There are two different ways in which someone can become a Coast Guard pilot. Aviators for the United States Coast Guard fly a variety of different types of aircraft, including everything from lightweight helicopters to heavy duty cargo planes, some of which require highly specialized training. As with other military careers, once someone has become a pilot, a number of benefits and opportunities are available including assistance with education, excellent health care, and retirement benefits.
In order to become a Coast Guard pilot, it is necessary to be an officer. One way to do this is to attend the Coast Guard Academy, a four year training program. After graduation as an officer, it is possible to apply for pilot training. If accepted, the candidate will attend an 18 month flight school, and then he or she can be assigned to duty at a Coast Guard base.
Another option is to receive a direct commission. Someone who has trained as an aviator with another military branch can apply for a direct commission to start serving right away as a Coast Guard pilot. Someone who wants to become a pilot in this way has training and military experience that are extremely useful for the Coast Guard. Civilian pilots are not accepted for direct commissions because they do not have experience specific to military environments and thus would require additional training.
It is also necessary to pass a physical exam to become a Coast Guard pilot. The class one flight physical is designed to ensure that a candidate does not have any health problems that could impede performance, ranging from dental problems which might act up at high altitude to vision issues. As long as a pilot's vision is 20/20 or correctable to 20/20 and the pilot has good depth and color perception, he or she should meet the vision requirements established by the Coast Guard.
Pilots who work for the Coast Guard can engage in many different activities and their work is extremely challenging. Coast Guard pilots are justifiably famous for their search and rescue work, which is among the best in the world, but they also participate in law enforcement missions, especially with drug interdiction. In addition, they can provide active duty support to other branches of the United States military, assist with oceanographic surveys, and perform a variety of other flight tasks.