The Air Force is faced with a long-standing conundrum ? not enough pilots, particularly fighter pilots. The causes of the shortage are longstanding, and have defied easy or quick solutions. The introduction of light attack aircraft (if that ever happens), offers potential to solve part of the problem by increasing the number of available cockpits. Oddly enough, the pilot shortage is exacerbated by too few so-called ?absorbable cockpits? because they can absorb new students and turn them into experienced aviators. But even increasing the supply of aircraft is not enough. The Air Force also needs a wider training pipeline to provide students in the first place, and an accessions policy that ensures it can get people who will become aviators into the service in the first place. That is proving particularly challenging using traditional methods.


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.

AF aviators could someday come from enlisted ranks, revival of warrant officers

The Air Force is exploring alternative ways to add pilots to its ranks ? different from more traditional routes such as the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base.

A worrisome pilot shortage might give enlisted members new opportunities and could lead to the revival of a different kind of officer, one who doesn?t need a four-year college degree.