Air Force Eyes Higher Bonus Pay To Fill Pilot Shortage


The Air Force’s pilot shortage continues to grow as its aviators move to airline flying jobs, military officials said this week. The USAF estimates it will be short 700 fighter pilots by year’s end, up from the 500-plus gap officials told Congress about earlier this year. The shortage could increase to 1,000 in the coming years unless the branch beefs up recruiting and retaining efforts – not only for fighter-jet pilots, but drone pilots as the military’s use of unmanned aircraft expands, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told Washington reporters this week. “The airlines are forecasted to be hiring a lot more. They already are,” she said.

Among the top proposals are to increase pilots’ retention pay above the current $25,000 per year, and James specified increasing drone pilots’ retention bonuses to $35,000 per year, The Associated Press reported. “We’ve got to make sure that we remain competitive,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the CNN report. He added that the Air Force also wants to expand its F-16 training programs and keep pilots flying between missions. “The reality is, pilots who don’t fly, maintainers who don’t maintain, controllers who don’t control are not going to stay with the company because we’re not allowing them to be the very best they can be,” he said. The Air Force later this year will start training enlisted airmento be drone pilots for the first time in efforts to fill jobs for itsRQ-4 Global Hawk drone program.