Air Force Cutting Pilot Training

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The U.S. Air Force will train about 925 new pilots in 2008, a decrease of about 12 percent from the 1,100 that will graduate this year, the Air Force Times is reporting. The Times says there will be a slight bump in trainees in 2009 to about 1025, which is expected to remain constant for several years. The newspaper says the reduction is directly related to the decline in the number of aircraft and will be particularly felt in the fighter pilot ranks. "If the Air Force did not slow down pilot production, the service's fighter squadrons would be overwhelmed by first-assignment pilots who could not get adequate training because there wouldn't be enough jets or instructors," the newspaper reported.

The right mix of experienced (500-plus hours) and rookie fighter pilots is about 55 percent veterans and 45 percent newbies, the Times said. Transport and other types of military aircraft offer new pilots more training opportunities and the ability to ride along on a multitude of flights to gain familiarization. The Air Force has already reassigned almost 200 bomber and fighter pilots because there's nothing for them to fly. The Air Force Academy and ROTC program will continue accepting the same number of officer trainees but fewer of them will be offered pilot training.