USAF Struggling to Retain Aviators

The Air Force needs to hold on to their pilots.

Retention of highly trained air-staff is an on-going problem, a bonus program in 2021 offering the best trained willing to sign on for another 12 years of service up to $420,000. In 2019 and 2020, the Air Force had increased the eligibility timeframe to qualify for a bonus ranging from three to twelve years. They had breathed a sigh of relief when Covid 19 led to commercial airlines being grounded and pilots not needed. That’s changed.

“Several major airlines have indicated they are going back to full-fledged hiring,” says aviation expert Josh Verde.

Hence, the big bonuses. “That’s creating a situation where there’s now some competition, there are probably many Air Force pilots that are looking to not sign up or not extend their obligations and then go look for opportunities with the airlines,” Verde adds.

The Air Force needs about 21,000 aviators in their ranks, and are about two thousand shy. They can’t afford to lose anyone they’ve invested a lot of money in training. “Quite frankly, Air Force pilots are very, very specialized in their training and it’s not something that you want to lose,” confirms Verde.

The bonuses are based on years in service and MOS skill set. It’s the bomber, fighter and mobility pilots that earn the big bucks, as well as special operations and CSAR fixed wing pilots. If they sign up for another five to seven years they can elect to have another $25,000 added to their annual salary or can take an up-front payment of $100,000. If they sign up for 8-12 years, they can make an additional $35,000 a year or an up-front one-time payment of $200,000.$35,000 times twelve is $420,000.

photo: Getty Images

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