The Coast Guard is the oldest continuous seagoing service in the United States. Aligned under the Department of Homeland Security (rather than the Department of Defense), this branch of the military aviation is a welcome sight to vessels in distress and also serves as a larger shield in the fight against global terrorism. As an old saying goes, when the weather gets too bad for others to fly, that’s when the Coast Guard goes out.

Coast Guard aviation mission and aircraft

The U.S. Coast Guard has the mission to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and national interests in the nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, in international waters, and in any maritime region required. The Coast Guard has a fleet of both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that it uses to conduct rescue and anti-drug missions.

Coast Guard selection criteria and demographics

The U.S. Coast Guard utilizes naval aviation training facilities to train unrated prospective pilots. Even though the Navy does a majority of the Coast Guard’s aviation training, we’ve placed the Coast Guard in its own separate category simply because of the way it acquires aviators. All Coast Guard aviators are commissioned officers.

A large portion of the Coast Guard’s aviators (approximately 60 percent) are actually direct transfers and direct commissions from the other branches of the military, specifically the Army. The Coast Guard doesn’t accept pilot applicants for OCS.

To transfer to the Coast Guard, you must be 21 to 32 years old, be a rated military aviator with at least 500 hours of military flight time, and have had full-time flying experience within the previous two years. Because of these requirements, many prospective Coast Guard pilots either attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy or first begin their careers as Army aviators.

Many Army aviators who want to become commissioned aviators but don’t like the fact Army commissioned officer aviators primarily serve as leaders first and pilots second choose this aviation path.

Coast Guard flight training programs

Aircraft transition and indoctrination into the Coast Guard way of life takes place in Mobile, Alabama, where the Coast Guard aviation center is located. Coast Guard aviators focus much more heavily on instrument flying than Army aviators do, so a specific amount of transition time is spent on this task. All Coast Guard aviators return to this station one week each year to maintain training in their selected aircraft.