Upon reaching the E6 or E7 paygrade, the typical path of advancement for Sailors in the Aviation Machinist’s Mate rating (AD)—one of the primary source ratings for Aviation Maintenance Techniciansis to enter either the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program and serve as a Restricted Line officer in Aviation Maintenance, or apply to Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) program to become an Aviation Maintenance Technician. The hard shoulder boards seen here are worn by CWOs.

But for a brief period, enlisted Sailors serving as Aviation Machinist’s Mates were given the opportunity to become Aviators or Naval Flight Officers (NFOs).

Announced in 2006, the Navy’s Flying CWO Test Program was created as a response to an unusually high number of Unrestricted Line (URL) accessions into the aviation community. The aim was to produce Aviators or NFOs who would focus solely on their duties in those positions because they would not have to worry about achieving milestones required for their career progression.

Whether applying to be become NFOs or Aviators, the program mandated that all candidates had to be eligible to be commissioned before they turned 27. Sailors serving as SEALs, Special Warfare Boat Operators, Divers, or in the Nuclear community were not allowed to participate in the program because of inventory requirements in those fields. Other requirements included having at least an Associate’s Degree, being physically qualified for Aviation duty, meeting minimum Aviation Standard Test Battery Scores, and being eligible for a Secret Security Clearance.

The program was not limited to Sailors in the AW rating, but rather open to all “highly-qualified and hard-charging sailors” in E5 through E7 paygrades. Upon completion of their training and earning being “winged,” they would be required to serve a minimum of six years as NFOs or eight years as Aviators.

In the program’s first year, ten Sailors were selected for training as Pilots and four for NFO, and in the second the numbers ten and six, respectively. But in 2008 the number of selections began to drop—five and three in 2008, four and three in 2009, three and three in 2010, and none were chosen in 2011. In 2012, the last year selections were made, just three pilot trainees and three NFO candidates were named.

The Navy announced the termination of the program in 2013, citing a change in the inventory of URL officers in the Aviation community. Over the seven years in which selections for the program were made, thirty-five enlisted Sailors entered the program to become Aviators, and twenty-two were chosen for training to become NFOs.

Important: Due to the extremely low demand on this item, it is manufactured on order. While we might have some in stock, please allow for up to 10 business days processing time.

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