In a post to the www.airlinepilotcareers.com website, Dylan Aaker relates his experience as a Navy Pilot of F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G planes.
Aaker recently graduated The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (SFTI program), more popularly known as TOPGUN, which teaches fighter and strike tactics and techniques to selected naval aviators and naval flight officers, who return to their operating units as surrogate instructors.
In the post to www.airlinepilotcareers.com, Aaker continues, ‘My aviation career began at the University of North Dakota, where I majored in Commercial Aviation and graduated in 2011. After graduation, I attended Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, RI, where I was commissioned as an Ensign (the rank of a junior commissioned officer) in the United States Navy. Following OCS, I spent two years completing different phases of flight training in multiple locations across the United States, ultimately earning my wings and moving to Lemoore, CA, for initial training on the F/A-18 Super Hornet in April of 2014.
‘Following initial training on the F/A-18, and aircraft carrier qualifications in November of 2015, I was immediately deployed to the “Royal Maces” of VFA-27 homeported in Japan and attached to the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan. I spent the next four years living in Japan and deployed frequently aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, accumulating one year and eight months of sea time. After departing Japan, I was sent to the “Vampires” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) in China Lake, CA, where I currently serve in an operational test role flying both the F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G.’
Aaker offers advice for aspiring aviators. ‘Despite some of the potential drawbacks of some long days and a ground job, the flying itself can be extremely rewarding. Flying a high-performance jet aircraft, especially from an aircraft carrier, is definitely a unique experience and one I’ve never regretted. For anyone looking to pursue a career in Naval Aviation I definitely say go for it. But understand there’s no guarantee you will have the opportunity to fly fighters if that’s your goal, so you must be ok with flying whatever platform you’re ultimately given. Additionally, there’s a lot of time away from home as well as limited communication while deployed on an aircraft carrier so setting appropriate expectations with family is important. ‘
The post concludes with Aaker’s flight experience: ‘Lieutenant Aaker has accumulated over 1,300 hours in the F/A-18E-F and has over 400 aircraft carrier arrested landings. He has had the distinct honor and privilege to serve with and beside the hardest working and most highly motivated men and women this nation has to offer, in defense of our shared values and way of life.’