Prioritizing Flying Hours

Last week, eight Air Force fighter and bomber units ceased flying and entered a dormant status. Four additional units are expected to stand down when they return from deployment in the next few weeks. And another bomber unit that is slated to come home this summer will stand down once it returns, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. In light of such drastic changes, funding flight hours must be a priority in Fiscal 2014, he told members of the House Armed Services Committee during an April 12 hearing to discuss the Air Force’s Fiscal 2014 budget request. The Air Force seeks 1.2 million flying hours next fiscal year—an increase of 40,000 hours from Fiscal 2013. “Flying hours are allocated to maintain, and in some cases, incrementally improve readiness levels across the Total Force in this budget,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh at the same hearing. In the past, the Air Force relied heavily on overseas contingency funds to fund its flying hours, but as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to a close, the service is moving those funds back into its base budget. In fact, by 2015 as much as 90 percent of peacetime flying hours will be back in the baseline budget, said Welsh. That’s “a level we haven’t reached in quite some time,” he said.