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Aviation | Spokane, WA
  • A crisis in shortage of fighter pilots.  The U.S. Air Force faces a shortfall of 700 fighter pilots by the end of 2016, and as many as 1,000 pilots within a few years.  The shortfall has prevented the Air Force from fielding a full contingent of 3,500 fighter pilots.  "It is a crisis," said Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff.  "Air superiority is not an American birthright.  It's actually something you have to fight for and maintain." 

    Aggressive hiring by commercial airlines has helped thin the ranks of Air Force pilots, and lengthy deployment overseas, long separations from family and reduced flying time when back on U.S. soil have exacerbated the problem.  Even when pilots return from overseas, they often are called away.  "They have to go off to a major exercise to try to train up again for the high-end flight."  (Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James)

    When Air Force pilots leave for jobs as commercial airline pilots, their pay goes down the first year, then rises to a level equivalent to the Air Force in the second year.  "The third year, (the salary of) the airline pilot goes way up.  It's about $180,000, and intangible benefits also accrue.  You are not deploying.  You don't have family separations," said Ann Stefanek. 

    Veteran fighter pilots commonly face a choice of re-enlistment when they attain the rank of major after 11 years or so of service.  At that time, their compensation package, including housing allowances, might reach around $125,000 a year.  (spokeswoman Ann Stefanek)   ("Air Force now facing 'crisis' in shortage of fighter pilots," by Tim Johnson, Tribune News Service, August 11, 2016) 
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