USAF Addressing Pilot Shortage by Improving Leadership

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron taxis to execute a training sortie in support of exercise Typhoon Warrior at RAF Lakenheath, UK, on Aug. 15, 2019. Air Force photo by A1C Rhonda Smith.

The Air Force is “holding on” as it addresses its pilot shortage, and while the loss has slowed, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he isn’t ready to say it is over.

The service has 67 different initiatives aimed at reversing a pilot shortage that at its peak put the Air Force about 2,000 pilots below its requirement. These initiatives are “designed toward ensuring a flying career in the United States Air Force as rich an experience as we can possibly make it,” Goldfein said.

Major steps include bonuses, removing additional duties, and efforts to increase flying time. For example, pilots are now flying about 20 hours per month, approach 21. When the service started looking to address the shortage, pilots were flying about 16 hours per month.

“Pilots, like everybody else, want to be the very best they can be,” Goldfein said.

The key to retaining pilots, Goldfein said, isn’t how often they fly or how much they are paid, however. It is the leadership they have. To keep them in, squadrons need to be “courageously led,” he said.

The service is investing in developing stronger leaders, and when that investment pays off Goldfein said he can say the shortage is addressed.