Starting in the military vs. ATP or other training

Hello fellow plane lovers, my names Eli I’m from Connecticut and I want to pursue a career in aviation. Im looking for some extra guidance. Being that this is an atp site I’m sure there will be some bias, but I was conflicted on whether going the airforce route to get all my ratings or go through ATP. I know that the airforce only let’s officers fly, so I was going to go the rotc route along with a&p school. I feel pretty eager to get a jump on it though, I have been working as a machinic since I graduated high school, and even though my company did just get a contract to work on our current presidents private jet, I’m still not satisfied. I wanna be flying. Anyways I was wondering if there are any other piolts out there who have started their career in the military versus atp and have anything to say about it. Thanks - Eli

Well, my first advice is if you want to get training through the military based on the route you’re going I would advise talking to an officer recruiter or a college AFROTC recruiter depending on where you would want to go. Here’s kinda the short of it though:

Get accepted to a college with an AFROTC program
Get your college degree while also participating in ROTC based classes and training
Take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT)
Compete for an actual contract and Field Training slot (between 2nd/3rd year usually)
Take the Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS) then you get your PCSM score from that (and a few other things)

This and a few others factors affect your competitiveness. So lets say you manage to get into the college ROTC program, compete for a Field Training slot and go and come back successful. Then you still have to go before a Rated board to determine if you will get a Rated slot (Pilot, CSO, RPA, ABM).

Let’s say you get it, then you are looking at at least a 10 year commitment as an AF Pilot (if you don’t wash out).

I don’t say all this to discourage you, but if you go to the AF just to get your ratings then you will have a bad and most likely unsuccessful time as you are competing EVERY step of the way just to even have the chance to be a pilot. You have to want to serve as well because later on you will be doing less flying (depending on position and airframe) and more paperwork/command positions.

This all compares to the civilian side of things where you could walk into a flight school tomorrow, take a discovery flight, determine you like it, and sign up to start training for you PPL the next day (while also keeping your day job)

Flying for the military can be very rewarding, but it’s a serious commitment and shouldn’t really be used as an avenue for “just getting your ratings”. Like I said, not trying to discourage, but it’s a helluva long road that is even less for everyone than JUST being a pilot.

Edit to add: There is also an age limit of 28 to start pilot training by for the AF


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Caleb’s response was dead on. If you want to fly for a living, then go fly. If you want to be in the service, then go do that, but do not go into the armed forces for the free flight training, that is a way to lead to disappointment. Being in the armed forces is a total lifestyle commitment, it is not something to be taken lightly.


As a former Army aviator (Warrant officer, Blackhawk Helicopters) I can tell you it is some of the best times of my life. World travel, professional education, great people etc… That being said, it was also some of the most difficult times of my life, Deployments, War, time away from family etc. If I had to do it over, I would not change my route. Just be aware, like the others have said, it is a life choice, it will change you. My time in the military, I think, made me a better person, but I also carry some scars from war. I am now flying a 737 and loving it, and I can say I have a different perspective on the job because of my background.

Thanks for the input guys. I guess Ill have to decide what I’m really looking for. Right now I’m honestly not sure, all I know is that I want to fly. I was talking with a guy who’s been flying the same family on gulfstreams his whole career today and he said it’s a nice life. He also told me in 2 months he wasnt going to be doing anymore flying though because hes tired of it which I understand. Im not sure if Id want to lose interest in flying like he has but I also know that it sucks to be sitting in a cock pit of a g4 and thinking “damn I really wanna fly this” and not being able to. My a&p is another thing that I was planning on but I’m starting to care less and less about. I’m gonna be talking to a recruiter for more input as well. The reason I was thinking about not flying for the military was because I read that most AF piolts end up flying for an airline after their contracts expire, because they can pay better than the AF. And I was figuring if I did make it into the AF, got a slot, and kept it that at the end of the ten years since I would probley fly elsewhere for more money anyways it might be better to just start out doing that. One thing i do know is that I will be starting with my gliders lisence in the winter time in Maricopa Az where they do full immersive training. That’s about as far as iv got. -Eli


If your goal is to fly, I would not waste any time or money getting your A&P, they are very different jobs. To clarify something, airline pay takes several years to build to the point where it really pays well. Take a look at the FAQ section as there is a post there that deals with airline pay in depth.