BogiDope’s Backstory

BogiDope is a proud sponsor of The Pilot Network, a community of more than 25,000 pilots working together to help everyone achieve their aviation goals. This article is BogiDope’s intro to TPN from their quarterly magazine, TPNQ. We realized that we’ve never told our origin story and hope you’ll enjoy reading it too. We’ve reprinted it here with permission.

You may not know it, but TPN turns down sponsorship offers almost every day. We accept only those companies with products and mindsets that match our own values. We’re proud to count BogiDope as one of TPN’s newest sponsors. Their story shows how they absolutely embody TPN’s ethos of finding better ways to do aviation and sharing that knowledge with others.

I suspect we all remember where we were on 9/11. For John “SLAP” McFarlin, founder of BogiDope, he found himself glued to the TV in his freshman dorm room at Florida State University. Aviation and military service weren’t career goals at the time, but that day changed everything. We’re all struck by the aviation bug at different points in our lives, and this was it for SLAP. He wanted to desperately become a fighter pilot and after months of research (and way too many viewings of TOP GUN), he thought that the Navy would provide the highest probability of accomplishing that goal. So, in order to make his Navy OCS application more competitive, SLAP started taking flight lessons. It just so happened that his CFI knew about this well-kept secret called the Air National Guard, and that chance meeting sent SLAP on a completely different career trajectory.

This CFI explained that SLAP could shop around the country and apply directly to Guard or Reserve units. Do you want to fly F-22s in Hawaii? You can apply there. Do you want to fly C-130s in Connecticut? You can apply there too. If hired, they’d give him a guaranteed UPT slot with a guaranteed follow-on to fly their aircraft. Once SLAP got over the disbelief that such a program existed, this path was a no-brainer. He knew that the competition was going to be robust, so he moved across the country from Florida to the University of North Dakota (yes, North Dakota) to enroll in their aviation program and start the Guard application process. 

After graduation, SLAP was hired by an F-15 squadron and has been flying the Eagle for over a decade now. He still recalls on the first day of UPT being intimidated by all the USAF Academy and AFROTC graduates. Many of them were confident with several years of military training under their belts. SLAP’s military career at that point spanned a whopping 6 weeks of OTS. He barely knew how to salute!

During that first day, everyone in the class was instructed to introduce him- or herself and say what aircraft they wanted to fly. Many of the students said that they wanted to fly fighters. SLAP and a few other Guard/Reserve students didn’t though. When it was their turn each explained, “I’m in the Guard, so as long as I don’t wash out, I will fly the F-15 after UPT.”

Successful completion of a T-6 solo.

You should have seen the jaws drop and eyes go green with envy. (I know that’s what happened because it’s exactly how I reacted when some of my own UPT classmates pulled this one on us.)

You need to understand that getting into the Academy is an absolute rat race. Then, you spend another four years busting your…assets…to earn a UPT slot. Then, UPT is an unending contest to try and score well enough to earn a spot flying the airframe you want…without screwing over any of your friends. These Guard and Reserve jerks didn’t have to deal with any of that crap. I wished I could be that jerk!

SLAP’s assignment night. The F-15 in this picture was not a surprise.

Fast-forward a few years and SLAP found himself sitting on numerous hiring boards for his squadron. He encountered a surprising number of applicants who looked great on paper but did terribly in their interviews. Other candidates had solid credentials but awful resumes and cover letters.

For the experienced active duty pilots, this was likely their first real resume and job interview…ever. They had a tough time balancing confidence and experience with professionalism and humility. (Take for example the uber-qualified Weapons School Instructor who dropped F-bombs liberally throughout his interview.)

For the UPT applicants, they struggled to articulate their unique qualifications and passion to serve. I mean, how do you convince a panel of experienced military pilots that although you have zero military experience and very limited flight hours, that you are worthy of a multi-million dollar UPT slot and will someday be a good pilot and officer in their organization?

They simply had no frame of reference to prepare them for WWYD questions like:

“Your wingman’s jet broke, so you’re solo intercepting a US airliner with 300 passengers onboard, hundreds of miles off the coast. You have no radio contact with anyone onshore, and your last instructions were to shoot the plane down. You can’t establish radio contact with the airliner, but the pilots are waving at you. What do you do?”

These are questions that no civilian or airline interview prep program will ever cover, let alone know how to give advice on.

Admit it, you would have loved to get a guaranteed job flying this after UPT.

SLAP also happens to fly for a major US airline and went through interview prep for that job. He realized that a lot of people who share his same desire to fly and passion to serve could achieve their military aviation goals with some experienced guidance from someone who had gone through it himself. So, he decided to start a company that would help people apply for and interview well with Guard and Reserve units. This is how BogiDope was born. 

BogiDope.com features Guard and Reserve job listings that are constantly up to date and dozens of in-depth articles ranging from the UPT application process, to leaving active duty, to airline pay calculators. They also have a truly fantastic web app featuring an interactive map that overlays Guard and Reserve bases with airline domiciles, to help you plan a life without commuting.

When a pilot finds a job they want, BogiDope’s consulting services demystify everything. They offer two primary services: application review and interview prep. When a client signs up, he or she gets instant access to a variety of prep materials, including sample resumes and cover letters and more than 200 of the most common military pilot interview questions. Each package includes two separate one-on-one consultations.

The Application Review Package is completed with a screen sharing service that allows the BogiDope coach and client to go through each section of the cover letter and resume, line by line together. They even started offering a recorded copy of the call, so the client isn’t distracted by frantically taking notes during the session and can go back to re-watch certain parts if needed.

The first one-on-one for the Interview Prep Package discusses general strategies and identifies each client’s unique selling points to highlight in the interview. The next one is a full mock video interview with feedback after each question.

BogiDope completed nearly 500 tailored one-on-one consultations last year and is intensely proud of the people they’ve helped find dream jobs in the Guard and Reserve. We at TPN have had our eye on BogiDope for a while and think they do a great job, so we highly recommend them for someone competing for a UPT slot, or someone transitioning from Active Duty.

Mr., Mrs., and Baby SLAP at the conclusion of a successful deployment. (In case the stache wasn’t a dead giveaway.)

However, we also think BogiDope is a great side-hustle opportunity for TPN members already serving in the Guard and Reserve. BogiDope is currently a small company with more than enough demand to hire a few part-time consultants. As SLAP puts it, “it won’t make you rich, but you can help a lot of people achieve their dreams and make a little extra beer money in the process.” If you’re at all interested in using your knowledge to help mentor future aviators and help great people get great jobs in units like yours, BogiDope would love to hear from you!

BogiDope also asked me to do some writing for them, to help fill in some of the knowledge gaps that they’ve seen in our industry. I’ll be sharing links to those posts on TPN, and I hope you enjoy reading them!

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