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Deadline approaching UAV pilot applications

Oct. 7, 2008 - 11:53AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 7, 2008 - 11:53AM  |  
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Non-rated officers who want to be UAV pilots should apply soon.

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Non-rated officers who want to be UAV pilots should apply soon.

Air Force officials want volunteers for the first two classes of non-rated officers that will be trained to fly MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.

Applications must be submitted to the Air Force Personnel Center by Nov. 3 with the first class of 10 officers scheduled to start training in January 2009 and the second class of 10 to start in April 2009.

Air Force leaders created a new UAV pilot career field in September, choosing to reverse a long-standing policy that allowed only rated pilots to fly Predators and Reapers.

Military leaders, all the way up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have described the need for more Predators and Reapers over Iraq and Afghanistan as "insatiable."

The Air Force now flies 27 round-the-clock Predator and Reaper orbits in the Central Command area of operations, which involves 450 pilots. But service leaders want 50 orbits to be flown by 2012, which will require 1,100 pilots.

Those non-rated officers interested in filling that need and applying for the test classes must first complete the test of basic aviation skills by Oct. 31. Testing locations that administer the TBAS can be found on the Pilot Candidate Selection Method Web site at https://pcsm.aetc.af.mil">https://pcsm.aetc.af.mil.

Interested airmen cannot be pilots or have any previous military pilot training.

To qualify, officers also must:

* Be captains with 4 to 6 years total active federal commissioned service as of Jan. 5, 2009.

* Be less than 30 years old as of Jan. 5, 2009

* Have two years time on station by July 1, 2009.

* Score at least 25 points on the pilot portion of the Air Force Officer Qualification Test; and at least 50 when combining the pilot and navigator portions. . If an officer doesn't have an AFOQT on file, it must be completed by Oct. 31.

Officers and Air Battle Managers are eligible if they are not currently in training, awaiting training, or previously eliminated from UPT

Those meeting the criteria above must complete the Aircrew Training Candidate Data Summary, Air Force Form 215, and electronically forward the completed form to the AFPC's Pipeline and Training Assignment Branch at specialflyingprogram@randolph.af.mi">specialflyingprogram@randolph.af.miby 4 p.m. central time on Nov. 3.

Group or squadron commanders must provide their recommendations on the form.

All other application questions should be directed to the Pipeline and Training Assignment Branch at (210) 565-2330.

Officers who do get selected will begin training at Introductory Flight Screening in Pueblo, Colo. They will then complete a specialized version of the UAV Formal Training Unit at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., before finishing up with full major weapons system qualification.

Questions have arisen about how these pilots will qualify to fly a plane in the U.S. under guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration, but officials said ratings qualifications will be incorporated into the training pipeline.

"The Air Force has a close working relationship with the FAA and will work with them to ensure all future UAV pilots are certified to operate in the national airspace system, and under instrument conditions," said Ed Gulick, a service spokesman.

The first class of non-rated officers should finish training by fall 2009, at which point they will receive their wings, though it still hasn't been determined if they will be standard pilot wings.

The second test class of 10 will complete their training by January 2010.

"We'll bring in 10 more to validate any adjustments we made to the program," said Brig. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, director of force management for manpower and personnel at the Pentagon.

The Air Force will then decide if the training pipeline can open up to larger numbers of officers.

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