waivers for not meeting the height standards whether too short or too tall.
- Height restrictions: 62" - 78" (male)
- 58" - 78" (female)
- Should be able to swim prior to OCS.

A strict process is used in Pensacola to measure applicants in order to determine which air frames they may qualify to fly. These measurements are based on several factors including height, weight, functional reach, buttocks knee length, and sitting height which is used to ensure the aviator's safety on sitting in the cockpit as well as emergency ejections.