The Air Force Is Asking Retired Airmen To Come Back To Fix Its Ongoing Pilot Shortage

Joining the Military

At the end of fiscal year 2016 in September that year, the Air Force had 1,555 fewer pilots than it needed, including 1,211 missing fighter pilots.


That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, includingbroader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.

The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide "red air," or adversary training, support.

According to a release issued on Friday, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.

U.S. Air Force photo

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot waits to taxi out for a night mission during exercise Green Flag-West 13-02 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 1, 2012.

The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includesbomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill "critical-rated staff positions" and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.

"Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation's enemies," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "We continue to swing away at this issue and we're looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots."

Two other initiatives were announced on Friday.

Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.

Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.

The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.

"The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs," Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.

"The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired," Grosso added.

U.S. Air Force photo

First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the squadron’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.

"We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers," Wilson said in the release.

In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson's predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force's loss of pilots.

Previously, Congress authorized the Air Force to increase bonuses from $25,000 to $35,000 for pilots who agreed to extensions, though that was less than the $48,000 the service requested.

With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.

More from Business Insider:

U.S. Air Force photo
Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

An Alabama woman was charged in the shooting death of her husband, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Benning, just days after he filed for a restraining order against her.

Read More Show Less

U.S. Cyber Command is reportedly going on offense against Russia's power grid by placing "potentially crippling malware" in its systems, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The cyber incursions, authorized to Cyber Command under new authorities that do not require presidential approval, have gotten more "aggressive" and seem to be a warning that the U.S. can respond to Moscow's past cyberattacks, such as the 2016 incursion into the Democratic National Committee and its attack on Ukraine's power grid.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

A Chicago veteran missed his graduation day in 1944 serving in World War II. But on Thursday, he walked across the stage, officially graduating with the Class of 2019.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf and said it was seeking international consensus about the threat to shipping, despite Tehran denying involvement in the explosions at sea.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy has named a female president of the U.S. Naval War College for the first time in its history just days after ousting her predecessor amid allegations of excess spending and inappropriate behavior.

Read More Show Less