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The Air Force says it’s making progress producing more pilots, but some trainers are still taking ‘a leap into the unknown’


US Air Force F-35 pilot cockpit

The Air Force has been grappling with a “quiet crisis” of manpower for several years.
The service has taken numerous steps to address the shortfall by training more pilots and keeping more of them in uniform.
Resolving the shortage will take years, but Air Force leaders say they’re making progress.

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.

Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine this month that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started​​ there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

This year, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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