Air Force Offering Up To $600,000 To Keep Pilots


The Air Force’s most experienced active duty pilots are being offered up to $600,000 in bonuses if they sign up for a 12-year extension. FLYING Magazine reported last week that the Experienced Aviator Retention Incentive (EARI) and Rated Officer Retention Demonstration program will give the most valuable pilots up to $50,000 a year for 12 years if they re-up when their contracts are up in 2025 or 2026. They also get their pick of assignments and to turn down those they don’t want. The bonuses start at $15,000 a year and range upward to the $50,000 maximum depending on their experience and what they fly.

Like many other aviation employers, the Air Force is having a hard time hanging on to its best and brightest aviators, and it has a special need to do so according to Major General Adrian Spain, who heads up training for USAF. “Specifically, aviation-related skill sets, formed through the crucible of combat and daily execution of high-intensity operations, is the foundation necessary to continue to effectively deliver warfighting capability to the joint force and the American people,” he said in a statement. “Retaining these professional aviators’ experience and expertise within the total force is imperative in order to outpace future challenges that may emerge throughout the spectrum of conflict,” he added.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. My, has the pendulum swung the other way! I served from 81 to 89 in the AF. Starting in the mid 80s, a mass exodus began to the airlines. One of the “incentives” we were offered was an ill-fitting leather flight jacket (which you had to return to supply if you bailed).

    • SR,

      Thank you for your service! I just read your comment to my wife this morning and we were both cracking up!

      Thanks for the laugh,


  2. SR: I couldn’t agree more. In my fighter unit I never even got the cool leather jacket. They offered me to stay 3 more years in 89 in a non flying job with no hope of promotion so I bailed and never looked back.

  3. This is the same DOD/Air Force who discharged competent warrior pilots with millions of dollars of training and critical experience without benefits or retirement for not taking the Phizer shot. Idiocracy.

    • Great point Jim.
      I met a service man who had served for 15 years, had 2 overseas combat deployments, was a great guy and an incredible athlete and Biden’s jab was forcing him out. No retirement. Yes. He refused to get the jab.
      And since our military has turned into the global cops, instead of defending the US, a soldier or sailor could find themselves risking their lives in a war that disagree with and has nothing to do with the US.
      I served 17 years in the Navy but would not want to serve under this administration.
      I would not sell my soul for $50,000 a year.

      • Perhaps you can explain which war the US has engaged in that was “popular”? WW I or II? Korea? Viet Nam? The Gulf wars? Woodrow Wilson was criticized for entering WW I because it was “Europe’s problem”. Roosevelt was severely criticized for including Germany when he declared war on Japan. Same issue – Europe’s problem. Truman caught hell for our “police action” in Korea after we had lost over 360,000 men in WW II. I won’t even mention Viet Nam or the Gulf wars since they go without saying. The point is that American service people are routinely ordered to risk their lives overseas in conflicts they may or may not agree with. The current administration is no different in that regard, which last time I checked, did not have troops engaged in an actual war anywhere. Wars are never popularity contests.

        • John, Roosevelt had no choice in the Germany matter because Hitler declared war on the US after the Pearl Harbor event. Of course a vote was held, The vote was 88–0 in the Senate and 393–0 in the House. Wonder what would have occurred if the vote had been in the negative?

          • True, but he was still criticized in some quarters labeling the act “Roosevelt’s War”. The point remains that wars are seldom popularity contests and our service people do not get to pick and choose where they are sent to fight.

    • That was for failure to obey an order. Not for refusing to take a pill.

      If a guy will refuse an order to take a pill, will he refuse an order to fly a high risk mission?

      • Don’t waste your time. The shot was about military readiness, not politics. The military vaccination program is not a breakfast buffet, you don’t get to pick and choose which ones you want.

          • Give me a break. They were requiring the Fauci Ouchie before it was even approved, and anyone who bothered to look at the science at all instead of blindly following orders would immediately see that COVID did not pose a risk to healthy military members.

            Order was absolutely unlawful and unnecessary. What they accomplished was weeding out military members with the ability to think for themselves, and now only those who will blindly follow orders without question are left in service.

  4. The USAF would do well to have Warrant Officers. Pilots are one of several career fields that would fit well with this.


      Just the other day, I was in a local store and noticed a Navy guy in khaki’s. Since there are no military bases around here, I asked him what was up. He said that he was coming back from his promotion to Warrant Officer in Jacksonville. He was an E7 but made the promotion … good for him. The USAF has no such program, sadly … but they ought to. Up until the late 70’s, they did.

      Early in my 21 year enlisted USAF career, I began flight training using the Aero club system. I got all the ratings but by the time I finished all that and then my degree, I was too old to fly. Had the requirement for a degree not been there, I might have qualified. The absolute preoccupation with a degree is dumb. IF the USAF reinstituted the Warrant Officer rank, qualified enlisted might become pilots. And if they wanted a full officer rank, maybe THEN they could finish college as a requirement. Anyone already serving has proven their ‘mettle’ and ought to be considered. The people running the USAF better wake up … and FAST!

      Reinstitute the USAF Warrant Officer program as a path for qualified enlsted to go through pilot training.

      • OH … forgot … the USAF HAS enlisted pilots nowadays. They’re flying drones to free up the rated officers who formerly were doing that so they can return to a real cockpit. As I heard the story, I think there’s about 100 of ’em? OK … there’s your start. Turn enlisted into drone pilots, promising candidates get promoted to Warrant Officer and a real cockpit and if they get a degree … they move up to full officer. SIMPLE! But, of course, the meathead USAFA graduates running MY USAF wouldn’t want that …

        • Or, crazy thought, eliminate the degree requirement entirely for a commission. Degrees don’t mean much anymore anyway, and only serve as a paywall for “elite” status now.

          • I could go for that, too. Matthew … although I think using a reconstituted Warrant Officer Corp as a ‘filter’ before becoming a commissioned officer would be a better way to do it. Either way, changes need to be made. There are many enlisted folks who would make excellent pilots if only they were given the chance.

            During my time, I saw MANY officers with degrees in something totally irrelevant to the job they were doing in the USAF. I even saw pilots who had degrees in things like music. What the heck?

            I could see the requirement for a AA degree to become a Warrant Officer and a full degree to become a commissioned officer. The Army and Navy work a lot like that.

            In the USAF, they treat every officer as if they’re moving up the chain to become Chief of Staff. Many have no interest in that. Save those jobs for USAF Academy grads and let the rest of ’em do their jobs. Many people just want to fly and be left alone.

            Many folks don’t know that Chuck Yeager — yeah … THAT Chuck Yeager — didn’t have a degree and was a flying Sergeant before he became an officer.

            Of course, “we” don’t know what we’re talking about according to Gboras, below.

      • Tell us all how the Army Warrant Officer program is a “disaster” and what your military background is, please. Funny, the new Navy Warrant I spoke with was elated to have a path to get a higher rank (and pay) than he ever would as an enlisted and I would agree.

  5. $50k a year is an insult.

    There are only 2 kinds of days flying in the military. So cool, if you told me, I would not accept pay or so bad that you cannot pay me enough.

    Those negotiating these bribes are ignorant- out of the pulse seniors and elected politicians.

    The enlisted fliers are not piloting or aviating- they are hovering over a few buttons. These recurring cycles include the warrant or enlisted “fix” always from those that shockingly, “didn’t”.

    Oh, yes, if you do, you are a guinea pig for society, too.

    Signed, a Did.