The Airlines Are Hiring

The Air Force is working a multi-pronged plan both to remedy its fighter pilot shortage and brace for an airline hiring surge already underway, top USAF planner Lt. Gen. James Holmes said. The shortage is “a real problem and it will take multiple solutions in multiple years to address it,” Holmes told reporters after an AFA-sponsored breakfast on April 7. The “root cause,” he said, is that USAF reduced its fighter squadrons — producing fewer new pilots — but the need for pilots in staff jobs such as in acquisition, planning, air operations centers, etc., didn’t diminish. The long-term solution, Holmes said, is “to produce more” and USAF will likely ask the Guard and Reserve to take on some Active Duty pilots for seasoning. The reserve component would need extra money for flying hours and maintenance, though. Increasing the number of flying training units is another potential solution, but that means heavy coordination with Congress, and USAF’s “nonbiased approach” to basing takes at least 18 months. To stave off an exodus, “we’ll have to look at the balance of compensation … versus what the airlines offer,” Holmes said. The airline hiring boom is likely to increase “because of the aging airline pilot force, because of the FAA’s increased requirements for hours for entry-level pilots and because of the low fuel prices,” he said. USAF will look at retaining pilots past their commitment contracts and “we’re looking at what are the right times to do that,” he said. The Air Force will try to vector those that do leave Active Duty into the reserve component to retain their expertise. (See also: Attacking the Pilot Shortage, The Pilot Inventory Problem)