Navy Flight School: NIFE Phase 3

Navy Flight School: NIFE Phase 3

Phase 3: Flight Side

In case you missed my write up of Phases 1 and 2, you can access them here and here.

What NIFE is doing (and really well—I might add) is providing a great example of what the rest of Navy Primary and Advanced flight training will be like. In NIFE they give you FTI’s (Flight Training Instruction), a Master Curriculum Guide (a clear layout of every single event and what you’ll be graded on), and Checklists and Emergency Procedure critical action items that need to be learned verbatim.

The idea is you get used to the Navy’s way of teaching and learning and become familiar with the process as it is the same at every stage of flight training. It just gets more and more complex.

Syllabus Week

It’s now Monday and you’ve recovered from getting way too drunk at the O Club and have forgotten all the stupid stuff you did wearing your flight suit for the first time. Unfortunately, the one cute girl from your ground school classes who you never had the courage to talk to prior to that intoxicated day remembers everything.

Nonetheless, it’s time to start flying. The first week of being “flight side” is an orientation week at one of the SkyWarriors bases: either out of Jack Edwards or Pensacola International depending on where you live. Although it may seem like a bummer at first since the drive to Jack Edwards is about four times longer, that still is one of the most beautiful commutes to work I’ve ever had.

This week will also include your Cockpit Familiarization events where you will sit in a non-functioning airplane cockpit with your flight partner and an instructor learning where all the controls are and the general feel for things. This is where you can start practicing your Hollywood Checklist as well as the checklists you’re required to know from memory (Climb, Pre-Maneuver, Before Landing, etc...)

If I remember correctly you’ll get two CPT fam events and it’s highly recommended that you practice as much as you can with the time allotted: comms, checklists, maneuvers, etc. The more comfortable you get talking and moving your hands to the correct positions, the better you’ll be once you start flying.

As I was finishing up NIFE they were talking about getting the Cessna simulators up and running as part of the events in the curriculum but I’m not sure where that stands currently.


There are three “blocks” as the Navy calls them. All of which will more than likely be flown with the same flight partner. So if their (lack of) flying skills are making you airsick on day one, you should be nicely acclimated to violent flying by the end, making the T6 in Primary a breeze.

The first block, C4101-4, consists of four flights all with the same instructor, which allows you to build up some continuity in instruction. Every flight will be generally the same: brief the required discussion items with the instructor, review ORM, NOTAMs, weather, etc., and then check out the headsets and keys to the decrepit plane.

Next you and your partner will together preflight the airplane, after which one of you will elect to fly first while the other sits in the backseat.

Getting paid to chill in the back of the Cessna 5,000’ over Orange Beach, Alabama is without a doubt one of my best memories in the Navy so far.

Each flight goes roughly the same: fly out to the working area via course rules, do your turn pattern, stalls, and level speed change and then transition to some outlying field to get some touch-and-go practice landings in. After about an hour of flying you and your partner will switch and repeat.

The second block, C4201-2, and the checkride are basically all the same when it comes to flying. The second block of flights will be with a new SkyWarriors instructor and your checkride will be with a military instructor (Navy or Marine).

In order to complete the block, you’ll need to meet MIF (Maneuver Item Files) for each item being graded in the Master Curriculum Guide. Failure to achieve the required MIF grade results in—you guessed it—a pink sheet.


After completing your checkride you’ll return to NAS Pensacola for a couple weeks where you’ll do the Physio Week consisting of parachute training, basic flight physiology, survival instruction, and the famous “Helo Dunker” water egress event.

Following that you’ll have an official graduation ceremony with the Skipper, take a class photo and then your time is up at Naval Aviation Schools Command. NFO’s head across the street to Training Wing Six, about half of the SNA’s will go to Milton for Training Wing Five, and the remaining poor souls will head to Corpus Christi, Texas to Training Wing Four.

Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions about anything!