(October 24, 2017) Fewer than 200 retired pilots are likely to return to active duty for up to three years under a White House-approved plan to address the pilot shortage. After saying that perhaps 1,000 would take advantage of the executive order signed Friday, the Air Force Monday drastically lowered that number.
Still, however, the service has no plans to force retired pilots back into uniform despite having the authority to do so, according to Air Force Times.
“We are an all-volunteer force. That is our focus,” said Brig Gen. Mike G. Koscheski, the head of a task force addressing the pilot shortage. “Even with these [involuntary] authorities that came with the package deal, if you will, the focus on this program was to get access to more retirees in a volunteer program. . . . We are not going to force any retirees to come back on active duty.
Most of the pilots who do return will fill staff positions to free up pilots now in them.
The Air Force is lacking about 1,500 pilots across the three components, including about 1,200 fighter pilots. Koscheski said he fears the shortage of fighter pilots may be “a canary in a coal mine,” indicating that greater shortages may eventually reach other areas, such as mobility pilots.
Retired pilots also may become instructors. However, they will likely need additional training before achieving flying status, Koscheski said.
The Air Force trains about 1,200 pilots each year with plans to grow that figure to 1,400. But to maintain the adequate number of pilots, the service must produce 1,600 pilots each year.
“Our long-term fix to the pilot crisis is to grow our way out of it,” the general said. To do that, he said, the service needs “stable and predictable budgets” to allow it to plan years ahead.