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Naval Aviation is renowned for the demands it places upon its flyers. The skills and concentration required to land a high-performance jet on board an aircraft carrier deck pitching in the black of night, or to track a submarine while flying at only a few feet above stormy seas, are not only linked to a solid academic background or to top physical conditioning. There is more to it than that; it requires a combination of talents and dedication that many people possess, but few are challenged to use to full measure.
Graduates of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) are selected for flight training during their final year of school. All are volunteers. They arrive at NAS Pensacola to begin the Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) program. This course involves academic training in aerodynamics, engineering, air navigation, aviation physiology, and water survival, as well as physically challenging practical applications of physiology and water survival training. While at API, students are issued their flight suits and initial flight gear to include helmet, oxygen mask, and navigational plotting aids.
Upon completion of API, a Student Naval Aviator (SNA) is assigned to one of five Navy training squadrons for primary flight training using the T-34C Turbomentor, a single-engine turboprop aircraft. Primary flight training includes the basics of contact, instrument, formation, and aerobic flying. After successful completion of primary training, student aviators are selected for their community pipeline and move on to the intermediate phase. Selection is based on personal preference, individual flight performance, and the needs of the service at that point and time. Student pilots will be selected for one of five pipelines: Strike (tactical jets), E-2/C-2, Maritime, E-6, or Rotary wing (helicopter). Upon completion of their advanced training, SNAs are awarded their wings and proceed to specific Fleet Readiness Squadrons for specialized training in their aircraft.