Introductory Flight Screening

Quick report on my first step in flight school, Introductory Flight Screening (IFS). What is it? How's my progress? And how can students succeed in it?

What is IFS?

Introductory Flight Screening is a way to screen out flight contracts who find that aviation isn't right for them. During IFS, student naval aviators and student naval flight officers are sent to civilian flight schools in the area to complete "ground school" and start learning to fly on their own. By the end of IFS, students complete a solo flight. In theory, IFS can be completed within 30 days, however, weather and human factors can cause delays.

IFS benefits the Department of the Navy because flight hours are cheaper in a Cessna than they are in military training aircraft, so any students who are going to decide that flight isn't for them don't cost taxpayers as much while they figure that out. Previously, students would get into military training aircraft and only then find out that they have a fear of heights or claustrophobia that leaves them unable to serve in a flight capacity. Much cheaper to find that out in IFS.

Marines and… well, not "sailors," but whatever they call the guys who joined the Navy to fly… we go through IFS together. Those with a private pilot license or higher are exempt from IFS.

My Progress in IFS

I'm currently midway through the 2-week ground school; I took the Stage 1 & 2 exams last week (94% and 96%), and this week are the Stage 3 and End of Course exams. Then, next week I should start getting scheduled for flights, and I'll be assigned a time to take the FAA exam, too.

My Fixed Base Operator (FBO) is Flight Training Mobile (FTM) out in Foley, Alabama, which just means I have to drive 45 minutes out there for all my flights once they start happening. So far we only have had to go out there for review sessions with an instructor the day before an exam.

During one of those review sessions, we also had our first familiarization with one of the training aircraft, which happened to be the one I'll be using, a Cessna 172P.

My trainer, Cessna 98960
(click to enlarge)

After IFS

I am probably still looking at about a 4 month wait until I can start the next stage of flight school, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API). I'm in the first IFS class with anybody from TBS Delta 4-12, and the last Marines from Charlie Company are with us. Apparently, nobody from Charlie has started API yet, so I'll have a while to wait.

Recommendations for You in IFS

Be sure that you have a place set up to study before you get started in IFS because you need to be able to focus on the material, not arranging your office/study room or getting your internet turned on.

Start studying as soon as you have the textbook, and start watching the videos as soon as you have access to the Jeppesen site. Study. Study. Study. Get the gouge. Study the gouge. Then study the books and videos some more. If you have an iOS device, this app from Sporty's will help you study—worth the $10: Study Buddy Test Prep (FAA Private Pilot).

You have GOT to keep up with the recommended daily study schedule they give you. Get ahead if you can. If you get behind, you'll still be 2 days behind by the time the exam hits, and then you only have another day until the next exam and you'll be trying to catch up while making sure you learn the new material for the exam. Trust me. Thankfully, I've been able to basically catch up this weekend, but there's still plenty left to learn in the second week, and there are 3 more exams still.

This would be a lot easier if there was more time, or even better, if they mixed in the actual flying lessons with the ground lessons as the curriculum is meant to go. But, that's not the way they have us do it. So, you've got to find a way to make it work for you. Likely, just get through the exams, then fill in the gaps in your knowledge once you actually start flying. Well… that's my plan, anyway.


  1. this is pretty awesome caleb - jones

  2. We've just finished FEX III here at TBS; and we graduate March 27, 2013(Frozen Fox Co). I'm a flight contract and I appreciate your "heads up" on IFS. Word around here fluctuates between, "you'll be starting IFS right away!" to "you'll be waiting four months." Either way, I'm ready to head down to Pensacola and get this started. Good luck Marine, and thanks again for the gouge! Semper Gumby

  3. I will be hopefully graduating and commissioning with a flight contract in December, so I enjoy getting a taste of what's ahead. -Ben

  4. That's the prefect explanation and insightful post for a new comer.


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