The difference between Air Force and Navy pilots

| October 27, 2021

There are many differences between the pilots and other flyers in the two branches. For recreation, Air Force pilots like to golf on one of our numerous and well maintained golf courses, while naval aviators like to play beach volleyball in jeans and no t-shirt.

While each service likes to say they are the best and the toughest, most skilled aviators, the answer is more nuanced. The following video wonderfully demonstrates the difference in how pilots are trained.

@combat_aviationistAirforce landing vs the Navy! why so different? #fyp

? Deadwood – Really Slow Motion

You can see here the Air Force pilot brings his F-16 Viper in with grace and delicacy. I doubt the tires even left a skidmark on the runway.

The EF/A-18 Growler driver though brings his plane down like a pile of bricks. That naval aviator slams down like he hates the runway and is trying to break his plane to get a new one.

Of course, the difference is that Air Force pilots don’t have to worry about short runways. Except in rare circumstances, and none that would apply to an F-16, Air Force pilots always have a 7,000ft or more runway on which to land. Plenty of room. The Navy aviators by contrast have to train to land on a 300ft long aircraft carrier, and of that, they’re trying to catch one of three wires spaced over a 40ft span.

Category: Air Force, Navy

Comments (49)

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  1. Eggs says:

    I think the AF pilots at Incirlik (back in the 90s) had a contest for longest “wheelies” down the runway.

  2. 26Limabeans says:

    Navy has better food.
    Camp Tien Sha in Danang always had a bunch of AF types in the mess.
    Seen it myself.

  3. Open Channel D says:

    Now do Marine Corps pilots.

    • David says:

      The ones with shrubbery caught in the landing gear?

    • Roh-Dog says:

      No one does it shorter than the Corps!

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Open Channel D,
      (Almost) All Marine training level aircraft training
      is conducted alongside Naval aviators
      at NAS Naval Air Stations.

      (Almost) All Marine career aircraft training
      is conducted by Marine aviation training units
      at MCAS Marine Corps Air Stations.

      Video is T-45 Goshawk (Navy and Marines joint training).

      • MarineDad61 says:

        Note the hard landing.
        As Mason suggested, it’s true, and it’s intentional.
        Trained, with parameters, for a short hit spot.

        I did get to tour drive the golf course and officers row housing on LeJeune.
        Vacancies, since most prefer to live off base.
        Also, quote from son…. “Golf is pretentious”.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Open Channel D,
      My son’s advanced training,
      and now his current overseas deployment duty,
      look much like this,
      but without the icy mountain tops of Iceland and Norway.

      • MarineDad61 says:

        Can’t say much more.
        You know, parent OPSEC.

        Or, we crypto types from the past would say…
        “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

  4. Roh-Dog says:

    And sometimes the (Go) Army (Beat Navy) Air Corps doesn’t need 7,000 ft of ‘runway’.

    • Roh-Dog says:

      {ducks and runs}

      • KoB says:

        Hold muh beer and watch this!

        • Roh-Dog says:

          My knuckles wouldn’t have been the only thing thats white!

          This was late ’63 (according to the vid description, checks out?). The calculations for flight envelope would’ve be done by slide ruler… I don’t even know what a quarter of my Ti-85 does!

          Make Physics Taught Greatly Again!

        • Mason says:

          No arresting wire for those either. You put it on the deck or you’re going for a very expensive swim.

        • Sailorcurt says:

          Sorry, I clicked “report comment” by accident. Haven’t finished my first coffee yet.

          Although the experiment worked, it was never implemented in practice. My theory is because the C-130 is so big, the flight deck had to be otherwise clear in order to have room for it to either take off or land.

          On a deployed carrier with a full complement of aircraft, there is no possible way to clear the flight deck for operations like that. There are always birds on deck and there is not room in the hangar to put them.

          What good does it do to have the capability to resupply an aircraft carrier with no aircraft?

          Still, pretty impressive to even be able to do it.

          Quality pilots.

          • 26Limabeans says:

            My dad’s neighbor “Russ” was a hvac engineer on the Hornet
            during the Doolittle raid. Got to talk with him a few times.
            The B-25 is no C-130 but then again, they were not planning on
            coming back to the ship.

    • AW1Ed says:

      A-10s are Air Force, right -Dog?

      • rgr769 says:

        Dog is just reminding everyone that the USAF once belonged to the Army. We would like to take the A-10 as our own preferred air support weapon.

      • Roh-Dog says:

        They never should’ve been AF tin. The fact zoomies have used them as leverage since is some proof.

        • USMC Steve says:

          Well, the air force (specifically the fighter mafia) didn’t want the A-10 originally. They shunted it over to the air guard squadrons, and when those guys just tore the Iraqis up in Desert Storm, the air force decided they wanted the A-10 back.

  5. Chris Melvin says:

    I’ve never been shot at by Naval Aviators, but I have been shot at by Air Force A-10 pilots. Twice.

    • USMC Steve says:

      The Fighter Mafia does have a regrettable habit of dropping shit on friendly forces.

      • SFAlphaGeek says:

        Sometimes their somewhat cavalier attitude about hitting the actual target works in your favor. We had some F-16s working a TIC for us in Afghanistan. There was a group of young gentlemen who would leave their village and take potshots at us with a mortar, and the F-16 was helping us with asking them to change their ways. The lead aircraft unshackled a 500 pounder, which went 1800 meters long – and right into the middle of the village these guys were from. They thought we had done it on purpose, and we heard later, were really impressed with our ruthlessness and decided to change their ways.

    • Poetrooper says:

      Back in the day when they had A-10’s at England AFB in Alexandria, Louisiana, you could become a mock strafing target real easily if you drove the back roads out west of the base.

      When they pass over you at tree-top level, the air blast will damned near blow you off the road.

      Ol’ Poe speaks from personal experience…

      • 26Limabeans says:

        Something took off from a small regional airport Monday
        about ten miles from here. I swear it sounded like an F4 Phantom.
        That “crackle” was deafening. Could not see it due to clouds.
        For few moments it was Danang AB.

  6. SFC D says:

    Only USMC landing I ever witnessed was a CH-46 on the pier at Pohang, 1989. Pilot slammed it down so hard that it looked like the rotors were way past their maximum flex, and the Marines in the back came staggering out like it was a payday weekend.

    • ChipNASA says:

      Payday weekend, after jungle training on the north end of the island, after the bars close on BC street, in Okinawa 😁

  7. George V says:

    OK, there’s other differences. When I was going through Navy Advance Jet in the mid-1970’s, the training included some cross-country flights. On one such sojourn in our trusty TA-4J we stopped at an AF flight training base to refuel. While the jet was getting fueled my instructor and I headed to base ops to file the next leg of the flight with the FAA. There was a group of AF student pilots in very clean and spiffy flight suits going through careful flight planning – time for each leg, fuel consumption, and so forth.

    We, on the other hand, in our sweaty flight suits with a bad case of helmet hair wander up to the chart table. My instructor takes out his government issue ballpoint pen (which is exactly 200 miles long on a high-altitude airways chart of that day, moves it across the chart from where we are back to Kingsville NAS, and says “Looks like 800 miles, we got 1200 miles of gas, let’s file a flight plan.”

    The looks we got from those students and their instructor… priceless!

    • Claw says:

      George V, Sir, this is a million to one long shot question, but did you happen to know a Corsair pilot named Bob Vessely?

      Hometown friend of mine.

      • George V says:

        Sorry, I don’t know the name. I was Atlantic fleet, based at Oceana. A-7’s were down at Jacksonville back then. But we could have crossed paths on deployments if he was at Jax.

        • Claw says:

          Thanks for answering. Bob perished on 31 Aug 83 over Roosevelt Roads in a mid-air collision. The other pilot survived.

    • Mick says:

      George V:

      Ha! Did that exact kind of “fleet flight planning” with the black Skilcraft government-issue ballpoint pen many times myself. Drove the Air Force guys crazy.

      Do you remember how the Air Force also didn’t like it that we Navy and Marine Corps Aviators could sign our own DD-175s? I once got followed out of Base Ops at Dyess AFB while heading out to my aircraft by an irate Air Force Colonel who was waving my flight plan and shouting that my flight plan wasn’t approved and that it wouldn’t be filed because I had signed it myself as a lowly Marine Corps Captain. He said that it had to be approved by the Air Force before I could launch. I tried to explain that yes, as a Marine Corps Aviator I was in fact authorized to approve/sign my own DD-175, but he wouldn’t hear of it. It actually took a call to my squadron CO to get that little fun-filled misunderstanding of Naval Aviation regulations sorted out.

      Aaahhh…the memories.

  8. AW1Ed says:

    Air Force pilots wear ascots.

    ‘nuff said.

  9. Skyjumper says:

    Nice recovery by Navy pilots.


    Was that AWEd1?

    • KoB says:

      Naw, I don’t think so Sky. Our beloved AW1Ed preferred aircraft with the wings and motors mounted all caddy whompus…or whirlybirds.

  10. Green Thumb says:

    I always thought one liked the stick and the other liked drag.

  11. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    When I was a young meathead in high school, we got pitches from Recruiters of all of the Armed Forces, one of which was from a USMC Recruiter who explained the difference between Air Force and Navy & Marine Pilots. He went on with how the AF uses nice long runways while the Navy and USMC Pilots have to land on the Carrier Decks saying “Our Pilots have at least two pounds of balls to do that…”. Either way, GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY!

  12. PNW ATC says:

    Flair to land squat to pee used to be the saying back in olden times.

    And the pilot of that Herc was named Flatley. His son flew F/A-18s in one of the squadrons I was in. Good dude!