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  1. I have wondered for a while now if RPA pilots (18X series) fit into the military aviation "pecking order" yet? I ask because it is such a new career field. If a fellow washed form the RPA pilot pipeline, depending on the circumstances, would be possible for them to go to CSO or ABM?
  2. RPA Fundamentals Course (RFC) introduces concepts of RPA/UAS/drone development and employment as well as a smattering of other topics. It is mainly an academic course with 5 tests. You will also have about a dozen sims using PRIME, a simulator developed to mimic something like the MQ-9 control station. Your drop night will usually take place within the first couple weeks of RFC. RFC lasts about 6 weeks and ends with the graduation ceremony in which you will receive your wings. The academics of RFC are all instructor taught and there is a lot of near death by Powerpoint. You are in a “vault” cleared for classified storage for the entirety of the course. Most of the modules are unclassified but a couple of the topics are classified, meaning you may not take notes home and you can only study the material during the hours the vault is open. The same test standards as RIQ apply. The academic subjects cover a wide range of topics such as UAS history, suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support, combat search and rescue, etc. None of the topics are taught with too much depth, it is more of an introduction. The sims provide an introduction to the task management (juggling) you will be doing as a RPA pilot. It is not exactly like a real control station and the tools are not the same. So what is the value of it? I had a couple former sensor operators in my class and asked them the same question. They said while the setup is not exactly what we will see in real operations, the basics of the type of tasks we will be expected to perform and manage is worth learning. These sims are not graded either. So what you get out of it is really what you put into it. Your last two sims will be with student sensor operators. Really demonstrates the value of experience for both crew members. RFC is nowhere near as strenuous or stressful as RIQ but you still need to put some effort into it. Your average day runs from 0700-0900 to 1600-1700. For the sims, there is limited lab space so your class will be split up into two groups. If you do not have a sim that day, you often have a free morning or afternoon. You can use that free time to study, particularly for the classified modules where the limited vault hours can be inconvenient. My experience going through this training pipeline was a little different that many of my peers. I was a lot older than a lot of the new second lieutenants in my class. I was also the sole Reservist in my class. I was hired by a specific unit so I knew which aircraft and which base I was going to. I had a lot of prior enlisted guys in my class, mostly maintenance. I ran into a lot of guys in the classes behind mine who were former navigators/CSOs/NFOs. Quite a few ANG and other Reservists. The URT pipeline has a wide variety of people going through it. Quite a few Marines were in the schoolhouse as well through an agreement between the USAF and USMC. Like many others I have heard speak of their initial flight training experience, it is something you’ll remember and you learned a lot, but you’d never want to repeat.
  3. RIQ takes place at Randolph AFB, TX over the course of about 10 weeks. The course was created by basically cutting and pasting portions of the UPT T-6 syllabus. You’ll go through about 2 weeks of T-6 academics and then 8 weeks of simulator training. Your instructors are mainly retired military aviators who are now federal employees. There are some active duty AF instructors, some who have RPA experience and a few who do not. The first 2 weeks of academics covers T-6 systems, propulsion, aerodynamics, weather, and instruments. The course is so cobbled together that you have chapters on the OBOGS, ejection system, etc that you do not need to study since it is not part of the course. They have purged the test bank of questions on these subjects but every so often, one still shows up and the instructors have to look up the answer so it does not screw up the test. You’ll be in blues for this phase. A lot of these lessons are taught by computer based training (CBT) modules. Get used to it. Tests are usually 30 questions and a passing score is 85% (Yes, I know, if you do the math…). Quizlet and gouge are common study aids. Most instructors discourage use of these resources and some are outright hostile, banning them from the flight rooms. We were told that the test questions banks get revised periodically to eliminate the usefulness of Quizlet and gouge. However, previous classes told me that every class gets told that. I found Quizlet and gouge helpful but I did not rely solely upon them. Fail a test and you must re-take it after a review with an instructor. You get three failures and you are washed out. Flunk out for academics and you are out of any further flight training for any other career field. Likewise, if you self eliminate, you may not go to another flight training program. After academics, you split into two flights for the simulators. Again, the quality, style, and learning environment varies widely for each flight. Again, I was in a flight known for being very demanding. Your class will need to pass a boldface/ops limits test for right to be in flight suits for the sims. Otherwise, you’ll be in blues and have to change to step for your sims. So try to have the boldface and ops limits down cold before beginning RIQ. You will have a sim everyday. It was rare to have two in one day and there were no weekend sims. At the end of each week you will have a quiz called an EPQ. These are not treated like academic exams. Flunking one is like busting a stand-up EP, you have to have a quiz review with an instructor, you do not sim for that day, and you have to re-take the quiz. You can also schedule solo sim times outside of your official instructor-led ones to get extra practice. A good technique is to get 2 or 3 classmates to go with you for a 1 hour session and you each take about 15 min to practice specific maneuvers. An average day is much like IFT. It will start with formal, stand up EP, then sims. Each sim lasts 1 hr, 15 min with a 45 min brief before and 45 min de-brief after. Your day will last 10-12 hours and usually starts anywhere between 0600 to 0900. You were not released until 30 min past the beginning of the last student’s de-brief for the day. Your average day is a time management exercise between studying for EPQs, your sim for the day, any academic tests coming up, helping your classmates, getting extra practice time in the sims, and squeezing in time for lunch and PT. There are two main phases of the sim training: Contact and instrument. The contact portion is all VFR flying and lasts for about two weeks. The instrument portion takes up the rest of it. There are cross country sims for about a week during which you do not perform any confidence maneuvers you will have to do for your checkride. Scheduling practice sims to practice these maneuvers is crucial during this time. There was no formal release but it could be instituted if instructors felt your flight was slacking. CAP did exist here as well, for academic or flying reasons. At one point, 8 of my 12 classmates in my flight were on some type of CAP. I am not sure about our sister flight. For checkrides, you usually have your evaluation with check instructor pilots from your sister flight. The tougher instructor we had in our flight compared to our sister flight became quite apparent. Quite a few of our sister flightmates had to re-do their checkrides. The only attrition we had was for one classmate due to academics. Everyone in our class who made it through academics graduated. The instructors all really want to see you pass and work with you on any areas in which you are having difficulty. However, washing out due to lack of flying ability is possible. Theoretically, I was told a washout could go to CSO or ABM, depending on the circumstances of elimination and needs of the AF. I have heard RIQ called the toughest course in the URT training pipeline. It is not impossible by any means. There is just a lot of material to learn in a short period of time, it is challenging stuff, and it is just a grind week after week. Try to have the boldface and ops limits down cold before you show up. Looking back, had I known there was a contact portion of RIQ, I probably would have skipped IFT. I had thought stepping into a formal flight training program and going straight to instruments simultaneously for the first time would have been a bit much. By the way, if you have a commercial license or higher, you can skip IFT and RIQ.
  4. I recently completed Initial Flight Training (IFT), RPA instrument Qualification (RIQ), and RPA Fundamentals Course (RFC). It was quite a journey. Although I do not even try to imagine that it is the toughest military training out there, it was no cake walk either. I served on active duty in the AF as a weather officer for 7 years. I separated from the AF as worked as a defense contractor and federal employee. After 10 years out of the military, I re-joined the AF Reserve when the chance to be a military aviator came up. These thoughts and impressions are my own. Hopefully some of you reading will find it helpful. Initial Flight Training (IFT) took place at Pueblo, CO and lasted about 7 weeks. It used to be called Initial Flight Screening but it has changed to Training. Apparently, they do not try to really screen people out as much as they used to. I could have skipped IFT since I had my PPL already but I still went. There are a few reasons for this: I have never been in a formal flight training program before, it had been a few years since I last flew, and it had been a while since I had worn the uniform. The whole IFT operation is situated on one compound. You live in pretty much a hotel room with your own bathroom and microwave. The walls are paper thin unfortunately. The cafeteria serves three meals and it is decent food. There is a fitness center on site but it is a little cramped. There is also a recreational room with board games, pool table, ping pong table, big screen TVs, couches, and refrigerators. There is also a small, overpriced self service convenience store and a barber shop with limited hours on site. Your instructors are contract employees of Doss Aviation, now owned by L3 Communications. There is a small cadre of AF staff on site. IFT starts with a week of academics. You take these classes with fellow students in the pilot and CSO pipelines. After academics you split into separate flights to complete your respective syllabus. There were 3 RPA flights while I was there. The type of instruction, stress levels, and overall learning environment varies depending on the flight and your instructors. I know quite a few folks considered our flight to be pretty demanding. An average day at IFT consists of a formal briefing, a stand-up emergency procedure scenario, and a flight. The formal brief covers weather, airfield conditions at your home airfield and other locations you’ll be flying to, NOTAMs, a time hack, etc. The stand-up EP consists of a random student picked to stand in front of the class and instructor and talk/work through an emergency scenario. Flights typically last 1.5 hours with a 45 min brief before the flight and a 45 min de-brief afterwards. Your day lasts about 10-12 hours and can start anywhere from 0400 to 0900. You may fly twice in one day and/or on weekends depending on how much weather or other circumstances impact the schedule. You are also required to log a certain amount of PT time during the course. When you do it is up to you. Formal release is a big thing here. You must stay in your flight room studying or prepping for flights from formal brief time until release by your flight commander (The senior Doss instructor for your flight). If your flight can demonstrate that they are doing well or progressing, ie knowing the boldface/ops limits cold and not screwing up the formal brief, you can get off formal release and go back to your room or rec room after your de-brief. It can be used punitively too and you can be put back on formal release. You should have plenty of time to study and know the boldface/ops limits so they frown upon those who do not already know it when they show up. And know some people that never looked at the boldface and ops limits until arriving at Pueblo and they had months on casual beforehand. They had a rough go of it. You’ll get about 38 hours of total flight time in the Diamond DA20. Under different circumstances, it would be a fun little aircraft to fly. Very responsive and relatively forgiving. Sometimes it could be a little dicey returning to Pueblo airport and seeing all those aircraft coming in to land or do pattern work on both runways though. You’ll get to do solo flights and it is a lot of fun seeing folks complete their first solo. It is something you’ll never forget. However, you are not allowed to touch down on the runways during your solo cross country flights so they do not count if you are working toward your PPL. It is possible to wash out of this course but it is not easy to do so. It would have to be academics, chronic debilitating airsickness, or an absolute inability to land. Commander’s Action Program (CAP) does exist here. It can be for academic as well as flying performance. It’s not the end of the world, it’s more for them to show they are aware of your performance. That being said, I did struggle a bit in IFT. It was entirely in my own head though. I was fixating way too much on my errors, letting them snowball, and psyching myself out after pursuing this dream for so long. I did not go to an 88 ride but I did have an 87. That being said, I know some folks who did go to an 89 ride and still pass. I also know someone who did wash out because he just could not land the aircraft. IFT is not impossible but it is not a leisurely stroll either. It is just a grind. For the RPA pipeline, you are there the longest. There is not that much to do in Pueblo and a lot of folks spend a lot of the weekend nights in the rec room. Since everything is located on that compound, you feel cooped up rather quickly. The cafeteria, maintenance, and security staff are all really friendly. I think they know that students go through a lot and do their best to support the students.
  5. I recently heard from my squadron DO that March has been pulling back their class allocations for only ANG. They even took away some of the Reserve allocations as well. It is not impossible, but Holloman and Syracuse are much more likely for active duty.
  6. nsplayr is correct. Also correct about MFS-N. Your completed flight physical will state that it is approved pending completion of MFS-N. However, they will do the full MFS exam at WPAFB, not just the -N portion. No one will tell you this and the people conducting each part of the exams do not talk to each other. Asking questions about the big picture about what is going on will not produce any answers, each dept only knows about the specific task they are doing. Stuff that was completed on your flight physical will be repeated. Even though you are going to RPAs you will still be measured for an ejection seat. Bring along an extra dose of patience. They sign your SF 600 so bear with it.
  7. Small world, I did my PPL at Offutt's Aero Club. I'll need to check if I have any of my GI Bil left after finishing grad school. Thanks for the info about the courses, I really appreciate it.
  8. I was originally going to skip Pueblo. Then they changed their minds and now I am going. The reason is because it has been awhile since I last flew. I think IFS is 6 weeks? Also, you mentioned Holloman is 6-8 months. Is Randolph about the same amount of time?
  9. Try this thread, copies of the memos are attached: Apparently revision to AFI 36-2205 is in the works but who knows what it will say.
  10. Cast a wide net and do lot of leg work researching units and calling Reserve and ANG units. If you can travel there, ask if you can visit during a drill weekend. A good starting point is to call recruiters at the units to ask if they have any upcoming hiring boards. They worst they can say is no. And you don't want to sit there wondering, "What if?" There is a blanket age waiver for RPA pilot applicants right now. You can ask individual units if they are considering age waivers. Depending on their needs and your qualifications, things might work out. Again, the worst they can do is say "No thanks" and you never know until you ask.
  11. I am not sure if this has been posted here before. Searching through the forums, there have been only a few, scattered references in revived threads. I have not seen the memo attached. I found this memo from HQ A3 granting a blanket age waiver for RPA pilot applicants. This particular one is for active duty but I have called around to ANG and Reserve units to see if they are following suit. I have a memo from the NG Bureau stating that they will. Up until recently, individual ANG units were making their own call on it. Units that were doing well in manning and applicants told me they were not. Others that had less personnel were following the AD policy. But the NG Bureau memo seems to resolve that. The Reserve is considering age waivers. This could be an opportunity for those who thought their chances were gone. Appendix E- Blanket RPA Age Waiver_Signed Copy.pdf ANG URT Age Waiver.pdf
  12. The place I work at on base has G-mail blocked along w/ lots of other stuff. Bummer.
  13. Don't forget Tina cyberstalking you and trying to get you to download music and games. And the jerk who steals your phone.
  14. Thanks for the info. I will be headed to the 91st ATKS. I have my PPL and I have been on aircrew but I was not rated in my prior service.
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