Pilot Shortage Isn’t Only an Airline Problem

Air Force cites numerous reasons for shortfall.

US Air Force Pilot Shortage
Strike Eagles soar to RIAT 16
The U.S. Air Force is facing its own pilot shortage.U.S. Air Force

Mention pilot shortage these days and most people assume some segment of the airline industry is facing dwindling numbers. But the U.S. Air Force said recently it too is having trouble finding enough good people to fly its aircraft. Unlike the regional airline segment, however, the USAF already knows they’re going to be about 700 pilots short, mainly for fighter aircraft, by the end of this year. The Air Force sees that shortage growing to more than 1,000 aviators if the retention environment remains stagnant.

The Air Force cites an aggressive uptick in airline hiring as just one of the reasons men and women are leaving the service. Too many lengthy deployments resulting in too much time away from home and family for already fatigued pilots are also fueling the drop-out rate. Better compensation at the airlines and no demand to fly in hostile areas, as well as budget cuts that severely restrict the amount of flight time USAF pilots can log when they are back in the states have also taken a toll.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James highlighted another when she pointed the finger at Congress for failing to increase the service’s retention bonus from $25,000, where it’s been stuck for 17 years. James wants to see that bonus increased to $35,000.