Over the next 20 years, the aviation industry will face a massive gap in staffing—617,000 pilots and 679,000 maintenance technicians—putting even more pressure on the Air Force, which is already struggling to keep its own pilots, according to a new Boeing report. Boeing on Friday released the 2016 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook, forecasting hundreds of thousands of empty cockpits if the aviation industry cannot find ways to build its recruitment and retention of pilots. The biggest growth area will be in the Asia Pacific, with a requirement for 248,000 new pilots between now and 2035, the report states. North America alone will have a need for 112,000 pilots. The report comes as the Air Force faces a current deficit of 700 fighter pilots, with bigger deficits projected in the future in combat and mobility. The service is increasing pilot retention bonuses and looking to increase the Guard and Reserve to keep pilots flying militarily while still being able to go private. (See also: Pilot Shortage Back With a Vengeance from the August issue of Air Force Magazine.)
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.