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Hefty Bonuses Await Experienced Drone Pilots Who Re-up

drone pilots

By Debbie Gregory.

As the Air Force tries to retain drone pilots, the service branch is offering critical skills retention bonuses of $125,000 if the pilots agree to serve five more years.

The Air Force said that 18X RPA pilots who have accumulated six years of aviation service, following their undergraduate RPA pilot training, are eligible for the bonuses.

The bonuses will be paid out in five annual installments of $25,000. Pilots also have the option of receiving 50 percent of the bonus up front.

To be eligible, officers also must be active duty lieutenant colonels or below, and must be receiving RPA aviation incentive pay, and they cannot complete 25 years of active duty service before the five-year bonus period ends.

“It is important to ensure RPA pilots receive a bonus that is equitable to other pilots,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. “Therefore, we worked closely with OSD to implement the CSRB for them and with a commensurate amount this year. These airmen are making extremely important contributions to the fight; we need these professionals to stay with us and we’re committed to retaining them in our force.”

In July, we reported that the Air Force had floated a plan to offer $15,000 retention bonuses for commitments of either five years — for a total of $75,000 — or nine years, for a total of $135,000. At that time, due to the shortage, drone pilots were flying up to 900 hours a year, compared with fighter pilots, who were in the cockpit an average of 250 hours a year, according to Air Force officials.

The Air Force also said it will allow pilots, whose undergraduate flying training active-duty service commitments are due to expire in fiscal 2017, to sign up for an aviator retention pay bonus this year. In the release, Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, director of military force management policy, said that those pilots would receive their first payment as soon as their contracts are ratified. The remaining payments would be spread out equally through the rest of the contract term.

Airmen applying for the bonuses will likely get their first payments within three weeks of their application’s final approval, and processing by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

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Hefty Bonuses Await Experienced Drone Pilots Who Re-up: Military Connection

Military Connection: drone pilots

By Debbie Gregory.

Currently, the US Air Force has about 1,066 pilots who fly armed drones from Creech Air Force Base, NV and other bases. The Air Force says it needs about 1,281 pilots to fulfill the 65 daily missions mandated by the Pentagon. In an attempt to close that pilot shortage, the Air Force is offering retention bonuses to drone pilots with at least six years of experience.

The re-up bonus will amount to approximately $15,000 yearly for an additional five or nine year commitment. Half of this total bonus amount, $75,000 to $135,000, would be awarded at the onset of the extended contract.

The Air Force is also placing new pilots into the Remotely-Piloted Aircraft squadrons to help alleviate the growing pressure of current RPA overworked crews.

“The most critical challenge we face in this mission area is a shortage of RPA pilots,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said recently. Using graduates fresh out of pilot training was “the fastest way to address that shortfall without sacrificing mission capability in other platforms.”

Plans to assign 80 recently graduated pilots from traditional pilot school to the RPA duty will hopefully increase drone pilot graduates from about 190 to 300 annually. After serving one tour, pilots would then have the option to fly manned aircraft.

With the shortage, drone pilots fly up to 900 hours a year, compared with fighter pilots, who are in the cockpit an average of 250 hours a year, according to Air Force officials.

The Air Force said in a news release that the bonus is similar in value and commitment to what has been offered to aviators in the past who have similar training and experience.

“In a complex global environment, [remotely-piloted aircraft] pilots will always be in demand,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “We now face a situation where if we don’t direct additional resources appropriately, it creates unacceptable risk.”

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Hefty Bonuses Await Experienced Drone Pilots Who Re-up: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory