Should I join AFROTC

Is joining the Air Force a great way to become an airline pilot?

As mentioned earlier, joining the Air Force is a great way to become an airline pilot. Now that we have this established ... DO NOT join the Air Force to become an airline pilot or to fly. Participate because you want to serve your country and if you are lucky you can fly.

Let's break down the timeline and steps to get there:

Commissioning sources:


  • 4 years, paid, excellent opportunities, is a great preparation for your career
  • terrible REAL college experience, not experiencing much of the real world


  • 4 years, can get a scholarship to have some paid, real college experience
  • Pretty good networking, but not as good as USAFA


  • 9.5 weeks
  • Little to no networking, cannot prepare you to become an officer

You have your best chances of getting a pilot's place through the academy. Via AFROTC you apply to a rated board. However, you may be selected as a CSO, RPA, etc. With OTS, you apply for certain positions (e.g. only as a pilot) so that you don't do anything that you don't necessarily want to do.

I've seen all 3 sources and finally finished with OTS. I think AFROTC is probably the best option when there are a lot of pilot slots going out. However, USAFA is really the only guaranteed way if you are dealing with a lot of BS.

You have now received your pilot seat and commissioned as an officer. What now? Off to UPT ....

You will either go to Laughlin, Vance, Columbus or, if selected for ENJJPT, Sheppard. This is where you will go through the first flight screening (I believe it has now been changed to IFT) where you will be flying the DA-20 in Colorado for about 20 hours.

Finally, everything you've worked for ... you start with the slackademics ... 6 weeks of aerospace physiology, T-6 systems, instruments, formation, etc. Then switch to the airline you are flying the T-6 on and work 12 hours a day and then come home and study for a few more.

After approximately 6 months, you will be chasing either T-38s, T-1s, or Helos. Statistically, a class size is around 24 studs with 4-5 T-38s (maybe a guard or a couple of internationals here), 1 helo and the rest T-1. You will skip to phase 3 and repeat the academics and fly for your jet.

You will reach Drop Night after more than 52 weeks of UPT. You will be piled and stacked among your co-workers and given a jet that you may or may not want. Fighters have fallen quite a bit lately, but it comes and goes. Most likely, your class of 24 stallions will get 2-3 fighters.

If you have a Heavy (which will be most of your class) they will be heading to the next base for about 6-9 months of upgrade training in the C-130, KC-135, KC-10, To do U-28, etc. Other than that, I can't say exactly what it's about.

But let's say you were one of the lucky ones and dropped a fighter ... Next, move on to Intro to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) where you keep flying the -38. Here you learn to fly very, very simple BFM and BSA. They teach you to be the best wingman you can be. When you graduate, switch to your B course ...

The locations and times of the B courses depend on which jet you get. It's about 9 months for the Viper. This is where you go through your IQT (initial qualification) and learn how to use it. Once you graduate, you'll get to your first fighter squadron where you'll complete MQT (Mission Qual).

If you are good after 250-350 hours, you will be sent for two-ship upgrade training. This basically continues your entire career.

If you want to serve and fly in the process, great! But I wouldn't consider military aviation as an entry into the airline world. Yes, you can fly in circles around your peers after your military training, but it will likely be the toughest you've ever worked on.

As I've pointed out, this process has taken most of us years and guess what, the training never stops. I haven't even really talked about all of the TDYs, missions, missed holidays, missed birthdays, missed anniversaries, etc. You will be far from your family. And when you are at home, you will be working more than 60 hours a week. And when you get home for the night, you have to study.

I don't want to discourage you, just see what Air Force flying is really like. Good luck!


Great answer, but I felt like my son (US Army) was talking to me about his currently very bad cell phone signal. If you would kindly expand the jargon it would be greatly appreciated. I get USAFA, USROTC, OTS, but many don't like it. CSO, RPA, UPT, ENJJPT? Help!! You got better towards the end, that's appreciated.