Air Force To Try Enlisted Pilots
After looking to the airlines, the recently retired and just about anywhere else it could to fill a growing shortage of pilots, the Air Force is now looking at its own ranks, its enlisted ranks, to fill the void. The Air Force Times reports the Air Force is testing the concept by including five enlisted airmen along with 15 officers in a special six-month trial training course that could lead to the routine inclusion of enlisted ranks to train as combat-ready pilots. As with most air forces, the USAF now requires that all of its pilots be college graduates and the test is specifically designed to test the validity of that requirement in turning out qualified pilots.
“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, commander of the Second Air Force, wrote in an email to his commanders that was obtained by the Air Force Times. “This program will provide data to [Air Education and Training Command Commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast] on the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft.” An Air Force spokeswoman told the publication the test is part of a broader study into the ability to train enlisted personnel in a variety of occupations that are now reserved for officers. “AETC chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise,” said Marilyn Holliday, spokeswoman for the Air Education and Training Command. “However, our focus is on how airmen learn, not necessarily what they learn, exploring technology and how that technology can produce better and faster learning.” A standalone training facility will be set up in Austin, Texas, and the students will fly T-6 trainers, the same aircraft used at the main training facilities.