Navy Flight School: NIFE Phase 1

Congratulations on finally making it to Pensacola, Florida to start flight school. The cradle of Naval Aviation and home to hundreds of newly minted Ensigns buying brand new Tacomas and engagement rings. I’m kidding, obviously. Everyone knows if you’re smart you get legally married immediately for the BAH and then have the engagement and wedding ceremony… who cares you’re rich now! 


Making it to Pensacola means you finally escaped from Student Pool at OCS or some other temporary duty wasting away at your ROTC unit thinking maybe being a SWO wouldn’t be that bad. But now you’ve received your orders to begin NIFE (Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation) and there’s no better reception party to start your budding career in Naval Aviation than Flight Management.

Flight Management (FM) is the administrative body that is in charge of making sure you check all the boxes to get through NIFE. It’s run by fellow Ensigns which often leads to very helter-skelter communication and the constant threat of giving you a pink sheet (a form of demerit), which I’m pretty sure they don’t actually have the power to hand out. FM schedules all your appointments and classes necessary in order to be ready to “class-up” and commence Phase 2–the classroom portion (if you’re familiar, very similar to OCS-style academics). The various aspects of Phase 1 include: standing watch/stash jobs, medical appointments, running the APIT, and water survival.

Standing Watch/Stash Jobs

The very first thing the Navy will have you do after checking in will likely be to stand watch. There are various locations on base that require watchstanding such as enlisted barracks, the student classrooms, the gym, and urinalysis. All of these watches vary in length and how much they suck and there’s a good chance you’ll stand about thirty hours of watches before getting a stash job.

Stash jobs like being a watchbill coordinator, working in FM, or working at the museum are examples of more “full-time” positions that get you out of having to stand watch at random hours of the day (and night) without much more than twelve hours of warning. Having a stash job also means you no longer have to in-person muster every day in your khakis and may even have NWU’s as your uniform.

Medical Appointments

A requirement before being eligible to class-up is receiving your Up-Chit, or approval from your flight doc that you’re fit to fly. FM will schedule you for anthropometric measurements (to make sure you fit in the various cockpits) as well as your fun two-day trip to NAMI. 

If you went to OCS, the first day of NAMI may look something like arriving fasted at 0600 and waiting around until noon just to be told to come back tomorrow. I believe other commissioning sources had more to do on the first day as they previously didn’t have an in-depth evaluation prior to Pensacola. 

The second day was relatively short for most. You show up at your designated time, meet with your flight surgeon for a bit to review anything important and are awarded the beloved Up-Chit if all goes well. Now you’re cleared to run the APIT and start the water survival course.


The APIT stands for something but it’s really just the NIFE-specific fitness test. It’s really just a pass/fail test to see if you meet minimum standards. The hardest part will be sufficiently rehydrating so that your hangover doesn’t slow you down too much and can still hit that Good-Low on the run.

Water Survival

The water survival course is a week-long class on emergency swimming techniques. It’s about two hours per day of swimming where you do various events such as learning various strokes, treading with full flight gear, and jumping from the tower and swimming a set distance underwater. The culminating event is the mile swim in a flight suit and can seem a bit daunting but most people pass as the class progresses nicely through the week. 

If you are determined to need extra swim instruction you have the opportunity to enter swim remediation on the first day without any consequences. If you have to enter remediation any day after you will get a pink sheet. I’d say most people pass through water survival just fine and even if you do go to remediation it won’t delay your class-up date much if at all.

That’s the majority of what you’ll go through as you wait to class up. It seems to be taking most Navy about three months to start NIFE after checking in. I can’t speak to how long it’s taking the other branches but I’ve heard about eight months for Marines. The wait goes by quickly and is probably one of the only times you’ll get paid a full salary to work less than twenty hours a week. If you get bored, just do what every other O1 does and either get a dog, get married, or buy a house when the real estate market is at an all-time high. All great pastimes!