The U.S. Air Force is more than 1,500 pilots short of its requirements, with senior service leaders warning the problem has potentially dire consequences.
The pilot and aircrew shortage was discussed at a meeting Friday of more than 60 leaders at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
“We are in a crisis,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said at the day-long Aircrew Summit. “We’re 1,500 pilots short, and if we don’t find a way to turn this around, our ability to defend the nation is compromised.”
Goldfein repeatedly challenged presenters and leaders to develop new and creative solutions for problems such as pilot training limitations, filling staff positions and retaining personnel.
The Air Force said the 2017 Air Crew Summit is part of an ongoing effort by the Air Force’s Aircrew Crisis Task Force to address the service’s growing shortage of experienced aircrew.
Air Force senior leaders discussed strategies, plans and initiatives under the tak force’s lines of effort: requirements, accessions, production, absorption, retention, sortie production and industry collaboration.
“This is a wicked problem,” Koscheski said, referring to the critical pilot shortage and proposed solutions to improve retention. “The problem is not only ever-changing, it fights back. You can’t just fix one aspect. They’re interrelated.”
Proposed retention initiatives include the limitation and incentivizing of non-command 365-day deployments, production initiatives that prioritize flying training and offer alternative methods of training, and initiatives that adjust crew ratios and balance instructor pilot numbers.
The need to expand initiatives for non-rated airmen and families, increasing pilot production through contract support or additional aircraft to allow for more pilots to be trained, and options for limiting staff positions and lengthy deployments were also discussed during the meeting.
“Changing how we manage an all-volunteer force won’t be a quick process, but we must make those first changes so we can gain momentum,” said Lt. Gen. Dash Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. “Our airmen get a vote, and they need to know we’re listening to them and acting on their feedback.”