USAF Pilots Choosing to Remain in Military
Just three months ago (March 4), Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein reported to the House Armed Services Committee that the USAF needed 2,000 more pilots to meet the 2018 National Defense Strategy requirements (21,000 pilots). Commercial airlines were offering high-paying jobs in direct competition for this talent pool. And hundreds of military pilots accepted generous offers when their military service obligations were completed.
Within weeks, however, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the commercial aviation world upside down. Passenger volumes have dropped between 90 percent and 95 percent, and commercial airlines are projecting a significant reduction of pilots once the CARES Act funding requirements expire September 30th.
This change has led to a number of Air Force pilots rescinding their plans to retire or separate from the service and, instead, are accepting retention bonuses to remain in the military aviation community.
Lt. Col. Malinda Singleton said, “We have seen Air Force members with approved retirement and separation dates request to withdraw their paperwork since March, and at this time 171 pilots have been approved to stay past their original retirement or separation dates.”
Singleton said she expects to see furloughed commercial pilots requesting to return to active duty in October and added that the Air Force is working to increase its training capacity to produce 1,480 pilots a year while improving quality of life for aircrew and their families.