Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Is it harder to get a pilot slot as a Navigator?

That's hard to answer. Depends on timing. Some would say that is the case because navs are operators in the flying world and many times are in squadrons already undermanned with a high ops tempo. So the squadron commander might refuse to let you go (which ends the application process pretty abruptly). Others would say since navs are being pushed out of jobs by computer systems, it's easier. Depends on where you're at really.


   
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Section I - Overview, Timeline, and Flight Physical
The first part of this page deals with the timeline for submitting your package and is first preceded by a foreword. The flight physical component is then covered including scheduling, the actual physical, standards, waivers, and options regarding the flight physical.

Section II - Private Flying and the AFOQT/TBAS/PCSM
This section covers the "Big Picture" and then talks about gouge and other study aids. The section then covers the AFOQT/TBAS/PCSM and discusses scheduling and AFOQT waivers.

Section III - The Package Application Process and Following Up
This section covers required package items including the AF Form 215 and the importance of following up your package.  It also includes a description of the multiple successful 215 examples that were provided in the links section to the left by Hacker.

Section IV - The Board Specifics
This page is concluded with specifics about the Board which will decide whether or not you go to UPT.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

The following is a rough timeline I stole from someone else much smarter than me:

6+ months prior to board

Flying Class I physical

  • There is a person in flight medicine that sends this off to AFPC for approval
  • Find this person and ride them like a circus pony. Don't trust them to take care of it on their own. When I first started the process in 2005, there was an A1C working my physical. He had no idea what he was doing because he was just thrown into the position. He PCS'd and then my physical fell between the cracks. I finally followed up on it and wound up having to retake a bunch of the tests because the A1C did not input the information into the AFPC database. I finally found a MSgt who had been doing this for the past 15 years. He took care of everything in one day. Find the person who knows and go directly to them.
  • It would expedite the process if you had that person review your physical BEFORE having it sent to AFPC. For example, they could notice that your EKG was not good and it may have been that you have a low resting heartbeat...therefore they can have you do jumping-jacks before a retest on the EKG
  • This is just an example but would make a difference between having a FC1 and having to get a waiver or get another FC1 to be submitted to AFPC
  • EVERYTHING IS WAIVERABLE!!! When someone tells you no, keep pressing until an AFI tells you no.

Retake AFOQT

  • I cannot stress enough the importance of this. My first scores were in the 60's. I retook the test and got into the high 90's. What a difference it made!
  • With regards to the new format of the AFOQT, you have 11 sections instead of the 16. you have 10 actual sections and an 11th “Self-diagnostic“. What does this mean? This means you need to do better in the sections that apply to pilot because there are fewer that go into the pilot category. MATH MATH MATH! That is the biggest area of the pilot section. I think it comprises like 40-50% of the pilot score. I studied math questions for 2-3 hours a day until I could do simple math in my head. Once you can do the math in your head it makes answering the questions a lot easier.
  • May be taken as many as two times, possibly three.  (There used to be a waiver to take the test a third time... the testing reg - AFI 36-2605, Attachment 2 - no longer mentions a waiver that would allow you to take a third time, but it doesn't hurt to ask.  In the past, you had to support your request for a third test with evidence of relevant additional training, such as flight hours, private pilot ground school, etc.  You also needed a letter from your CC recommending that you be allowed a retake). 

TBAS test

  • Recently it has been authorized for the TBAS to be taken twice
  • This needs to be done the same as retaking the AFOQT as far as authorization
  • The person at the Education Center on the base where you will retake the TBAS is who you need to talk to.
  • Keep in mind if you have done flying since taking the TBAS previously, you have a good potential to increase your PCSM as the TBAS plays a large part in the PCSM

5-6 months prior to board

Receive approved/disapproved FC I physical

  • Receive AFOQT results
  • Start work on AF form 215
  • Start work on AF form 1768 (Staff Summary Sheet)

4-3 months prior to board

  • Submit package to squadron exec
  • Package forwarded through Group Exec and Wing Exec for bullets and ranking
  • If possible talk to your CC and see if they can set up a meeting for you and the Wing CC so that they can understand your desires to attend UPT. This could make a big difference beacuse most of the time the Wing CC might not know you. The ranking that he/she gives you on the form 215 can make a difference. 1 out of X looks exponentially better than 2/3/100 out of X!
  • I am lucky enough to be at a small base. I was able to do enough WING level projects to get to know the Wing King on a personal basis. I have no doubt that being #1 of 2 was crucial. It's not brown nosing, they hate that. It's doing your job and doing base level things. If you can't get some base level projects, meet with him/her personally and make your intentions clear!

2 months prior to board

  • Packages postmarked and sent to board
  • This will be done by the Wing Exec. but, it would be good for you to keep tabs on the location of the application as it goes through the system.

1 month prior to board

  • Verify package is complete and “board ready” with AFPC
  • Call Mr. Peterson at AFPC and ask if your application is in their files to meet the board.
  • This is a rough outline and, barring no problems, should get your package to the board complete and on time. UPT boards now meet on an annual basis, therefore, I would suggest starting the process 1 year in advance to allow time to deal with unforeseen issues. It is no secret the Air Force is based on paperwork, and any waivers, clerical errors, or omissions will take time to process.

FLIGHT PHYSICAL

The Flying Class I physical is the same all-inclusive medical examination navigators take to get into navigator training. The PHA navs take every year at the flight surgeon’s office is not sufficient. The FC I can be scheduled and accomplished at the flight doc’s office and completed within 2-3 visits.

Standards

The flight docs are familiar with FC I standards and can reference any items they are not sure about. With this in mind you should have a good idea if you are pilot qualified once the data is compiled from the physical. For OFFICIAL FC I approval the physical is sent to AETC/SGPS (AETC surgeon general) and requires approximately 4-6 weeks turn around time. This is not required for submittal of the UPT package. A complete physical can be forwarded in your package to the UFT board without official clearance. If the latter is accomplished the UFT board forwards the physical to AETC/SGPS. If you have the additional time I suggest sending the physical direct to AETC/SGPS. This way you know you are qualified well before the board meets and have time to deal with any problems.

Waivers

AETC/SGPS is the waiver authority for FC I physicals accomplished for the purpose of UFT application. The docs will tell you if a waiver is required or possible. Be sure to ask the question though. They will complete the required documentation, which usually consists of an AMS (Aero medical Summary). The AMS details the problem, gives your overall health, discusses the waiver limits or research in the area, and the doctor’s clinical opinion. The AMS is attached to the physical and both items are submitted to AETC/SGPS for final approval. See the Links section on this page for a link to the Medical Waiver Guide.

OPTIONS:

Okay so you’re not qualified and you’re not waiverable, now what? Explore your options. One option is an Exception to Policy waiver. The AF Chief of Staff on a limited basis grants an ETP. Most ETP’s that I’ve heard about were granted for vision, but I’m sure they cover other areas as well. If your problem happens to be vision another option is laser eye surgery. In August of 2000 the Air Force approved PRK as a viable option to future pilot candidates. If you’re willing to accept the risks (which are minimal) the Air Force will perform this procedure for free granted you meet all the pre-operative criteria. The only drawback is a 2 month DNIF period and 4 months no mobility. For this reason it requires commander approval and an understanding Chief Navigator.

Private Flying: The Big Picture and Gouge

In my opinion private flying time IS required to be competitive on the board. A license is not required, but does demonstrate the initiative to complete a program. It also proves you are a competent pilot capable of passing a checkride. I know five rated guys picked up for UPT. Of those five, three had a license and two had 40+ civilian hours.

Just from my personal experience, a PPL is definately the way to go, Instrument is optional but shows more initiative. The one recurring theme with pilot applications (I'll get more into this when I talk about the 215) is to show how well you will excel at pilot training. Having civilian flying hours is one way to do just that. I have my PPL, 109 hrs, and my Inst ground school done. Also, and I think this helped alot, if you have the means, fly with someone in your chain of command who can write you a letter of reccommendation. I flew in a T-38 with a Maj who is an IP here at Vance. He is the CDA for the MSG. He wrote me a letter of rec saying how good of a stick I was. If you are at an ops base where they don't have the option to do an incentive ride, take them up in a civilian A/C, and show them what you can do. Remember we are trying to convince the board of how good of a pilot you will be.

Private flying time is also included in the mysterious PCSM score. It can make the difference between a 40 and 95 PCSM and therefore affect your chances of selection (See PCSM section for explanation). Finally, if you have a pilot’s license the Air Force is not required to pay for IFT (Introductory Flight Training) and saves both training time and money. Make sure your flight hours are correctly reflected in your PCSM score - you can download a sample letter for updating your flight hours in the resources section of this page.

Cost varies per location and aircraft. The average cost for a C-152 is $50-$55/hour and a C-172 is $75-$85/hour without flight instruction. A flight instructor usually charges around $20/hour. Most places allow you to set up an account or pay lump sum up front. With the latter option some FBO’s will discount the overall price anywhere from 5-10%. As a navigator you have already learned many of the basics and should be able to complete the private pilot syllabus in about 45 hours (the minimum hours required for Part 61 Flight Training).

AFOQT/BAT/PCSM EXPLAINED

PCSM GOUGE

PCSM incorporates any flight hours where you were “at the controls” of an aircraft. While this does not include any of your seat time as a navigator you may include student time from Pensacola in the T-34. It also incorporates your performance on the TBAS (Test of Basic Aviation Skills) and your AFOQT Pilot score. Check out the official PCSM information page for more on the PCSM. Click here for more information on preparing for the AFOQT (again) and here for more information on the TBAS.

AFOQT WAIVERS

The AFOQT can only be taken twice without a waiver. As mentioned above, you used to be able to take it a third time If you had completed significant training/education since your last retake.  To get a waiver to take it a third time, you had to draft an endorsement letter with the appropriate justification and submit it to the squadron commander for concurrence - it then went up the chain from your MPF testing office to your MAJCOM for approval. It seems waivers are no longer available for you to take the test a third time, but it can't hurt to ask.

HOW TO FILL OUT THE 215

Ok, the much anticipated and often dreaded 215 info!

The first thing you must remember is: THIS IS NOT AN OPR! The 215 should not tell the board how good you are at your job; that is what an OPR is for. The 215 should instead tell them how what you have done will make you the best choice for pilot training. Don't misunderstand me, the 215 is definately a brag sheet. You need to make yourself look the best you can. Each bullet should have a Fact; Act; Impact format. the impact needs to be driven towards UPT. ***AND NO WHITE SPACE!***

Below are examples of bullets written on a 215. Note how each bullet is driven towards UPT/flying/AF pilot:

There are 3 sections to the 215, 1st section is written by you, 2nd section by your immediate 2 letter CC, and the 3rd written by the Wing/CC

With the first section, this is an opportunity for you to express your dreams to the board while at the same time giving reasons why you should be selected:

 

- My life long dream is to earn my silver wings and become a command rated AF pilot; I have worked diligently towards this goal!

- Worked during high school to pay for flying lessons; passed written with a 96% and earned PPL; earned the rank of Eagle Scout

- During college, strived to improve my instrument skills; completed IFR grnd school & flew 8.2 hrs of actual instrument flying

-- Active in Civil Air Patrol; one of few cadets authorized to give incentive rides to other cadets...led others to the joy of flying

-- ROTC Dpty SQ/CC, Honor Guard instructor, built sq website, selected as Arnold Air Society Area Award Winner for 2002 (brag bullet)

-- Maintained 3.3 GPA in Computer Science, earned academic honors 6 of 9 semesters, 4 yr Academic Scholarship for AFROTC (brag bullet)

-- Earned cadet Lt Col rank/ROTC Group Commander; led my ROTC Det to be selected #1 in Northeast Region, top 4 in nation (brag bullet)

- I worked to hone my leadership/instructor skills in ROTC/CAP and Boy Scouts while working and continuing my flying training

- Since college, I've earned a complex and high performance aircraft sign off to include extra instruction on spin recovery training

- Asst Scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America; Currently working on Multi-Engine rating; give me a chance at UPT...I will excel (note the push line)

 

Here is an example of the second section. In this section put your intermediate bullets:

- Highly motivated/gifted officer; aggressively attacks all tasks with vigor...he is the absolute perfect fit to attend UPT this board

- Lt X's character is beyond reproach; he exemplifies AF core values and will be an invaluable asset to the rated community

- Super leader/record of performance prior to AF, earned PPL, Eagle Scout, Arnold Air Society Award Winner, Academic Honors (brag bullet)

- Exceptional officer; totally committed to achieving goal of becoming an Air Force pilot; still working on the instrument rating

- Remains dedicated to 33S career field while pursing goal of pinning on wings; coordinated assignment team visit for 11 officers

- Squadron lead for researching, tracking, and correcting open ORI findings; solid plans developed and on-track for early closure (brag bullet)

- Actively involved in base/community...member base honor guard...serves as Assistant Scoutmaster with local Boy Scout troop (brag bullet)

- Absolutely committed to the USAF's global success as the world's best Air Force; his professionalism stands out above his peers

- Lt X has exactly the right blend of qualities to excel as a pilot and he is my absolute #1 choice to attend UPT this board!

Always finish each section with a bullet like the one above. Here is where the 215 and the OPR are similar; they need a push line as the last line. In an OPR you are being “pushed“ for command/school/promotion; in the 215 you need to be pushed for pilot training.

This is an example of the 3rd section. In this section you need to write your STRONGEST BULLETS:

- Exceptionally dedicated leader who exemplifies the devotion and competitive drive necessary to excel as an Air Force Pilot

- Committed AF officer; ready and willing to put it all on the line for his country regardless of any associated personal sacrifices

- Exemplifies AF ideals of Integrity, Service, and Excellence...does not wait for opportunities to lead, aggressively seeks them out (brag bullet)

- Technical expert...designed/implemented Vance's web page total redesign; invaluable information portal for all Vance personnel (brag bullet)

- Aggressively seeks ways to support Vance JSUPT mission; led flawless communications support for AETC BRAC site survey

- Demonstrated ability and willingness to excel in demanding Air Force training environment; graduated ASBC with 94% average

- His proven excellence in ASBC and private flight training forecasts certain success...top honors will surely be his for the taking

- Lt X is my #1 choice for AF pilot training...decisive, aggressive, eager...expertly leads from the front...Select this board! (Again, note the push line.)

The bottom line in all of this is that you want the 215 to tell the board why you are the #1 choice for pilot training. Good luck!

THE PACKAGE PROCESS

Items Required

The UFT package consists of the following items:

  1. AF form 215-This is the “meat and bones” of your application. This form, when completed, contains all the important “numbers” associated with your package. This includes your AFOQT scores, PCSM score, GPA, flight hours, civilian ratings, etc. It also has three blocks for performance bullets to be filled in by you, the squadron commander and the wing commander.
  2. Flying Class I Physical (and copies)
  3. ADSC letter (sample in the Links and Downloads sections of this page)
  4. Last Page of Logbook (copy)-Copy the last page of your logbook with the hours totaled.
  5. FAA License (copy)-Copy both sides of your FAA pilot’s license

Once you complete the Flight Physical, the AFOQT, the BAT, and have all your flight hours complete it’s time to put it all together and get the right people to endorse your package. Approximately 4 months prior to the board the Wing will get the official notification from AFPC. Usually one month later will be the suspense for UPT packages at the squadron level. The packages are not required to be complete, however, it does make the process easier. The guys competing in my board were all struggling to complete different items and turned in partial packages to their squadron execs. At a minimum have your AF 215 complete with information and bullets. This will at least notify the squadron your intentions of applying and give everyone else in the chain the opportunity to provide comments on the form.

The official method for turning in your package to the squadron is in the following format:

  • Blue folder (color for awards/OPRs/Boards/etc)
  • Staple AF form 1768 (Staff Summary Sheet) to the front indicating all members in the chain of command required to view your package. Indicate the purpose of the SSS and what is located at each TAB.
  • Inside pocket attach disk sleeve and include 3.5” floppy with completed AF form 215 saved in Formflow format.
  • Include the items mentioned in the “Items Required” section of this guide. Other items “good” to include:
  • Most recent OPR and prior OPR
  • Letters of Evaluation (LOE), Letters of Commendation (LOC), Aircraft Commanders Reports on Crewmembers, etc
  • Additional Bullets
  • Not all the items listed above are required for submission of the UFT package to AFPC. The additional items give the OG/CC and the WG/CC a good overall picture of you and provide a guide for their comments they will add to the AF 215. Here’s a breakdown of what actually happens to your package once you turn it into the Squadron Exec:
  • Exec proofreads the SSS and AF 215 and ensures proper format. They also check that all required items are included (Remember this isn’t a big deal just let them know what is missing and why)
  • The exec presents your package to the SQ/CC who adds additional bullets based on the information you provided. I suggest filling in this section for the SQ/CC and let him decide what he wants to keep, add, delete.
  • The SQ/CC rank orders all applicants at the squadron level. Once this is accomplished the package is forwarded (per the SSS) to the OG exec.
  • The same process is repeated at the Group and Wing level. The OG/CC rank orders members out of the Operations Group, but does not provide bullets on the 215.
  • When your package makes it through the Wing it must be complete before it is postmarked and sent to AFPC. The only items that should be in your package at this time are the 5 items mentioned in the “Items Required” section.
  • The final package is sent to AFPC approximately 1.5-2 months prior to the board.

Hacker's Collection of Successful 215s - Background Information

Just for some background on the collection of 215s --

Back in the 90s internet forums and websites on becoming a USAF pilot simply did not exist. Resourceful Lieutenants and Captains instead used the basic networking skills and tools they had -- people, phones, and fax machines -- to gather data about how to be successful on the active duty UFT selection board.

In my case, a friend from another ROTC unit whom I'd met at AFROTC field training also wanted to go to UPT, so he and I swapped ideas about how to get selected and lessons learned about the process. I also had a couple friends from my own AFROTC unit who were a year or two senior to me and had obtained active duty pilot slots or were in the process of re-treading from WSOs/Navs to pilots.

So, I asked the guys I knew to fax me copies of their successful 215s...and those guys usually had one or two that they'd gotten their hands on to help them write theirs. Eventually the collection grew and grew and grew.

After I got selected, my buddy from Field Training still hadn't, so we continued to swap faxes. I collected more when I went to Brooks, and even when I started SUPT myself. One day I realized that a I had a ton of these things. Unfortunately, they have been sitting on my shelf for the better part of 10 years gathering dust when they SHOULD HAVE been available for others. So...here they are.

There are three different categories of applications in the bunch presented for download on this site; first up are the Navs/WSOs, followed by a couple AWACS controllers, and then the non-rated dudes last.

Most of the forms you see in the collection were written and submitted between 1995 and 2000, but don't let their age or difference in format phase you -- "Air Force" writing hasn't changed during that time. Of course there are style differences -- if I were to write one today, I'd format it like a PRF and use as much stratification, etc, as possible, but the core basics behind successfully writing in the USAF have not significiantly changed in decades. I know as a Lieutenant I had no idea about the secret to USAF writing. I'd never seen an OPR, awards application package, or PRF in my life so I had no idea what is was supposed to look and smell like. It was quite a surprise to see what these were like when I first laid eyes on them -- the classes in AFROTC that I'd had on Air Force writing never said anything relating to the writing style these were written in.

Unfortunately, the collection I have here is only about half as many as I used to have -- I loaned out this big binder I had of the collected forms to several guys in my squadrons who were trying to apply to the boards, and many of the ones I'd collected were borrowed and not returned. Hopefully this group of 215s is still enough to be helpful.

Good luck!

FOLLOWING UP

The fight isn’t over once your package is sent to AFPC. There are many horror stories out there of packages that were lost in the mail, disqualifying physicals, and clerical errors. The best way to check on your package and physical is to e-mail the Special Flying Training Board. Mr. Howard Peterson at AFPC is the POC and is willing to help. A point of advice though. He has been doing this job for many years and while he is a civilian you should still treat him in the same manner you would treat an O-6. When communicating know what you’re talking about, be respectful and don’t argue with the man. Remember he controls your destiny and this is not the time to “piss in his pond”. I personally found him to be a great guy and had NO problems in my dealings with him. Other navigators tried to push him, pull rank, and argue. As you can imagine the results were less than desirable. Don’t be scared; just handle him like a grumpy father.

Specific questions about the board make-up, process, posting of results, etc can be answered in two places. These are the Special Flying Programs group at AFPC (DSN 665-2330) and AFI 36-2205 (Applying for Flying and Astronaut Training Program).

 

Hacker's DataMinimize

Average AFOQT Scores & More

BOARDPILOTNAVACADVERBALQUANT
MAY 969491807582
MAY 979489807777
OCT 979285777572
APR 989182737368
NOV 988882737269
APR 998477705966
 

BOARDAVG PCSM# OF APPS WITH PPLAVG FLIGHT HRS
MAY 9696UNKNOWN159
MAY 9792119120
OCT 978853102
APR 9888UNKNOWN94
NOV 9876UNKNOWN85
APR 9977UNKNOWN80.5
 
1997 Specific Active Duty Board Info
 
These are the averages for the 178  "PILOT SELECTS" and the 50 Navigator Selects, in the different categories that we had for the April 15, 1997 UFT Board.

APR 15 UFT STATISTICS
CATEGORYTOTALSSELECTED
NON-RATED OFFICERS APPLIED:492153
NON-RATED APPLYING FOR NAV7750
RATED OFFICERS APPLIED:5225

 
APRIL 15, 1997 SELECTEE's AVERAGES FOR ALL CATEGORIES
CATEGORYPCSM SCOREPILOT SCORENAVIGATOR SCOREACADEMIC SCOREVERBAL SCOREQUANTITATIVE SCOREPPL'sFLYING HOURS
NON-RATED FOR PILOT929489807777119 with PPL's120
NON-RATED FOR NAVN/A8075686765N/AN/A
RATED FOR PILOT87949180738016 with PPL's93
 

FLYING HOURS BROKEN DOWN BY CATEGORY

CATEGORY

RANGE

SELECTS WITH THESE HOURS FLOWN

NON-RATED FOR PILOT

0-50

29

" "

51-100

54

" "

101-150

29

" "

151-200

15

" "

201 +

26

RATED FOR PILOT

0-50

7

" "

51-100

9

" "

101-150

5

" "

151-200

2

" "

201 +

2

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