Thanks for joining us today on commissioned. I’m Reed. And today we’re going to talk about a little bit more in detail about what it means to be a pilot in the air force. We’ve already covered on undergraduate pilot training how to get selected to become a pilot. But we need to cover, what does that actually look like?
Let’s not forget that this is the family business. Regardless of what your career field is, whether you’re a pilot or something else, this is what we do. We support the flying mission. And pilots are central to that.
Exactly. And when you boil it down, what does a pilot do? They fly the aircraft. Their responsibility is to get the aircraft in the right place at the right time in the right way, to employ the right weapons in the right way, and the right time and place in order to have the effect that we need to have on our adversaries. And I know it sounds simple, I guess, but it’s really not. It takes a lot of training, a lot of education, and these guys and gals are absolute professionals.
And they are professionals because they’ve been through a very long training pipeline in order to get them there. As a reminder, there’s that selection process just to get selected to be a pilot to begin with. Then there’s initial flight training and then about a year’s worth of instruction while going through undergraduate pilot training.
After you’ve gone through undergraduate pilot training, you still have to get qualified on your specific weapon system, which can be up to, again, almost a year, depending on what aircraft you’re flying. And that’s just before you actually get fully mission qualified on your weapon system. So a lot of training, and it doesn’t end there. You’re going to be part of numerous exercises, lots of deployments. You’re going to be flying a lot.
And because of all this flying and all this training, the air force expects to get its return on investment from all of the time and resources that they’ve spent on you. It costs at least a million dollars to produce a fully qualified pilot, and the air force needs them to be in the air force flying, conducting the operational mission for a good amount of time. And so becoming a pilot comes with a rather long active duty service commitment, which is actually ten years. Right, Reed?
Yeah. And to compare and contrast, most active duty service commitments are usually four to five. So this is a pretty hefty one. But again, given the amount of training, given the specialization and the challenging nature of the work, it makes sense for the air force to get that return on investment. Something else that we should mention here is there’s a lot of duties that go along with flying that are going to be part of your day to day, whether that’s building the schedule, whether that’s ensuring that you are physically capable to fly, because there are additional requirements for flyers that normal air force members don’t have to meet. Scheduling, as we mentioned, training, navigation, getting things ready for the next day, debriefing. There’s a lot that goes into it that’s not just pilot and stick time.
Yeah, but on an even bigger, broader level than that. These are the people who are ultimately responsible for the strategy of the employment of the weapon systems. They are the ones who make the decisions about how, when and where we use the aircraft and different ordinance in order to deliver the strategic effects that the air force needs.
Exactly. Colin, when I was deployed to Al UdID in 2014, we were tasked with going into Syria, and when we were making that plan, I’d say 90% of the people in the room were pilots. But again, that makes sense. They are the experts in how we employ these weapons in order to have the effects we’re after.
Let’s talk a little bit about how the pilot develops that capability, that understanding of how to use these weapons in order to support the air force. Reed, what does the developmental process and opportunities available to pilots look like?
Well, generally, you’re going to go through that training that we all mentioned, and then you’re going to get qualified on your weapon system. And then for the first few years, you’re going to be really focused on that, getting really, really good at employing that aircraft and the capabilities that it can deliver. After that, you’re going to start to gain abilities as an instructor, to instruct others on how to employ the weapon system and be an evaluator in order to evaluate others on how well they are employing their aircraft. You also have weapons school at Malice in Nevada, where you can even more amplify your ability as a trainer and instructor, essentially become the trainer of the trainers. That’s another really select group of folks who are really sought after talent. Yeah.
So there are many opportunities for pilots to develop their craft, become those really proficient and tactical experts on the employment of their weapon system. But, Reed, it doesn’t stop there. We want our pilots to command. Right. So there are many opportunities for our pilots to command at the squadron level, at the group wing, and even above. The norm is for the United States Air Force to be led by a pilot.
Again, it’s the family business. It kind of makes sense for these folks to be our leaders. And if you are interested in becoming a pilot in the air force and learning more about it, we hope that we’ve been providing some content that’s helpful for you. Go ahead, like subscribe. Share this with those around you. There are a lot of people who want to light their hair on fire and go fast and blow up stuff, and I can’t blame them. Colin, some of those big gray aircraft, they bring a smile to my face.
If you have questions about how to become a pilot, what the life is like while supporting the operational mission, please send those questions over to us at [email protected] or through social media. Engage with us in the heritage room. We’ve got a number of pilots that are active there, and you can ask your questions to them directly.
We’ve also dropped some links in the description to some pilots that we’ve interviewed for our podcast, every single one of them, true american, amazing patriot. And we’re glad to have them. And hopefully bringing that content to you can help answer your questions as you begin Aero force journey. Anything else before we wrap up today?
That’ll do it for this one. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of commissioned.