News of the commercial aviation industry hiring droves of pilots has graced headlines and front pages since the end of 2013 and it is predicted that within the next year, commercial airlines will begin hiring thousands of new pilots with the anticipation of aging flyers entering retirement. It is estimated that as many as 50,000 pilots will be hired over the next 10 years alone.
However, this hiring spree is going to make it harder for the Air Force to persuade pilots to stay in service, as many military aviators are struggling with low morale due to cutbacks and idle jets.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Eric Fanning, recently said that he’s afraid that if pilots aren’t flying because of the Force’s lack of readiness, those aviation experts will be more prone to “flying somewhere else”.
This will cause a huge storm of retention issues for the Air Force even though current rates are better than the historical averages the Air Force has seen. Even more reason for concern is the Air Force’s loud voice when it comes to publicly declaring its lower readiness due to sequestration and budget setbacks.
Aside from retiring pilots, the Air Force also has other reasons to be concerned about pilot shortages. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) increased the minimum number of flying hours pilots must have. This includes added crew rest regulations that would require commercial airlines to have more pilots on staff.
Air Force representatives are stressing that this is not just an immediate fear but a fear for the future. The Air Force is “uniquely vulnerable” to threats that the commercial industry poses. Many pilots are very willing, for example, to leave the Air Force Service in order to provide more stable lifestyles for their families.
Already, the Air Force is starting to see a shortage in its combat air force where there hasn’t been enough pilots trained as needed. To retain pilots, the service does offer bonuses of $25,000 per year for pilots in years when shortages are predicted. Nonetheless, if it’s flying time that is going to make them stay then the Air Force is in some deep trouble.