By Debbie Gregory.
Despite the fact that President Trump invoked the National Emergencies Act to address the Air Force pilot shortage, Air Force officials have indicated they have no current plans to act on the authority granted to them by the president’s order to increase pilot numbers.
The Air Force needs roughly 20,000 pilots to accommodate its various needs and fly its wide array of aircraft. Roughly 10 percent of its positions remain unfilled.
While appreciative of the leeway granted by the act which allows the Air Force to voluntarily recall up to 1,000 retired aviators for active duty, the Air Force is responding to the pilot shortage with various incentive programs to keep officers in uniform longer.
Incentives such as promotion opportunities and pay bonuses worth up to $350,000 over a 10-year term may help ease the crisis.
But it doesn’t always come down to dollars and cents. Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, the Air Force’s Aircrew Crisis Task Force director said that incentives that focus on work-life balance and quality of life are paramount to retention.
“We’re looking to provide more time for the air crew member to have with their family and some work time at home,” said Koscheski.
But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John McCain, a veteran who was a U.S. Navy pilot during Vietnam, disagrees. A critic of how the Air Force has handled the pilot shortage, Sen. McCain feels the problem is actually linked to a desire to fly and the fact pilots feel they’re grounded far too often due to budget cuts.
“You are addressing this issue of pilot shortage from exactly the wrong direction,” said Sen. McCain. “I talk to too many [pilots] all the time. They say, ‘Senator McCain, all I want to do is fly. I want to be in combat.’ That’s what they’re all about…So this whole idea of trying to outbid the airlines on the keeping people in the Air Force is foolish.”