Military Pilot Transition
A Marine Corps Aviator recently said, "I'M NOT BUYING ANY FLIGHT TIME!" OK......Plan on never flying again the moment you step away from your flying job in the military. With an ATP and 1000's of hours, you will never be at the controls of an aircraft in General Aviation without spending some $$. No one will give you their aircraft without charging you and making you buy some time with an instructor to get qual'ed so their insurance is covered. No one will hire you without getting some Part 91 and/or Part 135 experience. Put the cost of buying some time in perspective........You have an FAA license worth $50,000+ (Probably closer to $100,000) that you didn't pay a dime for. Yes, you can buy your own plane......No one will insure you without getting some instruction in it.
In my own experience I spent $5000 over a 9 year period ($600/year) and converted all of my military flight experience and qualifications into an ATP Multiengine Fixed Wing license, kept my Commercial Helo/Instrument I received after flight school and later became an Airplane Certified Flight Instructor (CFI (airplane), CFII (airplane), MEI (airplane), & CFI and CFII in Helicopters). Recently the rules just changed and I added on Rotorcraft/ Instrument CFI and Multiengine (MEI) and Instrument (CFII) for the cost of a few copies of my record book. These quals cost my civilian counterpart a minimum of $100,000 (it would be in excess of $250,000 if they were not a CFI). In two years (2010-2011) I made that money back 4X by flying as a Charter Pilot, CFI, and safety pilot. I take my friends to Lanai for lunch and fly a twin engine Piper to Maui to carry mail for the USPS. (I get paid to do these things)
Basic “How-to” Information:
Dust off your FAA Commercial License. Hopefully you got this before you departed flight school or have some other (Private or ATP) FAA license. If you still have the paper copy you will need to get the updated plastic version to be legal to fly on your own. You don't need this until we do your Bi Annual Flight review or when you fly on your own. The paper one expired on 31 March 2010. It takes about two weeks to get it updated.
- 3rd Class or higher medical — You don't need this. Your “UPCHIT” from a military doctor is all you need. The FAA implemented this new rule in late 2009. Make a copy of your military "UPCHIT" and carry it with you when you fly.
- Get a civilian log book if you don't have one already. You can buy an inexpensive one where you will rent the plane from.
- Depending on your comfort level and the amount of rust or lack of rust on your fixed wing abilities it will take 2-3 flights to get you up to speed. The last flight can be the Cross Country check (HNL-LNY-MKK-HNL) that doubles as your Bi Annual Flight review. At this point you are legal to rent on your own. I have all the information on what you will need to know for this review on a one page info sheet.
There are several variations of what you may require to fly a single engine airplane and I will go over your individual situation with you.
Reasons To Transition
1. The most basic reason to transition is that civilian flying is fun. After having sat through countless hours of long military flight briefings and been witness to thousands of power point slides, wouldn’t it be nice after a 5 minute weather briefing, complete a one page performance form, and a 10 minute review of your plans, you get in your Cessna and launch? No flight schedule and all done on your own time if weather and machine cooperate. Take the spouse to Lanai for an overnighter! When you show up with your own plane, it is “ROCK STAR” treatment.
While in Iraq dealing with complicated weather patterns, dust storms and Baghdad Airspace confusion, I couldn’t wait to get back in my simple 172, with no moving map, no weapons checks and just fly around Oahu. After dealing with the intricacies of military flight ops I revel in the simplicity of civilian aviation.
2. Do it for your family and friends. Mom and Dad can’t get in the F-15 or that Army helicopter with you. Take them for a ride and let them see you practicing your profession – In your element. Remember your first flight wasn’t in an F-16 but was in a simple aircraft or helicopter. It was still a thrill and it will be for them. Let Mom and Dad see what all the education was for.
I was able to take my Mom and Dad flying up the coast of Maine. We flew from Portland to Rockland, had our Maine Lobster lunch, and flew home. It has been some of the most memorable flying I have ever done.
3. At the whim of your detailer or monitor you can find yourself with a set of orders flying a desk and the only flight time you will be getting is on Microsoft Flight Sim. Don’t give up that easily. Stay in the game, bite the bullet, and buy a little flight time.
Your New Training Environment
Once you begin my dedicated flight transition syllabus you will immediately see many similarities to your military flight experience. Military aviators are generally TYPE A personalities, so you will appreciate the familiar environment.
- A detailed syllabus and plan for your training
- A thorough preflight briefing (10-15 minutes)
- A detailed scheme of maneuver and objective for the flight to be flown
- A thorough verbal and written post flight debriefing
I have taken these items directly from my military flight training and adapted them for civilian use. Why? Because these things work and make us safe aviators.
My Ability To Transition You
My past is comprised of Naval Flight School (1988-1990). I underwent my initial training in the T-34 and then transitioned to helicopters (TH-57). My next transition (1998) was from helicopters (CH-53) to multiengine fixed wing airplanes (UC-12/BE-200). Three years later, back to helicopters. Not being at the top of my flight school class, what enabled me to transition is the way we (in the military) approach our flight training. A detailed, concise training method that I have adopted will assist you in your transition.
Transition Your Experience
Take the hundreds or thousands of flight hours and training time you have accumulated and transition it to civilian qualifications. Once you depart the military or get that coveted desk job, the time you spent in a military aircraft quickly evaporates unless the FAA has it documented with a license. Maybe you don’t want to be a 747 pilot after serving our country but at least keep and get the qualification. 1500 hours in anything gets you an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP). This would cost you well over a $100,000 and I got mine for $1500. If you already fly a multiengine airplane, the FAA can give you an “ADD ON” to a Commercial License for free.
As an example, I recently researched what it would take for an Army Helicopter Pilot with 1500 hours of helicopter time, to get an FAA Private Pilot License, Airplane. $4000!! This is about a 60% discount from what a civilian would pay with zero time. A Navy, Marine, or Coast Guard pilot who got their Commercial License out of Pensacola can be legal and train to fly a Cessna with usually less than 5-10 hours of training. That equates to two or three weekends and you are on your way.
For most of you, you will be flying a Cessna to Maui for the weekend with family/friends for less than $1200.
A Word About Civilian CFI’s
There are many highly skilled and professional CFI’s. These are sound professional aviators. The added skill I bring to the table is having not only transitioned myself as a military aviator but transitioned many other military pilots. The difference is you are trying to transition in the “opposite” direction. Civilians are going from simple aircraft to more complex aircraft or just trying to maintain their skill level. The military aviator is going from highly complex aircraft to a simple aircraft. Most military pilots have never been in a C-172 or even trained as a FAA Private Pilot, but yet you have a Commercial or higher license. Hardly anyone flies a 40,000 pound helicopter and then transitions to a 2500 pound Cessna. F-15/16/18 pilots don’t typically fly at 50 KIAS.
My first experience with a civilian CFI was in 1992. I had approximately 500 hours and he could not understand why I didn’t know how to preflight a Cessna. Surely I had seen a Cessna before?! While training for my CFI qual, my CFI didn’t understand why I didn’t know how to do a “LAZY 8”. “You must have done these for your Commercial License.” She was shocked to find out I had never done any civilian flying to get my license and the fact I had never been an FAA Private Pilot was not possible in her world.
The civilian CFI doesn’t usually have a point of reference why an F-15 pilot would want to do a backwards transition or why a pilot with 1500+ hours of combat time can’t talk his way into an uncontrolled field. Baghdad airspace is simple as compared to trying to get into Dillingham with gliders with no radios, experimentals, and student pilots on their solo!
This is where I come in and can really apply my experience to assist you and help lower your costs. I understand why a helicopter pilot wants to pull the nose back in an airplane while on final. I know why Naval aviators want to round their patterns or a carrier pilot wants to extend the upwind.
The transition is an easy one but a healthy change in your skills. A civilian CFI can transition you. They are professionals. I feel I can do it easier and faster because I have been in your shoes. I already know all your helo habits and the fact that the “jet guy or gal” has never seen an airplane that burns 8 gallons per hour vice 10,000 pounds in 10 seconds.
When it comes time for your flight review, I can help. Start by following the link...... BI-ANNUAL FLIGHT REVIEW This is a detailed discussion on planning for your BFR with a CFI.
I am in debt and forever greatful to the Marines and Sailors I have had the privilege of flying with, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is an honor to have been part of your lives.
A Military Perspective on General Aviation