WASHINGTON – The Air Force is throwing money at pilots to stay in the service, but the bonuses don’t seem to be reversing the trend of pilots exiting.
Air Force officials hoped that at least 65 percent of eligible pilots would accept the bonuses and remain in the service, but in fiscal year 2015 that number dropped to 55 percent, the Air Force Times reported.
That figure has continued to plummet.
The percentage of eligible pilots accepting bonuses dropped to 48 percent in fiscal year 2016 and in fiscal year 2017 it dipped even lower to 44 percent.
The Air Force is currently trying to combat a deficit of approximately 2,000 pilots, and the only positive results so far is that the decline of pilots rejecting bonuses is starting to slow.
“Any time we’re short of that [65 percent] target, it’s an area of concern,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kate Atanasoff told the Air Force Times. “However, given the continued increase in airline hiring, which is historically our biggest challenge to retention, we’re encouraged that the take rate has not continued to decline at the same rate.”
“We’ll continue to pursue programs that incentivize retention both through quality of life and monetary incentive programs,” she added.
Through the bonus effort, called the Aviation Bonus Program, the Air Force is now handing out $455,000 for pilots who agree to serve an additional 13 years. The highest bonus offer available prior to June was $225,000 over nine years. The benefit is meant to apply principally to fighter pilots, but also extends to drone pilots.
Part of the reason for pilots fleeing the service, according to Atanasoff, is that the Air Force has been conducting continuous operations at breakneck pace since the Gulf War in 1990. And just as the pace has been frenetic, aircraft and manning levels have been trending downward.
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