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By Tony Fonze - Becoming a US ARMY Helicopter Pilot, You are in the Army Now!

Army pilots are, by definition, soldiers first, officers second, and then aviators. Consequently, applicants for the aviation program must first meet the requirements for acceptance into the military, acceptance into the Warrant Officer program, and finally, admission into the aviation training program.

The application process is competitive. Applicants are selected based on the “best qualified” criteria. The Army is the only service branch that takes Aviation Warrant Officer candidates right out of high school. “High school to flight school,” is the name the army has coined for the program according to Captain Todd Turner, Company Commander, U.S. Army Recruiting Company, in Tucson , Arizona . Captain Turner also says, “Aviation school candidates should work through their local recruiters. The recruiters act as advocates, working on behalf of their applicants, helping them present the best application possible.”

One commonly asked question among civilian student pilots is whether or not they should get their private or even commercial license prior to applying for an Army Aviator position. Getting anything beyond a private license is probably overkill, based on the responses I received when I asked this question of Army trainers and recruiters. However, since the process is a competitive one, private rotorcraft pilots have already demonstrated that they are trainable and can be taught how to fly. This is a plus. Also, they may score higher on the AFAST (see below) due to their added experience. On the other hand, having two years or more of college may also lend an advantage. While not yet a requirement, the Army’s goal is for all applicants to have at least two years of college.

Application Requirements
1. Be at least 18, but not have reached your 29th birthday. You must be a U.S. citizen. You must speak, read and write English.

2. Have a high school diploma or GED. Two years of college or more is an advantage.

3. Meet minimum/maximum height/weight standards as determined by a matrix. If you are somewhere between 4’10” (women)/5’0” (men) and 6’8” (both) and your weight is acceptable, according to the matrix, you’re probably in the ball park. You must also meet certain % body fat criteria as well. These will be measured during your physical.

4. Score 110 or higher on the general technical aptitude area of the Army Classification Battery or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

5. All applicants must score 90 or higher on the Alternate Flight Aptitude Selection Test (AFAST).

The AFAST is an aptitude test used to measure your suitability as a military rotorcraft pilot. There are a total of 200 questions divided into7 subtest areas. The test is timed. The first section of the test is a background information form consisting of 25 questions.

Subtest 2- Instrument comprehension test. In this test applicants will be asked to determine the position of an airplane in flight by looking at two dials, one showing the artificial horizon, the other showing the compass heading.

Subtest 3-Complex movements test. Questions in this subtest measure your ability to judge distance and visualize motion. Five pairs of symbols are given, representing direction and distance. You will choose the one pair that represents the amount, and direction of movement to move a dot from outside a circle into the center of the circle.

Subtest 4- Helicopter knowledge test. This subtest deals with your general understanding of the principles of helicopter flight.

Subtest 5-Cyclic orientation test. In each of the 15 questions in this section you are shown a series of three sequential pictures that represent the pilot’s view out of the windshield. They change from top to bottom. You will determine which position the cyclic would be in to create the changes in the view indicated by the pictures.

Subtest 6-Mechanical functions test. This test determines your understanding of general mechanical principles. The example provided in the sample test deals with a suspended bar with a weight on it and you are asked to identify the point at which you should pull down to raise the weight most easily, A or B.

Subtest 7-is a Self-Description form. You are asked 75 questions dealing with your interests, likes and dislikes. There are no right or wrong answers. This is a profiling instrument.

To obtain a copy of an AFAST Informational Brochure, go to www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p611_256_2.pdf. You’ll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat. There are also AFAST study guides available at bookstores, or so I’ve been told.

6. Meet Class 1A medical standards as required for flying duty in AR 40-501.

The medical requirements defined in this specification are extremely detailed and comprehensive. Applicants must submit to and pass a medical fitness exam that must be reviewed and approved by the AeroMedical Center at Fort Rucker . Your recruiter will arrange for you to take your test. Be prepared to have anything and everything analyzed, questioned and inspected: Head, ears, nose, mouth, blood, skin, spine, heart, lungs, brain, all internal organs and systems, and mental stability.

One of the most difficult standards to meet is for visual acuity. In addition to a lengthy list of visual measurements and criteria that can disqualify a candidate, all applicants must have an uncorrected distant visual acuity greater than 20/50 in each eye. If the distant visual acuity is 20/50 or better in either eye, each eye must be correctable to 20/20 with no more than 1 error per line on the vision test. Applicants must also have uncorrected near visual acuity greater than 20/20 in each eye; with no more than 1 error per line on the vision test.

7. Applicants who’ve made it this far must receive a favorable National Agency check (Security clearance).

8. Board reviews. The applications of those who successfully pass all tests and meet the necessary requirements must then be reviewed by a local review board. If they pass this step, their applications are then reviewed by a Warrant Officer selection board. This board serves as the ultimate selection group. If you pass—you’re in (almost).

9. At this point you will be inducted into the military, sent to basic training, and then on to WOCS ( Warrant Officer Candidate School ). Note: Applicants must score 180 points or higher out of a possible 300 points on the Army’s Physical Fitness Test (APFT) at the time of entry into WOCS.

10. Applicants agree to accept appointment as a Warrant Officer and serve as an Army aviator for no less than 6 years after successful completion of IERW (Primary flight training).

From time to time, waivers may be granted for selected applicants who don’t meet certain standards for entrance, but who otherwise represent excellent candidates. Your recruiter can help you with this process, should it be necessary.

The preceeding material was graciously provided by PHPA, The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association. PHPA is a non-profit group working on behalf of helicopter pilots around the globe. PHPA membership entitles you to receive their bi-monthly publication, autorotate. For more information go to www.autorotate.org.

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