Job Family: Aviation Airplane Navigators
Services Offering this Occupation
 | Navy  | Air Force  | Marine Corps  | Coast Guard

Photo 1:
Navigator checks winds during flight. Photo 2: Man helps navigate aircraft.

Short Description
Pilots rely on the precision and skill of the navigator to keep the aircraft on course. Airplane navigators use radar, radio and other navigation equipment to determine position, direction of travel, intended course, and other information about their flights.


What They Do
Airplane navigators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Guide tankers and other airplanes during in-flight refueling operations
  • Provide pilots with instrument readings, fuel usage, and other flight information
  • Direct aircraft course using radar, sight, and other navigation methods
  • Operate radios and other communication equipment to send and receive messages
  • Locate other aircraft using radar equipment
  • Operate bombardier systems during bombing runs
  • Inspect and test navigation and weapons systems before flights
  • Plan and prepare for missions
  • Review mission tasking, intelligence, and weather information
  • Employ airborne sensors in manual or computer assisted models to actively and/or passively acquire, track, and monitor airborne, maritime, and ground objects

Helpful Attributes
Helpful fields of study include cartography, geography, and surveying. Helpful attributes include:
  • Ability to read maps and charts
  • Ability to respond quickly to emergencies
  • Interest in work requiring accuracy and attention to detail
  • Strong desire to fly

Training Provided
Job training consists of classroom instruction. Practical experience in navigation is gained through training in aircraft simulators and through about 100 hours of actual flying time. Further training occurs on the job and through advanced courses. Course content typically includes:
  • Principles and methods of navigation
  • Operation of communication, weapon, and radar systems
  • Inspection and testing of navigation equipment and systems
  • Combat and bombing navigation procedures and tactics

Work Environment
Airplane navigators perform their work in aircraft. They may be stationed at air-bases or aboard aircraft carriers anywhere around the world.


Civilian Counterparts
Civilian airplane navigators work for passenger and cargo airlines. With the exception of duties that are combat-related, their duties are similar to those performed by military navigators.

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