The training of U.S. Navy Aviators

NAS Whiting Field, Florida, is one of the two Naval Air Stations where the U.S. Navy Primary Flight Training takes place and it also the home of the U.S. Navy helicopter training. The base is situated about a one-hour drive Northeast of Pensacola near the city of Milton. It is considered to be the world’s busiest airport. The numbers of daily sorties are impressive: about 200 on the fixed wing side and 220 on the helicopter side. NAS Whiting Field is divided into two separate airfields. The North Field is used only for the Primary T-6 fixed-wing training and the South field is in use for helicopter pilot training. Each field has two fully operational runways and its own control tower.

T-6 Texan II
The three training squadrons at NAS Whiting Field North, VT-2 (Doerbirds), VT-3 (Red Knights) and VT-6 (Shooters) all operate the T-6 Texan II, a trainer aircraft based on the Pilatus PC-9. At this moment, TW-5 has a total of 148 T-6 aircraft in its inventory. All of them are in one big pool from which the squadrons use their aircraft.

Primary Flight Training
Students that successful completed the API (Aviation Preflight Indoctrination) at NAS Pensacola, Florida, will go to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas or NAS Whiting Field. 60% of all U.S. Navy aviators do their Primary training at Whiting Field. But not only Navy aviators follow their Primary Flight Training here, Training Wing-5 also trains aviators for the Coast Guard, Marine Corps and some foreign nations. No matter where Student Naval Aviators (SNA) end up, the F-18, F-35, MV-22, P-8 or MH-60, they all start with the fixed-wing syllabus and they all fly the T-6 Texan II. The training takes 27.9 weeks and after 47 flights and 36 simulator events, the SNAs will be ready for the next step in their education: the helicopter-, maritime-, E2/C2- or jet pipeline.

NAS Whiting Field South: the helicopter pipeline
One of the possible pipelines is the helicopter pipeline. All SNAs that are selected for this pipeline end up at South Whiting Field. It is the only place in the United States where helicopter pilots from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are trained. The helicopter syllabus takes 28.5 weeks.

TH-57 Sea Ranger
South Whiting also houses three training squadrons: HT-8 (Eigthballers), HT-18 (Vigilant Eagles) and HT-28 (Hellions). They all use the TH-57B/C Sea Ranger. At this moment, TW-5 owns 113 TH-57s. From 2023 a new training helicopter will start to replace the aging Sea Rangers.

Our article about the U.S. Navy Aviator training was published in the June 2020 issue of Take-Off magazine and in the August 2020 issue of Air Forces Monthly.