Trump Authorizes Recall Of Retired USAF Pilots

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Invoking emergency powers, President Trump waived a law Friday that had limited the ability of the Air Force to pull pilots out of retirement. Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross says he expects the Secretary of Defense will use the power to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for three years each. Under normal circumstances, the Secretary of Defense is authorized by federal law to cause up to 25 officers from each branch of the armed forces to be recalled to active duty, but the president is empowered to waive the 25-officer limit in time of “national emergency.” The cited cause of the national emergency was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The president’s executive order suggests the ability of the Air Force to operate as a volunteer fighting force may have reached its limit. Senator John McCain has said of the Air Force’s pilot shortage, “This is a full-blown crisis, and if left unresolved, it will call into question the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission.” Facing a wave of retirements by pilots trained during the Vietnam War, major airlines are recruiting aggressively from their regional partners and offering combat aviators the prospect of salaries many times that offered by the military—with significantly less time away from home. Although it won’t help the pilot shortage facing U.S. regional carriers, the recall of military pilots is likely too small be felt directly. Southwest, United, American and Delta together employ over 50,000 pilots.

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