More Flying Needed to Increase Pilot Retention

The Air Force needs to do more to address its shortage of fighter pilots, such as increasing flight time at home, in addition to giving pilots more money to stick around. The service is looking to increase the bonus for pilots who elect to stick around following their active duty commitment to address a “crisis” in its pilot levels – a shortage of about 700 right now, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said during a State of the Air Force briefing on Wednesday. The Air Force is also standing up new F-16 training units, with candidate locations expected to be announced by the end of the year, and augmenting up to two existing training locations to increase pilot production by Oct. 2017. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, himself a former fighter pilot, said the dramatic change in flying from his time in the cockpit is impacting pilot morale negatively. When he was a captain, Goldfein said he would fly in three flag exercises per year, along with a rotation to the National Training Center – all skills that came to use in Desert Storm. But now, pilots are getting about half that training due to the decrease in the fighter fleet and an increased operations tempo. “I’m a believer that morale and readiness are absolutely linked,” Goldfein said. “And where we have high readiness, we have reasonably high morale. The quality of service is high. And where we have low readiness, we have our largest morale issues.” (See also: Pilot Shortage Back With a Vengeance from the August 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.)