Air Force Pilot Shortage Grows

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The U.S. Air Force is now short 2,000 pilots, said Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, at the Pentagon’s annual State of the Air Force presentation Thursday. The Air Force had previously reported being short-staffed by 1,500 pilots, but said the number would grow due to an inability to train new pilots at the rate they are departing. Secretary Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein blame the shortage on sequestration coupled with the surge tempo of an indefinite war. “If we go through another sequester again, a 2,000-pilot [shortfall] will be a dream,” says Secretary Wilson. “We're burning out our people because we're too small for what the nation is asking.”

A factor in the exodus of aviators has been the ease with which former military pilots are finding jobs at U.S. airlines with better pay and less time away from home. And while Congress has given the Air Force additional money to pay pilot retention bonuses, Goldfein says money is not the key problem: “If we're going to retain these pilots, it's going to be about reconnecting to the value proposition.” In his public statements, Goldfein often refers to the value proposition of an Air Force career as being about working with highly skilled people on meaningful missions. Goldfein and Wilson warn that as the pilot shortage worsens the demands on those that remain grow worse with each passing month. Goldfein said, "If we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we're going to break this force."

Comments (4)

All thanks to the 1500 hour rule. We might be without an air force soon but at least our commercial flights are imperceptibly safer. That is until the pilot shortage means that airlines have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get pilots.

Posted by: Gareth Allen | November 10, 2017 9:50 PM    Report this comment

It's time for the USAF to reinstitute the Warrant Officer ranks and start tapping NCO's who have -- on their own -- trained themselves to be civilian recreational or higher pilots. They've already started a similar program to find, select and train NCO's to fly drones ... why not go to the next step? Any NCO who possesses a private pilot license or higher plus, say, an Associate Degree ought to be considered and filtered through additional aptitude testing and training. At that point, switching to Warrant Officer rank -- like the US Army helicopter pilots -- would make perfect sense. And, it would provide a higher and faster rank progression for those who apply themselves on their own time. I have always failed to see how a music major is more qualified to fly a jet than an NCO who is thusly qualified? NCO's are already the backbone of ALL services ... use them. A program could be instituted within the Air National Guard and AF Reserve and allow those who prove their mettle to go back onto USAF active duty as pilots.

I know a retired USAF MSgt who just ferried a Kodiak from New Zealand to Greece. Think of the talent that is going untapped ... right under the noses of those in Command. SecAF needs to wake up! Stop bringing me problems, madame ... bring me solutions or ... move on. Where is Curtis E Lemay when ya need him ?? Since the "fighter mafia" took over the USAF ... everything has gone down hill. The Command structure is myopic. Compensation and battle fatigue are certainly an issue but ... there's no shortage of people overall.

Of course making sense in the military is much like the oxymoron of "military intelligence."

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 11, 2017 5:18 AM    Report this comment

Larry, I agree. It may help the AF honchos to recognize the result of timid and impractical leadership.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 11, 2017 2:19 PM    Report this comment

What about a peaceable world without war machines?

Posted by: Don Lineback | November 13, 2017 5:18 PM    Report this comment

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