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US Air Force Reporting Pilot Shortage 270

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-your-six dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Times sure have changed: it is no longer cool to be a fighter pilot. The Pentagon expects to be short some 200 fighter pilots this year, and is projecting that shortfall will increase to 700 pilots by 2021. Various factors seem to be involved: better paying jobs in the commercial sector with more stability, the stress of repeated overseas deployments, and the threat that ultimately the job they trained to do — fly planes — is being superseded by remotely-controlled drones. With demand for commercial aviators heating up as thousands of pilots are expected to reach mandatory retirement age (65) in the next five years, the Air Force is caught in a quandary. Where are they going to get the pilots to fly their shiny new F-35s?"
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US Air Force Reporting Pilot Shortage

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  • by some old guy (674482) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:28PM (#44353991)

    Outsource routine missions to the Indian Air Force and grant thousands of H1B visas to fill the rest of the vacancies.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday July 22, 2013 @06:23PM (#44355715) Journal

      The Indian Air Force embarrassed the USAF in Cope India 2004 and again at Red Flag in 2008.
      The first time was against USAF F-15Cs and the second time, against the F-22.

      The real problem for the USAF is that the F-22 and F-35 will always run out of missiles before they run out of targets.
      And when that happens, their close combat abilities cannot out-class previous generation fighters.

      • When will people understand that the U.S. military loses these mock battle so they can demand more funding? American aircraft were outnumbered 3:1 at Cope Indian. But that allows us to say, "Oh, noes, we lost to Indians. We need $100 billion in new planes." From an article [freerepublic.com]: "The Cope India exercise also seemingly shocked some in Congress and the Pentagon who used the event to renew the call for modernizing the U.S. fighter force with stealthy F/A-22s and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters."

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aoMONETl.com minus painter> on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:30PM (#44354013) Journal

    People don't want to sign up for the armed services knowing that they're just going to be shipped off immediately to one of these middle-eastern hell holes to fight some undeclared war over some bullshit "terror" campaign to "keep us safe" from that big, evil Constitution that is making government's job so difficult.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:06PM (#44354415)

      That's been going on a very long time and hasn't stopped potential aircrew. The perception they won't get a slot for their effort IS a deterrent.

      What does piss off pilots and ruin RETENTION (which creates shortages) is their "extra duties" and square-filling they are tasked with when not flying. If the Air Force wanted to retain pilots it would reduce the bullshit they have to put up with. It's not as if pilots aren't vocal about it. Many would be delighted with a full career "flying track" even if they weren't promoted as quickly. With command comes a desk, and that desk never empties.

      Pilots do not live in "hellhole" conditions, and neither to most Airmen when deployed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There is the fact that civilian pay for airline pilots is so low. In fact, officer pay (all pilots are O rank) is usually higher than what one can find in the civilian industry.

        A lot of people don't want to be pilots just because there is no future in that field unless one wants to buy their own plane and run their own charter service (good luck.)

        Almost any other profession, the amount of hours one has to log would get them a journeyman or master rank. A commercial airline captain? $40k/year. To boot, t

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nidi62 (1525137)

          There is the fact that civilian pay for airline pilots is so low. In fact, officer pay (all pilots are O rank) is usually higher than what one can find in the civilian industry.

          A lot of people don't want to be pilots just because there is no future in that field unless one wants to buy their own plane and run their own charter service (good luck.)

          Almost any other profession, the amount of hours one has to log would get them a journeyman or master rank. A commercial airline captain? $40k/year. To boot, the allowances for hotels and such have been pared to the bone... airline crews end up sleeping in bunks/dorms.

          Make the pay worth it, then people will consider that route.

          Get your facts straight. A captain in a major airline makes much closer to 6 figures a year than 40k. And most are former military meaning they draw military benefits as well. 40k a year is what a pilot might make if they go through civilian flight school and have just gotten hired on as a mainline pilot (and they would not be a Captain, they would be an FO) after a few years as a pilot with a subsidiary carrier such as Expressjet or SkyWest. While working for one of those smaller carriers, yes, they wi

      • I would think one of the biggest factors is the increased reliance on unmanned aircraft. If you become a pilot today, say in your early 20s, there is no way you are going to hold on to that career until retirement, be it commercial or military. Right now, sure, we still need pilots. In 10 years you will be a dinosaur. In 20 you will be completely obsolete.

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        A handful of years ago, my younger brother was considering enlisting to become a pilot. He's always had a knack for driving machines (tractors, large trucks, planes, etc) so I knew he would be successful.

        One day he talked to a retired pilot and it was suggested that instead of enlisting he should get his private license and do whatever he can to log the hours he would need. Once he was ready he could enlist and be that far ahead of the game.

        I suppose this path is somewhat common with young aspiring pilots

        • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday July 22, 2013 @06:03PM (#44355475)
          I worked with a couple people that were hoping to become pilots with the Air Force. Instead of enlisting into the Air Force proper, however, they went into the Air National Guard. The main reason was that, in the Air Force, once you go through flight school you essentially get assigned an aircraft type (based on ranking and possibly a little on personal preference). With ANG, you go into it as a pilot already knowing what aircraft you are going to fly: you go around to different squadrons and they have to sponsor you, almost like rushing a fraternity. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.
      • What does piss off pilots and ruin RETENTION (which creates shortages) is their "extra duties" and square-filling they are tasked with when not flying. If the Air Force wanted to retain pilots it would reduce the bullshit they have to put up with.

        This, plus the 'up or out' system. They've both been known problems for decades.

        But any solution to these leads to it's own potential problem - pilots do not like being commanded by non-pilots. (And arguably should not be.) And you do need experienced pi

        • by couchslug (175151)

          "maintenance support,"

          HAHAHAHA! My sides!

          I was a maintainer (avionics, engines, later crew chief) for 26 years (1981-2007 on Broncos, Phantoms, F-16 A/B/C/D/CJ) and experienced highly effective non-flying DCMs (Deputy Commanders for Maintenance), the attempts to do away with them, and the return of powerful Maintenance Squadron commanders.

          Running Maintenance in no way requires being a pilot and in many ways is better done by one not of a "pilot" psychology. It has everything to do with holding sufficient r

    • "People don't want to sign up for the armed services knowing that they're just going to be shipped off immediately to one of these middle-eastern hell holes to fight some undeclared war over some bullshit "terror" campaign to "keep us safe" from that big, evil Constitution that is making government's job so difficult."

      Corollary: maybe we should make Wall Street and Washington bigwigs be the pilots, since they are the ones who have benefited from all this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Believe me, that may be a problem with the Army but never with the chAir Force.

      No, their problem is a ridiculous "up or out" policy in the officer corps where if you can't get promoted to a higher rank within a certain length of time, you get shitcanned. Since they only let officers fly planes, they now have a pilot shortage as too many of them are now either gone or at too high a rank to actually do the whole flying thing.

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:31PM (#44354015) Homepage

    Pilots have always left the air force for private jobs. I think the issue is likely that fewer are signing up to replace them, because the news is out that pilots don't make much money.

    If you pay commercial pilots more, then more pilots will join the air force for 5-10 years in order to become commercial pilots later.

    Sure, we're likely to see many pilots retire at 65 and all that, but with all the industry consolidation the fact is that new pilots can't make money. There are tons of people with experience flying airliners who can't get jobs flying airliners.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:48PM (#44354213)

      Pilots have always left the air force for private jobs. I think the issue is likely that fewer are signing up to replace them, because the news is out that pilots don't make much money.

      If you pay commercial pilots more, then more pilots will join the air force for 5-10 years in order to become commercial pilots later.

      Sure, we're likely to see many pilots retire at 65 and all that, but with all the industry consolidation the fact is that new pilots can't make money. There are tons of people with experience flying airliners who can't get jobs flying airliners.

      This is true. It doesn't take long to realize that decent pay only exists for pilots who work for a large carrier. I was surprised to learn that regional air carrier pilots could earn as little as $25K/year. I assume that pilots have to keep up certification and pay for certification to upgrade their skills (i.e., learn to fly larger planes). Heck 25K barely feeds you and your family.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        With that kind of civilian pay, you're better off staying in the Air Force.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by rossdee (243626)

        "This is true. It doesn't take long to realize that decent pay only exists for pilots who work for a large carrier"

        you must be thinking of the Navy and Marines - the airforce doesn't have any carriers .

  • Time for TOP GUN 2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:34PM (#44354059)

    TOP GUN made a lot of people sign up for the navy

    • by alen (225700)

      you can't enlist and be a pilot

      for a pilot you have to be an officer which means college first, more specifically the naval or air force academy which only take the top 5% or so. and you have to get a nomination from your congressperson. its like a 2 year process to apply in high school

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Top 5% of what?
        I highly doubt the top 5% of any group apply to such academies. I am not disparaging their applicants, merely observing that these are not high paying positions most people know about or seek out.

        Needing nomination from a congress person again makes me doubt this top 5% thing. It sounds more like a way to keep these high prestige jobs for their friends and family.

        • by alen (225700)

          nope, to get into west point or one of the other academies you have to be in the top 5% or so of your HS class. lots of these people are one of the top 2 people of the class. i've known west pointers in the army and they told me what it takes to get in. someone i work with, her son made it in but ended up going to NYU.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I just figured no one with another opportunity would bother. Even going into the military there are better paying fields to deal with. That made me assume most just would not bother.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          It certainly was the smart kids in my high school. My high school wasn't the greatest, but we had an Ivy Leaguer or two in the class. The academies have some soft majors, but mostly it is sciences - everyone gets a B.S., not a B.A.

    • by RussR42 (779993)
      Now they use a three-pronged attack [youtube.com]. Subliminal, liminal, and super liminal.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      TOP GUN made a lot of people sign up for the navy

      So did the Village People... The Navy and the YMCA.

  • Drones (Score:5, Informative)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:34PM (#44354061)

    Who wants to be a pilot and put your butt on the line every day as you enter enemy territory when you can be a drone pilot half way across the world and go home to your wife and kids every night.

    Besides, it's looking more and more like "fighter pilot" is a dead end job and won't be around forever. Why send one fighter when you can send 10 drones that can outmaneuver any manned plane for the less cost and no risk to pilots life.

  • The movement to unmanned planes isn't helping their case any either. There aren't as many fighter wars expected to be left - so why join up for a position that may be phased out in just a few years. The Navy might have better luck recruiting, but the Air Force is in a harder spot unless a major land war with a well equipped adversary materializes that lasts enough to bring the Air Force to bear.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:36PM (#44354079)

    We're in incredible physical condition, none of us have near-sightedness, or color blindness. We love the military in particular and the government in general. And combat and sports are what we excel at!

    You've definitely found the recruitment pool you're looking for!

    • I think you misunderstand - they aren't here to recruit people, they're here to find the solution to their problems so that they can go elsewhere to recruit people.
      • by idontgno (624372)

        Um... this is "tech.slashdot", not Ask Slashdot.

        Which means that the answers being provided here have SOME hope of being appropriate and on-topic. That's probably a plus.

  • pfft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by meglon (1001833) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:37PM (#44354083)

    ....the Air Force is caught in a quandary. Where are they going to get the pilots to fly their shiny new F-35s?"

    And here i thought their quandary was wondering: if, when, and for how many trillions of dollars it was going to be for the F-35 to be anything more than a theft of taxpayer money by the MIC.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:37PM (#44354085)

    I was in AFROTC 20 years ago. It was known for a long time that the "battle boom" of pilots from Vietnam who went to the air lines was drying up, and when those numbers fell, there'd be a suction of active duty pilots lured into the civilian sector to fill in the need. There's always going to be a line of kids trying to fly fighters. This is more a Pin vs Pout issue. Couple that with a smaller Air Force of gourmet fighters and drones and now the civilian sector is going to have to get used to finding/creating other pools of pilots with 1000s of hours in hand.

  • Aviators (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:38PM (#44354091)

    They can hire some Naval Aviators. They're better than pilots.

  • Many many people desire to be fighter pilots. The problem is not a lack of people wanting to sign up. The problem is that the USAF is highly selective about who can be a fighter pilot. You need to meet all sorts of physical requirements, then you need to meet very high academic standards, then you have to meet a whole bunch of psychological/personality requirements, etc, etc. By the time they go through the pool of applicants there is nobody left.
  • I'll gladly do it... they'll have to overlook the fact I am in my early 30's and don't have 20/20 vision. If they did, I'd sign up immediately.

  • by alen (225700) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:41PM (#44354139)

    at this point to be a pilot you have to be in the top 5% of your HS class, go to the air force academy, go to flight school and then train on your aircraft

    where to be an airline pilot all you need is to go to flight school and pass a test

    this isn't the 70's and 80's. if you're in the top 5% of your HS class you can make a lot more money in medicine, banking, law and lots of other careers

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      where to be an airline pilot all you need is to go to flight school and pass a test

      Oh god nooooooooooo. I can just see (to reuse a comment from above) ads for Bob's Flying school:

      "We now teach Air Combat!!!!! Come and train on our latests planes .. Migs, Phantoms and Mirages.

      Are you ready to be Top Gun?"

  • by willy_me (212994) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:52PM (#44354259)
    A shortage of pilots is possible but not fighter pilots. The jobs that will require pilots will be the boring jobs - not those where you get the break the sound barrier. For every F22 pilot I'm sure the air force requires 100 other pilots and it's those for which the air force might be hard-up to find replacements.
  • by Milharis (2523940) on Monday July 22, 2013 @03:54PM (#44354287)

    I don't know if that's as true as in Europe, but the biggest complain I've heard by far from would-be pilots as well as pilots is that they don't fly enough. A flight is so costly that they don't fly more than a few times a month.

    What's rather funny though is that in Europe the situation is reverted, there are far more people that want to become a pilot, fighter or commercial, than jobs available. A lot of airlines have totally frozen hiring for a few years.

  • by avm (660)

    ...but I can't. Have a family, which doesn't work all that well with active duty deployments. Have TERRIBLE vision and have had corrective lenses since age 4, also a non-starter. On top of that I'm 35...I couldn't get recruited for any of the armed services regardless of physical condition. In addition, the penchant of the current (and several prior) administration to engage other militaries and paramilitaries on a global scale, with no declaration of war (aside from a nebulous and ever-changing "terror" ta

  • Where are they going to get the pilots to fly their shiny new F-35s?

    They'll just turn the F-35 into a UAV then.

    Or, since I'm skeptical the F-35 will ever fly because it was a badly conceived project from the get go (you know, make everyone sign on for and pay for your R&D costs on a plane whose feature lists reads like a demand for a pony) ... you may never have to worry about F-35 pilots at all.

    I think a lot of governments are starting to decide they may have been hoodwinked with this F-35 program, and

  • Amazing! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:10PM (#44354455)
    You mean telling pilots that they can't go to school or be released for staff jobs, because they are needed in Afghanistan 6 months of the year then laying them off because they haven't been to school or a staff job wasn't the best way to handle manning. Next you will be telling me that we should start giving medals to people who do things in combat instead of to people who do things in PowerPoint. Because of several factors, in the U.S. we are rapidly moving to a combat Air Force with leadership who have never flown in combat. My last 2 squadron commanders have yet to see the desert. And I recently talked to some U-2 guys who's squadron commander wasn't even qualified in the jet. (He failed out of training, but still kept his command slot) Right now if you want to get promoted in the USAF you simply cannot waste time on things as trivial as flying, and if you don't get promoted, you get fired. BTW Sorry for posting anonymously, but it is easier than having to explain this to Public Affairs.
  • by vossman77 (300689) on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:11PM (#44354469) Homepage

    This seems to be the opposite story of the previous slashdot article from 2 week ago, The Air Force's Love For Fighter Pilots Is Too Big To Fail [slashdot.org]

  • Clearly the only thing left to do is contract out several hundred billion dollars to privatized military manufacturers to offshore the immediate production in China of military drones which can be flown by congressmen and Top Brass during their lunch hours.

  • Just last week I was reading that the less than 1000 or so combat planes in US Air Force has some 20 wings/squadrons whatever. And more than thousand unmanned aircraft have just two squadrons. (numbers very very approximate, quoting from memory and am too lazy to look up, not even sure what they call a brigade sized unit in USAF). Thus RPV pilots have much fewer promotion opportunities etc. So if there are not enough pilots, scrap the planes and do some retro mod and make them RPVs. Or ask Google to create
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:18PM (#44354549)
    The F-35 is not the problem. There will always be people lining up to fly the newest, hottest fighter. The problem is finding pilots for slow, unarmed, propeller-driven cargo planes on the milk run into Kabul or Basra.
  • Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:22PM (#44354603)

    Great, now the military is going to want to increase H1B Visas for their shortage, too.

  • I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords...
  • nobody wants to fly them anymore for many reasons: 1. unsafe(screaming metal death trap) 2. requires ridiculous training 3. cant have eye surgery 4. bad for ppl with motion sickness 5.. etc. why dont they just make these planes controlled by some geek at a computer with a joystick? im sure they would get a ton of volunteers.
    • 3. cant have eye surgery

      This is no longer true. Aviators can have surgery, but they just need a Flight Surgeon waiver. Nowadays, that'll probably be pretty easy, especially considering the shortage.

  • Part of the problem stem from the first commandant/general of the Air Force who required all of the pilots to be college graduates. This is dumb. Israel does not require this, and I bet their pilots can whip our butts. Additionally, why do piolots have to be officers? From what I read most pilots want to fly; they don't want to lead. If they must be officers of some kind, make them warrant officers.

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      If all we wanted was someone to keep the thing in the air, we wouldn't bother putting a person in the plane to begin with. When we give these guys billion-dollar planes with the ability to fly across a continent or level a town on a whim, we want them to be able to make intelligent decisions quickly when the situation changes. Being able to fly the plane is only a prerequisite to being able to use it safely and effectively--it's been a long time since being an Air Force pilot was as simple as "don't crash
  • I hear Sum Ting Wong is looking for a new job. :)

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday July 22, 2013 @04:46PM (#44354841) Homepage

    "Fighter Drawdown Dynamics: Effects on Aircrew Inventories" [defencetalk.com] - a 2009 study from RAND, says "to maintain the health of fighter units, the number of new pilots entering them must be reduced, ultimately to below 200 per year by 2016." Fighter pilots are high-maintenance - they have to fly frequently to stay good. Having too many fighter pilots for the number of available aircraft results in a big pool of mediocre pilots.

    The USAF seems to be having trouble balancing their personnel pipeline.

    • The USAF seems to be having trouble balancing their personnel pipeline.

      It's hard throughout the armed services, because it's a dynamic problem and often the controlling factors are outside the control of the planners. There's also a delay effect more-or-less proportional to the length of the pipeline.

  • Every US Government agency reports personnel shortfalls across all fields in every branch of the organization. This despite the fact that we are experiencing ever higher levels of government spending, particularly in the DoD. I gaurantee that they are already experiencing shortfalls in secretaries. Is it because there are not enough qualified individuals to perform secretary jobs or because people with the right experience hate the idea of working for the Federal Government where they would get excellent be

  • There can't be THAT many evangelicals with the skills to fly.

  • ``... to fly their shiny new F-35s?''

    It doesn't matter. Congress and their military-industrial campaign donors will make sure the F-35s get built regardless of the availability of pilots.

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