Get Started
Why Join

Did you know the U.S. Coast Guard has the highest percentage of officers that are pilots out of any U.S. military service? As a Coast Guard aviator, you’ll fly in challenging, high-risk environments—such as rescuing people in distress, stopping smugglers, or monitoring illegal activities.

Aeronautical Engineering

Aeronautical engineers are vital to Coast Guard aircraft and avionics systems acquisition, planning, design, operation, maintenance, and alteration. Within this specialty, you can choose from three master’s degree paths: 

  • Avionics/Project Management: You’ll learn to manage technology upgrade and modification projects.
  • Structures Specialists: You’ll approve structural repairs, aircraft maintenance procedures, and corrosion mitigation processes.
  • STEM MBA: You’ll provide engineering support, logistics, and oversight of depot-level maintenance. As an aeronautical engineer, you’ll maintain your flying qualifications.

How to Become a Coast Guard Aviator

If you have prior military flight experience as a pilot, you can join the Coast Guard through the Direct Commission Aviation program and immediately begin flying.  

  • If you don’t have military flight experience as a pilot, you can join through a general commissioning source such as Officer Candidate School and earn flight school as your first assignment or apply and be selected for flight school later in your career.  
  • If you are a CSPI Officer Trainee, you can enter flight school through the Wilkes Flight Initiative.


When you’re selected for flight school, you’ll attend Naval Flight School at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL. It takes approximately two years for you to earn your wings, as you cycle through: 

  • Initial Flight Screening (IFS), where you’ll become familiar with flying and make sure it’s a fit for you. 
  • Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination (API), where you’ll learn basic aerodynamics, aviation weather, air navigation, flight rules and regulations, aircraft engines and systems, and how flight affects the human body.
  • Primary Flight Training, where you’ll do extensive training in simulators and aircraft. Depending on your interests and available opportunities, you’ll be assigned to either the fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter subspecialty.
  • The Secondary Phase of Flight School is either in Pensacola, FL, for helicopters, or Corpus Christi, TX, for fixed-wing aircraft.

After you earn your wings, you’ll be assigned to an air station and attend an airframe-specific course at Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL, to qualify for the MH-60 Jayhawk, the MH-65 Dolphin, the HC-130 Hercules, or the HC-144 Ocean Sentry. You’ll return once a year for a one-week proficiency course in your airframe.

Aviation Career

You can expect to gain initial experience as a co-pilot and eventually earn the title of aircraft commander. Throughout your aviation career, you’ll experience search-and-rescue, law enforcement, and other Coast Guard missions. Once you gain leadership and operational skills, you may be selected for command of an air station. You’ll also be encouraged to apply for sponsored graduate school programs to broaden your expertise outside of the cockpit, such as:

  • Aeronautical Engineering – Avionics (Project Management) 
  • Aeronautical Engineering – (STEM MBA)
  • Aeronautical Engineering – (Structures) 
  • Aviation Safety Systems
  • Aviation Technology