Air Force Taps Retirees To Soften Pilot Shortage

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Facing down a critical shortage of pilots, the Air Force is turning to its retirees to pick up the slack. Under the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty (VRRAD) program, the Air Force plans to put retirees back in uniform to serve in roles that require aviation experience, but don’t involve actual flying. The goal is to reduce staff demands on current aviators to keep them in the cockpit. “We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding. “They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments.” The Air Force has reported that the service is 1,500 pilots short of the number of pilots they need with numbers getting worse every year. The Air Force expects to need 1,600 new pilots per year and is currently able to train only 1,100.

Pilot candidates for the VRAAD program must have retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, be under 60 years old, able to pass a Class II flight medical and have either been qualified in an Air Force aircraft in the last five years or served in a rated staff position in the last ten years. Participation in the program will be limited, for now, to 25 retired pilots with an active-duty tour lengths of 12 months.

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