F/A-18 Hornet landing on carrier in bad weather

US F/A-18 fighter pilot lands on aircraft carrier in conditions of no visibility

The most feared radio call a Carrier Air Wing can hear while Blue Water is:

“Ninety-Nine School-boys…landing lights on.”

My last post featured a beautiful dusk carrier landing, I was going to show a worst case scenario (night bad weather) but realized the viewer wouldn’t see anything any way. I have two traps etched in my mind where I was so riveted to the instruments I didn’t realize how close I was until the ship’s wire yanked me to a stop. With that in mind I opted for a day zero visibility trap.

Blue Water means there is no divert, the ship is too far from shore, so you get onboard or come up the starboard side and eject, then hope they find you. It is worse at night of course, The radio call, 99, means its for everyone airborne. School-boys was the collective call sign for the Midway’s Air Wing. Landing lights on is what sent the chill down your spine. We got other blast calls: “99 School-boys max conserve.”, for example meant something was wrong with the ship, Aviators were boltering (missing the wires, it was contagious) or an accident happened on deck. While it got your attention and caused you to keep one eye on the depleting fuel gauge, it didn’t strike fear like “Landing lights on”.

In Naval Aviation you never land with the aircrafts landing lights on. We used running lights (green, red and white just like a boat) and a color coded light that told the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) what your Angle Of Attack was, (AOA is basically your speed). So, when that call was made it meant the weather was so bad, not only could the Aviators not see the boat’s lights. The LSOs couldn’t see the aircraft unless that bright landing light was on. During really bad weather fun you’d get to 3/4s of a mile (where you’d normally call the ball with your side number and fuel state) instead of calling the ball, you’d call “Clara”. That meant you couldn’t see anything. You wanted to hear: “We’ve got you, you’re a little high (or whatever) continue.” What you didn’t want to hear was: “You’re sounding good keep it coming.” That meant the LSOs couldn’t see you either, even with that VERY bright light on!

The video is from the HUD (Heads Up Display) camera of an F/A-18, it is the pilots view. Airspeed is the left box, radar altimeter is the right. At the top, the numbers are the aircraft’s heading and at the bottom is a vertical moving line and a horizontal. That is the ship’s ILS approach, and represents the proper lateral and glideslope guidance that will put you on the number three wire and centerline of the landing area. Both very important; if the line goes low…you go around for another try. Left or right and the LSOs will send you around for another try. Remember there are millions of dollars worth of aircraft and hundreds of Sailor’s with in a few feet of each wing-tip. Obviously, it is super sensitive in close, we are talking 1 or 2 feet of accuracy at 150 MPH.

Watch it again. with all that in mind.

My books: The Aviator Series are progressing through the history of Naval Aviation: Project 7 Alpha, Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, ENDGAME in the Pacific and CODE NAME: Infamy all are set in WW2. My latest, COLD WAR HOT, will move into the jet age and Cold War culminating in the Korean War and the Navy’s dangerous transition.

Take one for a ride!


Posted in Aviator book series, Book, Military, Naval Aviation, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

E-2 Hawkeye lands on air craft carrier at dusk

Great video of an E-2C or D landing on an aircraft carrier, officially at night. This is one of the best I’ve seen for anyone who wants to know what the experience is like. The E-2 is a twin engine turbo-prop aircraft and a bit slower than Fighter or Attack jets. That helps you get a front seat view of the approach with internal communication (pilot to pilot) and from the ship.

At the top of the video is the ships view from the PLAT camera, located in the deck, on centerline of the landing area. Every space (room) on the ship has a PLAT TV in it. Your name as the pilot is also provided…everyone knows if you bolter (miss wires) who it was. That causes all hands to work longer. I personally found that pressure much higher than fear of busting ass. If you watch to the end, you can hear the Naval Aviators joking about it being a “night trap”. Even though it is dusk and there is a great horizon, officially it counts as night and is highly sought after to maintain your night qual.

In my books: The Aviator Series I convey the experience of Naval Aviation in my books: Project 7 Alpha, Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, ENDGAME in the Pacific and CODE NAME: Infamy.

Next post will be a zero visibility approach at night in a single seat F/A-18 Hornet.


Posted in Aviator book series, Book, Naval Aviation, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

P-51 Mustang vs. A-6M Zero

North American P-51 Mustang vs Mitsubishi A6M Zero ✈ Aero-Pictures ✈

Posted by Aero-Pictures on Friday, November 11, 2016

A view from the other cockpit. This is some real good footage, done as I think it should be, with some real aircraft (I think). And they understand what Howard Hughes learned in Hell’s Angels: speed is relative. Notice all the scenes are either near the ground or clouds, thus the viewer sees the relative speed.

Hell’s Angels, set in WWI, is still a good watch. Real aircraft is still the best way to go. In my first book, Project 7 Alpha, I write about a WWI air battle like this. The other books in the Aviator Series: Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, ENDGAME in the Pacific and Code Name; Infamy all have air to air combat scenes from WWII.


Posted in Blog, Book, flight test, Military, Pilot shortage, Vengeance, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

F7U-3 Cutlass….or as Naval Aviators called it, The Gutless.

The Gutless, The Ensign Eliminator: Vought’s F7U-3 Cutlass had performance that was…shall we say underwhelming. It was so bad Navy lore has it that the F7U-3 is the sole reason we went from a flat 100 foot pattern at the ship to a descending pattern that starts at 600 feet abeam. It’s Westinghouse J-34 turbojets performance were so anemic, with gear and flaps down the Gutless couldn’t maintain level flight in a turn. Political pressure being what it was, and is (witness the F-35), as often happens the Fleet guys were ordered to “make it work”. Thus the descending pattern.

Even with the descending pattern and extreme caution being used when operating the Cutlass, 25% of them were stricken from the inventory due to crashing. Certainly, the straight deck carriers it was attempting to operate from contributed. And the entire period of prop-jet transition had a horrendous accident rate, in 1958 Naval Aviation killed more pilots than they winged. Still the Gutless will go down in history as one of, if not the, worst.

The swept winged, tailless fighter was indeed ahead of its time. In fact it out ran the available technology of the time to pull it off. I love writing about aircraft like this in my novels: Project 7 Alpha, Vengeance, Endgame in the Pacific and Code Name; Infamy.

Even the Blue Angels couldn’t make it work. They had two for a demo of jet power, while the team still flew the F8F Bearcat, halfway through the inaugural season they grounded them.


Posted in Aviator book series, Blog, flight test, Military, Naval Aviation, Vengeance, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

F-4F Wildcat

FM-2 Wildcat

Evan Fagen in the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat in October.

Posted by Fagen Fighters WWII Museum on Monday, December 19, 2016

In my book Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, I write about the Grumman F-4F Wildcat. I’m having a blast flying my own War Bird (Nanchang CJ-6A) with my kids. I’m working on another documentary and it will feature the Nanchang and some nice aerobatics.


Posted in Aviator book series, Blog, Book, Naval Aviation, Vengeance, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Aircraft Carrier Approaches

I’m often asked about operating at the ship, it is indeed a one of a kind operation, like no other. I wrote this for another site this morning. Admittedly, it is a bit technical. If you have questions ask away:

It’s been a while since my last trap; 20 years or so. But, I spent a significant portion of my life flying on and off aircraft carriers. 597 traps (200 night) on 11 different carriers, from 1983 until 1995. I was also a Fleet LSO and a TRACOM (Training Command) LSO (Landing Signal Officer).

In my books I often write about carrier operations, so I have stayed in tune.

First: there are three types of approaches. Case I, Case II and Case III. Case III is for night and instrument conditions. Each aircraft or flight is assigned a holding altitude and fix (radial/DME) then penetrates on a TACAN approach, arcs to the final bearing and then picks up a raw data ILS to the ship.

The crew must push from their fix (Radial/DME)and altitude with in +/- 10 seconds of their push time, at 250 knots. You penetrate at 250 flying up the reference radial until 15 DME, turn to put the head of the needle on your wing and arc at 12 DME until you pick up final bearing FB (which is not the same as Base Recovery Course, the BRC is the heading of ship which is 8-13 degrees different depending on angle of deck landing area). The FB is aligned with the angle deck (actual landing area). Altitude is 1200′. At that point you pick up the Carrier Instrument Landing System (like civilian ILS it gives you course and glide slope info on attitude indicator). At 10 miles (DME) from ship approx you put gear, flaps and hook down; at 3 miles you intercept glide slope, pop out speed brakes and slow to on speed (optimum Angle Of Attack AOA) and start down. In the cockpit on the glare shield (dashboard), left side is a visual AOA indicator. It has two chevrons: \ / top (green), / \ bottom (red), with a yellow circle 0 in the middle.

*as this picture shows, they changed the colors to what they always should have been. Slow is bad so is now red, green is good so now it is on speed and yellow is caution, thus fast.

Rough AOA/airspeed control and landed way right on line up.

At 3/4’s of a mile the LSO picks you up for control and you transition to a visual approach: fresnel lens/meatball (glide slope), line-up (course) angle of attack (speed). At night LSOs watch for the external approach lights (same colors as indexer) for speed, engine sound for power setting, and their eye for line up and glide slope. LSOs can see deviations before the pilots and calls for corrections over the radio for example: “power” (you are low), “right for line up” (because of the angle deck, landing area moves left to right as you approach), EASY with it” (you are going high), and the one no Naval Aviator wants to hear: “WAVE-OFF!” (you scared them, or the deck is fouled and you have to go around and try again).

The LSOs also grade every pass on a 4 point scale. Each grade is posted on a board on the ready room wall for all to see. If your grades and/or boarding rate suck for too long (there is a definite learning curve) you go home.


If all goes well; you stay on speed (yellow donut in my day, now green) that keeps your speed correct and the hook at proper height/position, you land on center-line pointed down the angle deck, AND you are on the proper glide slope +/- 2 feet; you snag the three wire go to full power, click off the external lights and when you feel that welcome tug you unlock and fold the wings…then get outta the way because your Airwing pal is right behind you. If things don’t go well: high- you bolter (miss the wires) and go around, low- you get waved off, snatch an early wire (bad grade) or hit the ramp and blow up. Off centerline- you’ll get waved off (in the EA-6B Prowler 10′ off CL put the wing tip into the noses of aircraft parked on the foul line), even if you are on centerline if course isn’t correct you can end up in the parked aircraft…highly frowned upon.


Or drag a wing tip.

BTW, at sea, at night; it’s darker than 10 feet up a black cat’s a$$.

CASE 1: Is the fun approach and is for good weather. Normally it is done EMCON, no radios. Each squadron has an assigned altitude over head the ship, you circle in a left hand pattern, normally in a flight of 2 or 4. When the flight lead sees an opening he drops to 800 feet abeam ship, outside of 5 miles, and then turns 180 degrees and runs up the ship’s wake at 350 knots. At the bow the lead breaks by kissing off the flight with a hand signal and rolling into an 80 degree angle of bank turn, speed brakes out and pull 4 g’s in the turn. At 250 knots, gear, flaps and hook down. Approaching mid-ship, you drop to 600′, check distance (1 to 1 1/4 miles)and begin to slow onspeed. Abeam the LSO platform (left side/aft on ship) start a 25-30 degree angle of bank left turn, 200-300 feet per minute (FPM) rate of descent. At the 90 position of the race track pattern, be at 450′ and establish 500 FPM, crossing the ship’s wake 325-375′ and be on-speed. In the groove you gotta be wings level for 12-15 seconds, center-line between your legs, centered ball, and on speed until touch down. Fun city. Any deviation causes a down grade, the airwing competes for best squadron and Top Ten Aviators by grade average.


phantom on the ball cv 41

CASE-II is a combination of both CASE III and Case I, when weather is above 1000 feet cieling with at least 5 miles of visibility. At least one solid layer of overcast (SOCAL in June) will cause the CASE II to be used. for CASE II the crews hold, penetrate, and fly up the TACAN FB like CASE III until below the over cast. below the clouds with the ship in sight, you enter for a carrier break like CASE I.

CASE I- S**t Hot-1 approach. Same as CASE I except you have to have more speed than altitude. 550 knots indicated at 500 feet works marvelously. You must break no later than the bow of the ship or it doesn’t count. 90 degree, 5 g left turn, speed brakes out. After 180 degrees of turn slowing thru 250 indicated; gear, flaps, hook down. Ease turn to 60 degrees angle of bank. Pull toward the 90 as gear and flaps program out. You will slow rapidly and jets have significant spool up time, so put throttles in approximately 80% range. Over the wake ease roll to 30 degrees angle of bank. Rolling into groove on centerline the aircraft will squat onspeed as the engines spool up like majic. Snatch the three wire, full power, then jerk the power off as you are drug to a halt by the arresting gear. This will bounce you out of the wire as you fold the wings, so you don’t “sh*t in the wires”, causing the guy 25-30 seconds behind you to go around. REALLY fun city! A warning: John Wayne in the break often becomes Slim Pikens in the groove…its a gamble!


So what makes it hard? Deck moving +/- 30 feet is “challenging”, ship changing course is fun, especially CASE III. Ship blowing tubes (smoke out of stack) causing you to go IFR in the groove also interesting. Single engine or other emergency approaches present their own challenges. As do various things you or your fellow Aviators screw up. Blue Water, (which means no divert), also ramps up the pressure.

It is an unforgiving profession, especially when the deck is moving!

So that’s it, quick and dirty, I’ve got to go clean the gutters. If you want to read more you can go to lelandshanle.com or amazon for my books.



Posted in Aviator book series, Military, Naval Aviation Tagged with: , , , ,

American Airlines Secret War in China: RE-RELEASED in soft-cover


My first novel has been re-released in the United Kingdom in soft-cover. It was also re-titled and has a new cover: American Airlines Secret War in China; Project Seven Alpha in WWII. The re-release is headed to America as well.

The American Aviator Series is doing quite well in the UK; it was nice to see the series books ranked 10, 11, 12 and 13 on the Aviation Best Sellers List (kindle) this morning.

Book Five in the Aviator Series (COLD WAR HOT) is coming along, I’m looking at a spring release for it. The characters you have come to know navigates through the period between the wars and then ends up in the meat grinder of Korea.


photo (7)

Posted in Airlines, Aviator book series, Book, Naval Aviation

NEW EDITION: American Airlines Secret War in China, Project 7 Alpha, WWII

The first book in my Aviator Series is being re-released in soft cover format with a new title and cover. I will have the launch date and new cover posted soon.


Posted in Aviator book series, Blog, Military, Naval Aviation Tagged with: , , , , , ,

So You Want to Become an Airline Pilot? The Military Route.

I wrote this article for Airways Magazine as a follow on to Captain Mark Berry’s article, So You Want to Be An Airline Pilot. Airways decided not to publish it, but I do think there is some good info so here you go.

So You Want to Become an Airline Pilot? The Military

“Before you get to sell what we teach you over at United Airlines, got to give the Navy six years of your life, sweet pea. Lots of things can happen in six years. Another war…”
Lou Gossett Jr. in Officer and a Gentleman

phantom on the ball cv 41

I often get asked how to become a Naval Aviator. It’s not as simple an answer as you might think. Here are the options for USN Naval Aviator alone: Naval Academy, NROTC, OCS, Retread and a multitude of programs that have come and gone over the years.

I’m an aviation geek I suppose. I had a career as a Naval Aviator, flew as a Test Pilot and now I’m a 777 First Officer for a major airline. I’ve flown cargo, corporate and still have my CFI/II/MEI. I write books, screenplays, articles (obviously) and have been a technical advisor in Hollywood. All aviation based. I stay in touch with many aspects in the world of aviation, especially the military side because all four of my kids have been, or are currently, in a program I will describe in this article.

First, a Gut-Check: the military route means on average a ten year commitment (it was 6 when the quoted movie was made). Many of those years will be deployed, and on some of those deployments you can expect to get shot at. The pipeline is very competitive. You may still owe the sponsoring branch years of service even if you don’t get your wings. Then there is the dreaded threat of drones accompanied by the most feared phrase in military service: “The needs of the (insert- Army, Navy, USAF, USMC or USCG here).”

RF-4 soot down

As Captain Berry asked in his civilian route article; “Are you still here?”

I will attempt to keep this general, informative and as accurate as possible. But first a WARNING. Things change, rapidly. Always get the most updated information from an Aviation Officer Recruiter and get it in writing. Never sign on a promise; if it’s not in the contract, it does not exist. Period.

Still here?

Okay; strap in. Before we cover specific routes to those coveted wings, we will discuss in a bit more detail the Gut-Check paragraph and what to expect in military aviation in general.

1. You are an Officer (Warrant Officer) first and foremost. Depending on service you can expect to have a ground job and lead troops.

2. You will be evaluated mostly as an Officer, not an aviator. “Does he play well with the other children and listen to the teacher?” Back in my day (BIMD) there was one block for aviation skills on an Officers Fitness Report.

3. Your performance as an Officer will directly determine follow on orders; like to Top Gun, Test Pilot School, or a tour in Adak Alaska counting trees (hint there are none). And remember, you owe ten years.

4. What can you expect from each service? Deployment!


a. Army Helicopters– Expect to spend months in a tent in some third World s—t-hole (TWSH), eating m-rats and getting shot at, mortared and bored to death. Standing duty, and reading a lot of very frustrating rules of engagement (ROE) that seem specifically designed to get you killed.
b. Navy (Jets/Helos/Maritime/Tilt-Rotor)- Expect to spend months on board USS Boat (except maritime…unless you get a ships company follow on tour), paying for bad food, standing watch, getting shot at while flying over the same TWSH with the same ridiculous ROE. And being bored, a lot. Oh yes, paper work. A lot of awards, evals, and general de-forestation required to take care of 150 sailors and their careers. Coast Guard is pretty much the same except over shallow water 😉
c. USAF (Fighters/Cargo/Tankers/Tilt Rotor/Helos)- Expect to spend months deployed, eating better food, staying in better quarters, but flying over the same TWSH with the same ROE, the same paper jungle and remember you will be getting shot at. An additional item, the most feared word in military aviation, DRONE. They have a bunch of them. Of late, due to recruitment/retention issues, this may become a specialized field, however be forewarned.
d. USMC (Jets/Helos/C-130/Tilt Rotor)- All Marines Are INFANTRY Officers. Period. After commissioning, all USMC Second Lieutenants will go to The Basic School (TBS) which is Infantry Officer training and lasts 6 months. Then flight school. Marines get to do all the above; tents, boats, quarters, bad food, and paper work. In/over the same TWSH, with same idiotic ROE, and same bullets. Additionally, however, remember all Marines are Infantry Officers, and all Forward Air Controllers (FACs) are Aviators, do the math.

5. ALL TRAINING TIME IS DEAD TIME. Say again? Translation, you will owe 8 years after USN/USMC/USCG training and 9 after USAF and Army. It takes on average 2 years to train a Naval Aviator (USMC/USCG and USN pilots are all Naval Aviators), 1 year for USAF/Army which adds up for everyone to around 10. Training time for TBS, OCS, delays, flight school, etc. does not count. Only post-winging time counts.

6. Basic Requirements.
a. A 4 year college degree (exception Army Warrant).
b. Flight Physical (eyesight req’s vary).
c. Flight aptitude, general knowledge test.
d. Physical fitness test.

7. An aviation contract is not necessarily a pilot contract. If your eyes go bad, you could end up in the back seat (USMC does have a pilot contract and Army has no back seaters).
Okay, we’ve talked prelims and requirements. We haven’t even gotten near an aircraft and won’t until we’ve met said requirements, applied, been accepted and completed a commissioning source. A Service Academy, Reserve Officer Training Course, Officer Candidate School (USAF/TFOT) or Warrant Officer School (preceded by boot camp). Let’s break down how we even get that far.
a. Active Duty (AD) for all services- You can go generally one of three routes: an Academy, ROTC or directly to OCS after graduation from college (Warrant does not require a 4 year degree). The Marines can split OCS over summers while in college (PLC) or do it all at once (OCS). I went through NROTC at Missouri after graduating high school, upon graduation from MU I was commissioned an Ensign. Having already applied and been accepted for flight school, I was on my way (after a 4 month delay at the Pentagon…dead time). My youngest son is currently in Quantico at USMC TBS. Obligation for AD is 10 years of full time service (approx.).
b. Air National Guard (ANG), National Guard (NG), Reserve (RESV)– All used to be a very good deal, flying clubs, the whole “War On Terror thing” screwed that up, yes they deploy just like AD, a lot. The Guard usually likes a pilot candidate to enlist and come internally from the organization. This can actually be an asset, especially if you do it right out of high school. It’s a great way to get your college paid for, a fantastic part time job and depending on the State you can get some civilian flight training paid for. My middle son was a Technical Sergeant (E-6) in the ANG, he was commissioned this summer and is currently learning to fly the T-6A Texan at Laughlin AFB. After that, Tulsa to learn to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker and then back to his unit . “Needs of the ANG”; it can work for you too, if a unit needs a pilot they will hire off the street. The Army Guard (Aviation) is very similar. The biggest difference with the Army in general is the Warrant Officer program. A Commissioned Officer can be helicopter qualified, however he is considered an Army Officer and may only do one tour in the cockpit. A Warrant is a Pilot, he/she can stay in the cockpit for 30 years, Reserve, Guard or AD. My daughter is applying for a Warrant position in the National Guard. Obligation for ANG/NG/RESV is ten years, the amount of full time varies wildly unit to unit and by aircraft type. It can be as little as a year, or quite a bit more.

Competition for all these programs is fierce. “Timing is everything”; another term you will learn to hate, unless yours is good. If an organization needs fifty candidates and twenty apply (meeting basic req’s), guess what? They all go. But if they only need two pilots…

USMC F-35s

Before you get to strap on that F-35, you still have to earn it. So how does the training/competition work? Pretty much the same for all services. You will start with ground school and a short intro course of 15 hours in a Cessna (unless you have a private pilot license). An important side note: you are not a paying customer, you are getting a shot at those wings, nothing more. Many will fall to the side along the way, you have to stay focused and on task. Each element completed is merely an invitation to the next.

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the aging T-37 fleet throughout Air Education and Training Command. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Richards)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the aging T-37 fleet throughout Air Education and Training Command. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Richards)

1. Primary- (USN/USMC/USCG/USAF) all fly the T-6A/B Texan II. A turbo prop with 1,100 shaft horse power, capable of 300+ knots indicated (280 cruise), +7 gs -3.5, basically an updated P-51 Mustang. You will learn basic flight skills, instruments, aerobatics, and formation flying. Everything is graded. Upon completion, you select: jets, maritime, tilt rotor, E-2/C-2, E-6A or helos for USN students. Helos or multiengine for USCG. Jets, C-130, tilt rotor or helo for USMC. The USAF splits between fighters and heavies. Army is all helicopters (first tour) and students go directly to the TH-67 Creek (Bell Jet Ranger) in Fort Rucker.

navy jetranger

2. Intermediate- (USN/USMC/USCG) Students will split into four pipelines (for simplicity); jets, helos, multiengine, tilt rotor (USCG helos and multiengine only). USAF doesn’t have an intermediate they split between fighters and heavies going on to advanced. Naval Aviator’s: Jets will go to the T-45 Goshawk and learn how to fly it, multiengine goes to the T-44/TC-12 (twin engine Beech, Queen Air/King Air), tilt rotor and Helo go to the TH-57 (Bell Jet Ranger). Helo and multiengine learn crew coordination.

080604-N-2798I-083 KINGSVILLE, Texas (June 4, 2008) T-45A Goshawks training aircraft cruise together during a recent training flight over the skies of South Texas. The T-45 is a twin-seat, single-engine jet trainer and is the only aircraft in the Navy's inventory used specifically for training pilots to land aboard aircraft carriers.  U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. John A. Ivancic (Released)

KINGSVILLE, Texas (June 4, 2008) T-45A Goshawks training aircraft cruise together during a recent training flight over the skies of South Texas. The T-45 is a twin-seat, single-engine jet trainer and is the only aircraft in the Navy’s inventory used specifically for training pilots to land aboard aircraft carriers. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. John A. Ivancic (Released)


3. Advanced- Jet (USMC/USN) having learned how to fly a jet in Intermediate, Jet Students will now learn how to employ it as a weapon. Tactical formation, weapons delivery (rockets+bombs), air combat (dog fighting) and then they will go out to the ship solo and get ten carrier arrested landings and catapults.
Advanced- multiengine and helos (USN/USMC/USCG) hone skills and add tactics in the advanced stage, while tilt rotor and E-2/C-2 go to the T-44 to learn multi-engine (E-2/C-2 does intermediate in the T-45, Tilt rotor in the TH-57). Advanced- heavies (USAF) puts student pilots directly into the T-1A Jayhawk a twin engine biz-jet for advanced heavy training, teaching the aircraft under a crew concept. Advanced-fighter (USAF) the T-38 Talon is used for fighter training, it is similar to USN/USMC intermediate jet training. Advanced- helos (Army) teaches tactical employment of helicopters in the UH-72 Lakota.


USAF uses Fighter Lead-in to teach students tactical employment of jets, after winging, flying the F-5. Army goes straight to helos, which is why both have a shorter time to wings (and a longer obligated service).
Remember “timing is everything”? It still cuts both ways. Competition in flight school is a knife fight. BIMD most students wanted jets, you had to compete for jet grades, but if during the week you selected, the “Needs of the Navy”, were for 10 jet slots and only nine guys were in the class…everyone got jets. By the same token you could be in an extremely strong class the next week, all the students better than the number one guy the week prior and there are no jet slots…too bad, so sad. There is no fair!
The Guard, and Reserves are an exception because you are hired by a specific squadron, so you know what airplane you are flying. Which is why Guard/Reserve units are very selective up front and prefer their candidates have prior civilian flight time. Regardless of whether timing worked for, or against, your individual desires, you have to hack the program you are in. Not everybody gets a trophy.


There you stand with shiny wings of gold or silver, now what? Six months to a year learning your Fleet/Line aircraft and how to employ it tactically. Finally you arrive at your Fleet/Line squadron. All trained up and ready to rage like Maverick, one man against the world right? Nope. As a fighter guy you will join up and shut up. Training starts all over as a wingman, then section lead, if you don’t screw that up you will get a division lead qual. Strike lead is a second tour qual. You will also get qualified in weapons and tactics in the real world. Tankers or Cargo? 3P, 2P and after a check that makes an ATP pale by comparison, Transport Aircraft Commander (TAC). Helos, have a similar progression to Helicopter Aircraft Commander (HAC). In both you will learn formation and the specific tactics/mission for your platform.

rocket fire


That is not hyperbole, after my first catapult shot it ruined roller coasters forever. They just couldn’t compare. Watching the sun set over the North Arabian Sea, while oil tankers burnt on the surface is indescribable. A fire fight from 24,000 feet is morbidly captivating, even when it is turned toward you. Military pilots, see things that change them, forever. The incredibly beautiful and horrific.

flight over oil fields

F-4 on government time

For active duty you normally do a three year tour flying in harm’s way on deployments. Then? Well it depends on: needs of your service, your performance and what is happening in the world. I retired from the Navy having never been out of a cockpit (except that first few months of dead time). And keep in mind, rolling off that first tour you will still owe 4-5 years of obligated service.

What you can also count on when your obligation is up, is 2000-2500 hours of jet or turbine time. Much more if you went heavies. You will also have a proven record of getting through one of the toughest syllabuses on the planet. For Guard and Reserve? Well you get your cake and can eat it too. Military can be hired with 750 hours under FAR Part-117 (civilian must have 1,500 unless you graduated from a Part-141 school, then it is 1,000), there is a pilot shortage now, and it will soon be critical.

There is one more way to get your flight training courtesy of Uncle Sam. The GI Bill, my oldest son served with the 10th Mountain Infantry Division, in Iraq. He used the GI Bill to take flight lessons. It has to be an FAR Part-141 approved school and the benefits vary state to State, but it certainly is a viable route to the airlines via the military.
Seniority in the airlines is everything. A single year could mean spending most of your career in the Captain seat instead of the First Officer’s. Was the delay worth it to me? Without hesitation I’d say yes.

This is a no BS, over generalization, and as I warned earlier, could already be OBE (Overcome By Events, we love acronyms in the military). If this life style is for you, talk to someone in person whose “been there done that”, and then an Officer Recruiter.

KC-135 and B-52

Positioning a B-52 behind a KC-135 on a moonless night, to transfer fuel, or hovering a Blackhawk in a brown out punctuated by the streaks of tracer fire, or banging a fighter on and off a carrier with a 200 foot overcast, at night; is not for the faint of heart. Do I miss it? Only when I breathe, I would not have passed it up for all the tea in China or 25 years in the left seat of a Wide Body flying to Paris.



Posted in Airlines, flight test, Military, Naval Aviation, Pilot shortage Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FREE E-Book and Kindle Count Down

I just got back from London and before that Paris, my schedule has been crazy and something had to give. Unfortunately, it was my trip to AirVenture 2016. I was set to be a part of Authors Corner and sign books for fans. Alas, my Airline schedule and family pop-up commitments (family first) will keep me home this year. Plan B (a short visit by air) failed too, due to my Nanchang CJ-6A “China Doll” being in pieces on the hangar floor.

CJ on jax

Since I couldn’t be a part of OSH this year I decided to have an Osh Kosh sized sale: Vengeance is FREE now, ENDGAME and CODE NAME; Infamy start counting down on Kindle tomorrow morning.

I am already planning my trip to Airventure 2017!


photo (7)

Posted in Aviator book series, Book, Military, Naval Aviation, war bird Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,