One month until Billet Night! I am so excited to find out where I’ll be for my next two years serving the Coast Guard as an ensign. I put in for flight training as my first choice, so I am finishing up the tail end of a long application process. I’ve been very fortunate to learn a lot about Coast Guard aviation throughout the experience, so even if I don’t get it straight out of the Academy, I’m looking forward to taking another shot at it later down the road!
The flight school billets are highly selective. The congressionally permitted maximum number of cadets the flight training program can accept is 10% of the total class membership; the actual percentage is lower than that, and will change from year to year based on the Coast Guard’s needs for afloat and sector ensigns. The process for applying to flight school has morphed a few times since I’ve been a cadet, but for my class (and likely for the next few classes after us), it started in earnest at the beginning of first class year. Basically, there are four steps to getting to flight school as an Academy graduate:
- Pass the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB). The ASTB is a pilot aptitude test that evaluates your basic physics, mathematics, mechanical, reading comprehension, hand-eye coordination, task management, and spatial skills. You are allowed to take the exam up to three times in your lifetime. It takes kind of a long time to describe in a blog… I would suggest researching this exam online a bit and getting some study materials to help you prepare. Look for “Military Flight Aptitude Tests” and “ASTB-E” on Google and Amazon!
- Write a memo, which is similar to a short essay, about why you want to attend flight school and how you have prepared yourself to do so. This is where you’ll get the chance to talk about any special skills or qualifications you have, like a private pilot’s license, and any unique experiences and activities that have helped you determine that aviation is what you want to do (summer assignments at CATP and air stations, flight team competitions, career aspirations, etc.) Get lots of feedback from aviator officers on your memo; the editing I received from pilots helped me improve my memo so much from my original draft to my final one!
- Prepare for your flight board. You’ll sit in an interview with a few active duty aviators from the local area, and they’ll ask you for some more details regarding your memo. It’s good to have a few stories to explain how you got interested in aviation, people who inspired you, and to have an idea of your personal strengths and weaknesses. And ultimately, they are just looking to see if you have a pleasant personality. Be polite, be positive, and be yourself!
- Finally, if you are selected to the final pool of candidates, pass your flight physical. A lot goes into this with eye exams, anthropometrics, EKGs, fasting labs, etc., so get it done as quickly as possible!
If you are interested in flight, start learning about it now! Take civilian flight lessons, talk to aviators, read books and study for your ASTB and, most of all, just get excited for a cool career path!
More about Abby.