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Training Experience 

Air Force Reserves C-130

About the Pilot


Kyle is a graduate of the University of North Dakota with a CFI/CFII/MEI and a B.S. in Aviation. He is type rated on the Embraer 145, Boeing 737, Boeing 757/767, and C-130H (L-382) aircraft. Kyle is a Captain in the Air Force Reserve in Minneapolis, MN with the 96th Airlift Squadron, and Aircraft Commander on the C-130H, as well as a liason for the squadron and part-time recruiter. Kyle is currently employed at a Major airline in addition to his service with the Air Force Reserve.

The First Steps

School Application
Medical Record Analysis

The overall process begins by applying and interviewing with the squadron of your choice. Applicants will know exactly where they are stationed and which aircraft they will be flying. This is unique to the Air Force Reserves. Active duty Air Force pilots do not know which aircraft they will be assigned until completion of Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), see below. 

Upon successful completion of your interview, your information is gathered and put through the Air Force Reserve Command Review Board to conduct background checks and verify accuracy of your application and interview. 

When the review board is completed, trainees are sent to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for medical screening and a flight physical.

The applicant then waits until a training date is assigned and conducts their official swearing in. At this point, their military career has begun.

Initial Flight Training

Ready for Parade
Image by Vinícius Henrique

After spending approximately eight weeks at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL at Officer Training School (OTS), trainees who do not possess an FAA Private Pilot Certificate will travel to Pueblo, CO. Four weeks will be spent at Doss Aviation for initial flight training.

Most pilots will then proceed to Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, commonly known as SERE, which consists of three days of water survival training in Pensacola, FL and four weeks of Combat Survival Training in Spokane, WA.

Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) is the next step for pilots, which takes place at either Vance AFB (OK), Laughlin AFB (TX), Columbus AFB (MS), or Sheppard AFB (TX). Primary training is conducted in the T-6 Texan II for six months until "track select," in which Active Duty pilots choose either fighter/bomber or heavy aircraft, which are awarded by class rank. Fighter/Bomber pilots will train in the T-38 while the Heavy pilots proceed to the T-1. All helicopter pilots proceed to Ft. Rucker in Alabama for the remainder of training.

Airframe Training

Image by Serzill Hasan

After UPT is completed, students will proceed to learn their specific aircraft. For the C-130 pilot, they will attend a six month initial qualification program in Little Rock, AR. The first month consists of academics, followed by four months of simulators, and one month on the flight line for C-130 flight training. 

Pilots will then return to their individual unit for their "Prog Tour," or seasoning. This process lasts approximately seven months and allows pilots to gain real-world flying experience in the aircraft domestically and abroad. This tour is similar to an airline pilot's Initial Operating Experience, but much more in-depth and complex. Pilots will work on various qualifications during this time depending on their airframe.

The Next Steps

Image by Franz Harvin Aceituna

Completing military training opens a wide variety of doors in the aviation community. While still keeping your commitment to the armed services, military pilots have numerous opportunities to find flying jobs outside of their home base. The FAA offers a military-to-civilian certificate transition, which helps military aviators obtain civilian commercial certificates. The steps to complete this process are described in the links below, but can also be found at the US DOT website.

Depending on your prior experience, you will likely not have the minimum required flight hours to obtain the ATP or R-ATP certificate. There are several methods to build time, such as: renting an airplane, seeking out a position requiring lower flight hours, flight instructing, or obtaining more flight hours with your military branch when possible.

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