Comparing Air Force and Naval Aviators



The Dude and Baby Boo circa 2005

USAF Academy The Dude wants to fly military war planes. Never too early to start planning. So which branch? Air Force or Navy?

John Howland who runs USNA-AT-Large has (very) Alert Readers who have written in with suggestions on just this topic. The following deserves a wide audience to aid the high schoolers — and younger — students in picking a military academy.

“Bill Taylor provides this handy guide for young Americans who have the choice —

Great comparison of USAF vs. USN Aviators. Pretty much fits my experience.

Regards, Bill

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”.

Check Six

Bob Norris

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

yourself “Which one am I more likely to thrive in?”


Baby Boo, Your Business Blogger, The Dude

P-51 Mustang, USAF Academy

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.

Fly Off

Bob Norris

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.


The Chapel at the USAF Academy

Credit: The Diva

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



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


Thank you (foot)notes:


The Diva on the stick


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