The U.S. Air Force confirmed last week it will not meet its goal of adding 1,500 new pilots this year. The Air Force Times reports the service will come up about 120 pilots short of its annual target. Maintenance issues, staffing shortages and “other unexpected setbacks” are blamed for the shortfall.
USAF spokesman Benjamin Faske said, “The Air Force set a new target of around 1,500 new aviators a year in fiscal 2020 but has so far failed to meet its own bar. It will aim for that same goal in fiscal 2024.” Major General Clark Quinn, the two-star general in charge of pilot training, told reporters, “We’re going to try to make sure we are still flying because that’s what we do as an Air Force.”
Specific maintenance issues include slower-than-expected repairs on the engines powering T-38 trainer jets, limiting their dispatch reliability for more than a year, according to the Air Force Times. The T-38 serves as the Air Force’s only intermediate training aircraft for future fighter and bomber pilots.
Quinn said of the T-38 engine issues, “It has not gotten worse, but it has also not gotten better. The government is looking at perhaps doing some in-house parts production to try and help facilitate getting them back healthy.”