Why Can’t the Air Force Keep Its Pilots?

The Air Force is losing hundred of pilots each year, a problem the current Air Force chief of staff calls a “quiet crisis.”

By Alain StephensSeptember 28, 2016 12:37 pm,

The F-16, the A-10 Thunderbolt, the F-22 Raptor – those are just a few of the U.S. Air Force’s combat jets.

But who’s going to fly them? The Air Force is losing hundreds and hundreds of pilots each year. Some complain about the paperwork, others find more lucrative jobs in the private airline industry. What does it mean that the best Air Force flyers are hitting the eject button?

Sig Christenson, reporter from the San Antonio Express, says pilot numbers are dropping and one reason for the shortage is incentive for pilots to work for airlines.

He spoke with Mark Welsh, former Air Force chief of staff, who says private companies are hiring Air Force pilots at rapid rates. CEOs from two airlines told Welsh that they’re looking for 4,000 to 4,500 pilots this year.

While airlines are creating more positions, the Air Force is getting rid of them. Welsh says the Air Force cut the number of civilian positions, which mean more duties for pilots like scheduling the syllabus with each day’s flying and lessons.

“We talked to one pilot over there who said he was doing 12 hours a day pretty much every day of the week,” Christenson says. “It didn’t bother him too much because he is single.”

But for pilots with kids, working more hours doesn’t sit well with their families. The Air Force has a shortage of 723 pilots this year, a number that could top a thousand next year. Christenson says that current chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein is “aware” of the issue but knows that squadron numbers, and the increasing non-flying duties pilots have to perform, are a challenge in retaining pilots.

“[Goldfein] called it a ‘quiet crisis,’” Christenson says. “It’s a crisis that you don’t even know it’s happening… They’re walking out the door.”

Post by Betsy Joles.