No Quick Fix

The Air Force’s fighter pilot deficit could jump from 511 to more than 700 by the end of the fiscal year, Air Force planners told Air Force Magazine on Friday. Such a shortage would amount to 20 percent of the 3,500 fighter pilot positions currently authorized. Col. Farley Abdeen, chief of the Total Force Aircrew Management Integration Division, called the situation a “crisis” during the interview. Farley said service planners are working to increase production, reduce the demand for pilots in non-flying jobs, and retain the experienced pilots to reverse the growing shortage. But there’s no quick fix, and fighter pilots aren’t the only concern. In 2015, the major airlines hired about 3,500 pilots and plan to continue hiring at the same rate for the next nine to 10 years, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers in March. For years, about 65 percent of the service’s pilots consistently signed up for service beyond their initial 10-year commitment in exchange for a bonus. But in Fiscal 2015, only 55 percent of all pilots and 47 percent of fighter pilots took the bonus. Lt. Col. Robert Butkovich, chief of rated force policy, said the total take rate is expected to drop to about 49 percent by the end of the year.