According to the Air Force, the military organization has a few job openings ? over 2,000 ? in the pilot department, especially if you have experience. In his three-part series, Mike Benitez does a wonderful job illustrating how the service got to this position and how the lack of experienced pilots degrades its lethality and disrupts its ability to replenish the force through basic pipeline training. A year after War on the Rocks published Benitez?s articles, I hope to offer a ?front line? perspective as one of the pilots the Air Force is attempting to retain.


Navy?s pilot shortage may be shored up by 2023, but then the real challenge begins

It will take the Navy at least four or five years until it can recapitalize its inventory of pilots, but by then the talent pool may be unpredictable. A recent report, which provides one of the most comprehensive pictures of the military-wide pilot shortage, shows the root of the Navy?s pilot problem is similar to the one the Air Force is facing. Both services are losing the retention battle with experienced pilots. A Defense Department report sent to Congress outlines a short fall of 1,242 aviator billets in the Navy ? that includes pilots and navigators ? in 2018. The service is experiencing higher than average pilot loss rates, especially in the mid and senior officer levels.


Navy: New aviator incentives starting to have an impact

NORFOLK, Va. – The Navy says incentives meant to help retain aviators are starting to have an impact. Retention for pilots can pose a problem for the Navy and other military branches, especially when the economy is doing well.

“The Navy invests a lot of time and a lot of money in training pilots. When the economy is good, we see a lot of aviators taking advantage of the opportunity to get out. For example, go to the civilian airlines. We want to retain those people because we?ve got a lot invested in them so the Navy has come along with a number of different bonuses,” CDR Dave Hecht with Naval Air Force Atlantic told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.


Rebuilding the Forge: Reshaping How the Air Force Trains Fighter Aviators

The U.S. Air Force?s pilot training system has long been the envy of air forces around the world, but for the past several years it has failed to keep pace with increasing production requirements. Furthermore, the current training model is facing a widening gap between the capabilities of our primary training aircraft and the advanced fighter aircraft our pilots now employ.


Difficult Decisions: Practical Policy for the Air Force?s Pilot Retention Crisis

The popular blog John Q. Public caricatures every development in the Air Force as causing impending doom for the service?s pilot retention crisis: One article describes ?the worst decision in [the Air Force?s] institutional history,? while another narrates ?the exact day the tailspin started?, leaving readers unsure whether it?s tongue-in-cheek or histrionic.

The pilot retention crisis has also been the subject of insightful commentary and in-depth studies, citing root causes ranging from competition with civilian airlines to cultural shifts. While all of these explanations are valid, some are probably more pertinent than others. If everything is a huge problem, it?s hard to triage ? to separate what?s merely annoying from what?s truly defeating the morale of the aircrew. Now the Air Force needs to determine where to operate to save the patient.

Warrant officer study misses the mark

The Rand Corp. recently made public its study of a possible warrant officer corps [?Rand study: Warrant officer pilots would hurt retention in the Air Force ? but a flying-only track might help,? Air Force Times, Sept. 3].

Rand Corp. concluded that to improve retention, a special flying track for commissioned officers is preferable to re-establishing a warrant officer cadre.

According to Rand, creating a higher paid technical track for commissioned officers would help to keep pilots from jumping to lucrative airline jobs. The study concludes the resulting higher retention rates and lower training costs ?would outweigh the increased personnel costs [of reinstating warrant officers], resulting in net savings for the Air Force.? With respect, the Rand study ignores the hard facts. It overlooks recent pilot interviews indicating that money is not the primary factor for pilots leaving the Air Force.

Rand study: Warrant officer pilots would hurt retention in the Air Force ? but a flying-only track might help

Bringing back a cadre of warrant officers to the Air Force and making them pilots might not be the solution to the aviator shortfall plaguing the service, and would actually hurt retention, a recent report from the Rand Corporation concluded.


But creating an ?aviation technical track? for commissioned officers, in which they would focus only on flying and not on career development opportunities to prepare them for leadership, might help.


In the report, ?Supplemental Career Paths for Air Force Pilots,? released Aug. 16, Rand researchers said that carving out about 1,000 warrant officer pilots, out of the nearly 13,000 total pilot population, would initially save money due to lower personnel costs. Warrant officer pay maxes out at about what captains make, so the Air Force would have to pay those pilots lower basic pay, allowances, pilot incentive pay and lower retirement costs in the future.