1.31.2006

Air Force Pilot vs. Naval Aviator

LETTER ON WHETHER TO BECOME AN AIR FORCE PILOT...... OR A NAVAL AVIATOR......

The piece is written by Bob Norris, a former Naval aviator who also did a 3 year exchange tour flying the F-15 Eagle. He is now an accomplished author of entertaining books about U.S. Naval Aviation including "Check Six" and "Fly-Off".

In response to a letter from an aspiring fighter pilot on which military academy to attend, Bob replied with the following:

22 December 2005

Young Man,

Congratulations on your selection to both the Naval and Air Force Academies. Your goal of becoming a fighter pilot is impressive and a fine way to serve your country. As you requested, I'd be happy to share some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask ourself "Which one am I more likely to thrive in?"

USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are excellent. Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogenous and macro. No matter where you go, you'll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and you'll be given the training & tools you need to meet those expectations. You will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career, you will be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air Force pilot...so would your wife. Your Dad would want your sister to marry one.

Navy Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy, but so are Black Shoes (surface warfare) and Bubble Heads (submariners). Furthermore, the Navy is split into two distinctly different Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior Navy enlisted are salt of the earth; you'll be proud if you earn their respect. Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your hands dirty. The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather and/or at night and you will be scared many times. You will fly with legends in the Navy and they will kick your ass until you become a
lethal force. And some days - when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you - your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and you will be drop-jawed that someone would pay you to do it. The hottest girl in the bar wants to meet the Naval Aviator. That bar is in Singapore.

Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask...pack warm & good luck in Colorado.

Banzai

P.S.: Air Force pilots wear scarves and iron their flight suits.

P.S.S. And oh yes, the Army pilot program, don't even think about it unless you got a pair bigger than basketballs. Those guys are completely crazy.






Pau.




- hfs

38 comments:

Paul said...

I got a laugh out of this one and often nodded my head and mumbled how true. After 10 years in the Air Force I left the service. No I wasn't a pilot, I was one of the 100+ people needed to put a pilot in the sky.
However, one of the often over looked opportunities for an aviation career with our government is the Coast Guard. In my career field I dealt with folks in all of the services, including the Coast Guard. Their level of professionalism was quite high and I would assume the Coast Guard aviation community would also reflect that.

Anonymous said...

Well said, I am a Naval Aviator and this will certainly be sent around ready rooms across the fleet. It will fire the boys up all over the world....Well said

Anonymous said...

Haha, I enjoyed this read. It will be posted in my office for all to see. I too had to make the decision, but was drawn to the Navy.

Anonymous said...

Well written. Very true. As an Airforce pilot, I can safely say we are prepared for anything and everything. Naval Aviators have our respect as well.

Anonymous said...

I thououghly enjoyed reading this. I have the greatest respect for Naval Aviators; however, Bob Norris' intro failed to mentenion that he is also an accomplished Navy Propagandist. I am a retired Air Force pilot who spent many more special occassion days away from home than I did at home. I am also a USNA graduate who feels that a pilot has every right to expect to find his runway right where he left it.
I would also like to add that Naval Aviators don't need diplomatic clearance to get the scene of the action, a distinct and advantagous contribution to our national security.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

Coast Guard pilots are Naval Aviators.

Anonymous said...

Yes we do.

william murphy said...

How do Naval aviators fly to Afghanistan without permission from Pakistan? They certainly can't get there without USAF tanker support.

william murphy said...

How do Naval aviators fly to Afghanistan without permission from Pakistan? They certainly can't get there without USAF tanker support.

Ronald Humphreys said...

As a retired Army Aviator I had no quarrel with any of this. However, I would add this simple question: how can you tell if there is a fighter jock (Air Force, Navy, or Marine, it doesn't matter) in the bar?....They will tell you.

Anonymous said...

Army pilot here, thanks for the great read!

PJ Roths said...

When I finished college I knew I wanted to fly. I made the rounds of Air Force, Navy, Army in 1969. Chose Army and helicopters in Vietnam. Most people thought
I was crazy. They were right, but it was a real John Wayne adventure.

PJ Roths said...

When I finished college I knew I wanted to fly. I made the rounds of Air Force, Navy, Army in 1969. Chose Army and helicopters in Vietnam. Most people thought
I was crazy. They were right, but it was a real John Wayne adventure.

Anonymous said...

Retired Apache pilot. Why, yes! We do have massive balls. Thank you, Captain Obvious! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Love the entire military aviation community. After serving, especially in combat, you really get to see the nuances of all of em. I was Army Aviation, accepted in the DCA USCG, turned it down and fly for the gubmint still. Heard a good story one time where an AF Gen went for a flight at night in an AH64 and had them bring him back after 5 min.....dropping out of the front seat while it was still running and walking away saying, "you guys are batshit crazy!!!"

Ray Frisbey said...

I once saw an Air Force Col. Puke after a Cobra ride. Once, because he wouldn't get back in.

Anonymous said...

Thats down to the radiation though ;)

Anonymous said...

I was F 111 driver and spent 9 years in the USAF...very insightful. I don't dispute anything this guy says.

Anonymous said...

Pretty close assessment. I'm a retired Navy ATC Officer who did 30 yrs, ship and shore, including two AFB's, and a Joint base with Army Aviation. The big difference I saw was the AF is so specialized and scripted. One man, one job, not a lot of cross training. The Navy however exposes it's pilots and sailors to a wide variety of jobs/tasks which could come in critical when the script doesn't go as planned. To quote Clint Eastwood, we Overcome and Improvise.

Anonymous said...

No, Coast Guard pilots are not Naval aviators. A number of our pilots cross over from either the marines or Army, I have yet to meet a CG pilot that was Naval or AF, not saying there isn't a few. Nor are we under the Dept of the Navy, only way back in the days, and only during war time would we transfer command and fall under Dept of the Navy.

Anonymous said...

In RVN, we could tell the USAF birddog pilots from the Army aviators by their respective take-offs and landings -- USAF needed a hard surface runway, but we Army guys could take-off or land on a helipad or most anywhere with the length of the bird clear.. USAF looked down at the trees and Army looked up to see the trees. Even snake-eaters thought we were crazy, but they loved the support we gave them -- thanks to the USAF fighter guys overhead and the Army artillery bringing in the firepower. We services are all a well oiled cohesive team, each doing our part!

Anonymous said...

a la the Olympics: Navy wings are gold, AF wings are silver.

Anonymous said...

Epic, Fly Army!

Anonymous said...

I went to the Air Force Academy and chose to be Army trained in helicopters when I graduated. I am still flying them over 40 years later.

Anonymous said...

My gonads have shrunk some but I now teach younger guys with massive gonads fort rucker al army aviation

Anonymous said...

When I decided to join the US Military at 18...I went to the recruiting station and stood outside and looked at the 4 different services. I thought about all of them. but it came down to this. Navy: On a boat with 5,000 guys..NO Army: Camping-I can go camping anytime I want..NO Marines: Camping on boat with 5,000 guys ..Hell NO. Air Force: They stay in hotels...Hell YES! The rest is 30 years of great times!

Anonymous said...

Having flown for both services, It boils down to this, in the Air Force you don't do anything unless it is written in the manual, In the Navy you will do anything to finish a mission unless it is written in the manual you can't do it. No matter where you are deployed it never hurts to wear your bag (flightsuit), and women will hunt you down, even in the grocery store. Sierra Hotel

Anonymous said...

They do have permission from Pakistan. It's a bit convoluted, but there's basically a corridor that NATO aircraft can use as they see fit, and the Pakistanis route commercial traffic over/under/around it. It's how pretty much all Western military aircraft get from the Indian Ocean and/or Persian Gulf into Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Flare to land, squat to pee. Go Navy!

Davis Mauldin said...

Where do Coast Guard pilots get their wings?

Anonymous said...

Well 14 years ago, we had carrier aircraft that dragged them through Pak to Afghanistan. But yes, we do enjoy the support of our USAF brothers flying the tankers. I'm not sure if the Rhinos (Super Hornets) are tanking as much as we did, but we tank ourselves around the boat for all recoveries. It's a NATOPS requirement.

Anonymous said...

This is actually a modification of the original letter. The original was dated Feb 2004 and someone had since added the P.P.S. line. Bob Norris never wrote that last line nor was it in the original letter that was sent around in 2004. He did have the P.S. in the original letter. Sorry to burst the bubble.

Anonymous said...

The source of the Navy's permissions depends on how late they are getting on station.

Anonymous said...

Aw too bad he did not say that about the Army, he should have. As a dependent child I was flown in a few Army MEDEVAC fixed wings. The take offs were near vertical as were the landings, thank god we were belted/harnessed in. They did announce this with the reasoning being the runway was in ill repair...when I got off the plane I looked, there was MAYBE three plane lengths of runway behind us and I could not see the end in front of us. I was a Navy dependent BTW. Later as an Army soldier I had the privilege of many fixed and rotary Army flights, the rotary were much more "fun.," and jumping out of an Apache, better than any other jump (later the pilot made a point to come over and call me brave because of how/when I was sent out the side...I said perhaps crazy is a better term...he nodded). I married a Nightstalker, only guy I found with bigger balls than me, and crazy too!

Anonymous said...

You're full of shit

Anonymous said...

After 4 years in the Air Force, I got out and joined the military.

Anonymous said...

Fyi - it's the chair Force.

Anonymous said...

Marine pilots are also Naval Aviators.