By Russ Niles
The Air Force is considering allowing its dwindling pilot population to moonlight as airline pilots as a way of keeping them available for active duty. Senior brass are reportedly giving pilots more latitude in shaping their own careers with active duty flying as part of the mix. “Are there alternative ways that we can do [pilot] hiring?” Air Mobility Command Commander Gen. Carlton Everhart told the Air Force Times. “Are there alternative ways that we can keep people to stay in longer? Are there alternative ways that we can hire people on active duty, and then they can go out to the airline job, come back to active duty, or vice versa?”
Although the pilot shortage is the worst among fighter jocks, all branches of the service are feeling the pinch and by 2020 the Air Force could be short as many as 12 percent of the pilots it needs to maintain the current tempo. The Air Force has increased the retention bonus for pilots eligible to leave the service from $25,000 to $35,000 and even gotten rid of tasks that pilots don’t like doing, but it’s not enough. More than half of eligible pilots still leave as soon as they can instead of the 40 percent that used to jump to civilian life. “Bonuses help, but we can’t compete. We just can’t,” Everhart said. The Air Force has already spoken with some airline CEOs about sharing pilots. Australia and the U.K. already have arrangements with airlines and the programs are reported to be successful, the Times reported.