Air Force Seeks New Ideas to Train, Retain Pilots

A new Air Force initiative is calling on its personnel, industry and all aviation enthusiasts to create next-generation technology to train pilots.

The effort comes as the Air Force ? and the aviation industry at large ? faces a major pilot shortage that could threaten future readiness. The Pilot Training Next v2.0 Challenge is administered by AFWERX, an Air Force innovation hub with offices in Las Vegas, Austin, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia.

The goal of the challenge, which was open for submissions through early October, is to develop emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, biometrics, simulator development, virtual reality and adult education, according to AFWERX.

The Air Force is revolutionizing the way airmen learn to be aviators

AUSTIN, Texas ? In a classroom at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, a visitor climbed into one of 20 stations lining the walls and strapped on a virtual reality headset.

Instantly, he was transported into the cockpit of a Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. Over his right shoulder he saw the wing loaded with missiles. The whine of the Hornet?s engines and chatter from instructors piped directly into his ears.

Throttle, stick, heads-up display, instruments, the battlespace ? it was all there, in a 360-degree display, everything down to the handle for the ejector seat between where his legs would be.

Air Force hopes to train 1,500 new pilots each year by 2022 to help solve shortage

The Air Force hopes to be able to train 1,500 new pilots each year by fiscal 2022 as part of its effort to solve its troubling shortage of aviators.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Wednesday that the Air Force trained 1,160 new pilots in fiscal 2017, and expects to train 1,311 in fiscal 2019, before expanding further.

The Air Force has taken several steps to try to improve air crew?s quality of life and quality of service, and solve problems that might be leading some to choose to leave the Air Force. Wilson highlighted efforts to reduce operating tempos, revitalize squadrons and restore support staffs so air crew can concentrate on flying, as well as generous incentive pay and bonuses.

Ending the pilot exodus: Air Force rolls out new bonuses, incentives ? will it work this time?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. ? Nearly two years after top Air Force leaders began sounding the alarm on a worrying shortfall of pilots, the key elements of a solution are finally falling into place.


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, in exclusive interviews with Air Force Times, emphasized that many factors have led to the roughly 2,000-pilot shortfall that the brass warns could ?break the force? ? especially as commercial airlines are in the midst of one of their heaviest and longest hiring waves in decades.


Because of that, he said, there will never be a single ?silver bullet? that solves it once and for all.