Air Force, Airlines Move On Pilot Sharing

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The Air Force is moving ahead with plans to allow its pilots to interrupt military service to fly with airlines. It’s one of the measures being considered to stem the exodus of experienced military aviators to commercial aviation. “Our senior leaders are going to start collaborating with the airlines in May to see if we can get a public-private partnership and what that might look like, so I think that’s where you’ll see we are going,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, told Federal News Radio. She said the goal is to keep the ranks of military pilots strong while at the same time ensuring a steady supply of military-trained aviators for the airlines. The Air Force is currently short about 1500 pilots because airlines are on a hiring spree and military pilots are the most sought-after candidates.

The Air Force is also considering increasing retention bonuses to keep military pilots in longer. It’s looking at increasing the $25,000 cap on annual bonuses to a maximum of $35,000 for those who agree to stay 13 years. That totals $455,000 in bonus pay over the 13 years. It’s also looking at allowing one- or two-year extensions in addition to the five- and nine-year engagements it currently offers. More lucrative plans will be available for the pilots in most demand, currently fighter pilots. Of the 1,555 vacancies at the end of 2016, 1,211 were fighter jobs.

Comments (7)

"More lucrative plans will be available for the pilots in most demand, currently fighter pilots." What? I believe you have that backwards. Pretty much everyone in Air Force UPT wants a fighter, but very few get one because the majority of the demand is transport and tanker.

Posted by: Ken Keen | April 2, 2017 8:49 PM    Report this comment

Ken, the article has it correct. The Air Force has no difficulty recruiting pilots for any of it airframes, but they are experiencing the most acute retention problems in the fighter community. Fighter pilots are most affected by cutbacks in money for training hours. Pilots in tanker and transport airframes tend to have a lower ratio of training to operational flying and are less impacted by training hour cutbacks. Fighter pilots are also more expensive for the Air Force to train before they become operationally useful.

Posted by: Geoff Rapoport | April 3, 2017 7:12 AM    Report this comment

"Of the 1,555 vacancies at the end of 2016, 1,211 were fighter jobs." If this is the case, why are the majority of UPT grads assigned to tanker/transport?

Posted by: Ken Keen | April 3, 2017 7:28 AM    Report this comment

As a pilot both in and out of the military, I find it puzzling as to why the military does not accept Enlisted pilots. They proved successful in WW2 so why not now. As a college graduate, I do not recognize or understand the inane focus on having a college degree in order to be a pilot or non-pilot crew member (NFO, WSO, ETC.). In the Navy they have Limited Duty Officers (LDO) and the Army has Warrant Officers (WO) that fly and they do not require college degrees to be LDOs or WOs.

I believe the military could make great headway in curing their Aviator retention issues by actively recruiting qualified (not including the college diploma rqmt) Enlisted personnel.

Posted by: Dave Spurlock | April 3, 2017 11:17 AM    Report this comment

My son graduated from AF UPT last fall (near the top of his class) and had to fight hard to get a tanker/transport. Not that many of his contemporaries wanted to join the fighter community. Current generation graduates seem to be looking well past any AF commitments, career or otherwise, than previous generations did and focusing on life after the military and the incredible opportunities available to them.

Posted by: Dave Maude | April 4, 2017 9:41 AM    Report this comment

As a former fighter pilot I can say that outside cockpit assignments, non-flying, doesn't help retention. Most are there to fly, and most don't want to be generals. Let those that want to be career folks take those assignments to pad their resumes and keep those that want to fly in the cockpit.

Posted by: Tim Boettcher | May 4, 2017 9:34 AM    Report this comment

As a former fighter pilot I can say that outside cockpit assignments, non-flying, doesn't help retention. Most are there to fly, and most don't want to be generals. Let those that want to be career folks take those assignments to pad their resumes and keep those that want to fly in the cockpit.

Posted by: Tim Boettcher | May 4, 2017 9:46 AM    Report this comment

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