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Anyone who wishes to fly for the Navy (or Marine Corps or Coast Guard) must start his or her journey in Pensacola, Florida, known as the "cradle of naval aviation." Because of the mental and physical strain involved in flying, students are required to pass a number of fitness, survival and academic tests. Prospective students should be aware of other personal requirements as well.
Students entering the Navy flight school are always, with rare exception, officers. As such, they must have come from the U.S. Naval Academy, an ROTC program or the Officer Candidate School. There is no requirement that the student have studied a particular major or received a certain degree. However, the student must first pass the Aviation Selection Test Battery, before being able to select aviation and attend flight school. This test covers basic naval and aviation concepts and history. Furthermore, she must be able to understand the mathematics and science terms and concepts she will learn throughout flight school. Past success in these areas may be an indication of preparation.
Students entering flight school for the Navy must be prepared for the physical demands of flying various missions. The physical fitness test conducted at the beginning of flight school consists of a one and a half mile, cross country run, sit-ups and push-ups. Males are required to do 42 push-ups in two minutes and 50 sit-ups in two minutes and run the one and a half mile in 12 minutes. Females are required to do 17 push-ups and 45 sit-ups and run the one and a half mile in 14 minutes, 15 seconds. There are also water survival and land survival tests.
Students who wish to be pilots must have at least 20/20 vision. A prospective naval aviator or naval flight officer must undergo a physical by a flight surgeon, who will verify he does not have any ongoing conditions that would inhibit his flying.
All students start their course at the six-week Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) in Pensacola, Florida. API is where students will be physically tested to determine their ability to fly. API also consists of academic classes that cover weather, physics, engineering and application of survival skills. Students should be prepared for long hours of studying, lectures and tests.
There are various tracks that flight school students follow. Although they all start in API in Pensacola, students should be ready to move as they work their way through the syllabus. After six weeks in API, student naval aviators will attend "Primary" in either Corpus Christi, Texas, or Pensacola, Florida, while student naval flight officers will stay in Pensacola. From here, students may continue to move for "Intermediate" or "Advanced" courses or stay in Pensacola. The path depends on the type of aircraft the student is chosen to fly and whether she is a student naval aviator or student naval flight officer. As with many Navy careers, students should always be prepared to move.
After finishing flight school and receiving wings, the student is required to repay the Navy by committing a certain number of years to the service. This commitment is added to any other commitment the student may have. The number of years he must remain in the Navy depends on the type of aviation job the student will be fulfilling. Naval flight officers are required to give back six years. Helicopter pilots are required to serve for an additional seven years, while fixed-wing pilots have a commitment of eight years. Students entering flight school should be aware of these additional years they will be required to serve.