GAO: RPA Operations Undermanned, Overstressed

The Air Force does not have enough remotely piloted aircraft operators to safely and effectively bear the workload of current operations and the service may find it difficult to retain them, according to the Government Accountability Office. When the Air Force set manning levels for RPA units it “did not account for all tasks these units complete,” states the executive summary of a new report on the RPA career field management, which was published April 10. The service’s own guidance notes that “low crew ratios diminish combat capability and cause flight safety to suffer,” but USAF has done nothing yet to fix persistent undermining, states the report. “Further, high work demands on RPA pilots limit the time they have available for training and development and negatively affects their work-life balance,” it added. GAO issued a series of recommendations, including updating “optimum crew ratios; establishing a minimum crew ratio; developing a recruiting and retention strategy; evaluating alternative personnel populations to be pilots,” among others. The Air Force concurred with several of its recommendation, and “partially concurred” with the remainder, states the report. (See also Are RPA Pilots the New Normal from the April 2014 edition of Air Force Magazine.)