WASHINGTON --- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein hosted a National Pilot Sourcing Meeting with airline executives to discuss the national pilot shortage in Alexandria, Virginia, May 18, 2017.
Air Force and sister-service aviation leaders, airline executives, associations and educators identified and discussed opportunities to improve collaboration between airlines and the military to ensure high-quality pilots for the needs of the nation.
RAND, the University of North Dakota, the National Air Carrier Association, Airlines for America, Civil Air Patrol, the Regional Airline Association and the Air Force briefed participants on manning, challenges and opportunities for industry, aviation educators and the military.
“Flying is a national treasure and national investment,” Goldfein said. “A challenge I have as the chief of staff of the Air Force is to ensure we can continue the long term: protect this nation and protect our critical infrastructure.”
At the end of fiscal year 2016, the Air Force’s total force -- made up of active duty, Reserve and Guard -- was short 1,544 pilots. The Air Force is addressing this shortage through numerous lines of effort; working to increase retention of trained pilots, increase pilot production through the training pipeline and reduce pilot requirements inside the force, to name a few. The airline executive meeting was one of the service’s many efforts to address the shortage.
“This meeting was valuable to bring us all together to discuss the challenges we’re each facing,” said Faye Malarkey Black, the Regional Airline Association president. “Just starting the dialogue between all of the participants in the room was an important step forward.”
Participants committed to collaborate, beginning with gathering data across industry and the military to build a better understanding of the national pilot supply, enabling a strategic approach to addressing the pilot shortage. The group also agreed on the need to broaden recruiting efforts across both military and industry to increase diversity among the pilot community.
"We want our workforce to reflect the diversity of our customers," said Steve Dickson, the senior vice president of flight operations for Delta Air Lines. "We need to make sure the opportunities for a flying career are understood by and available to young people of all backgrounds."
Participants decided to work together to provide more accessible pathways for students to realize their dream of becoming career aviators. In addition to creating new pathways to becoming a pilot, participants also agreed existing pathways should be improved and expanded to take advantage of available technology and safety research to ensure pilot training and qualification are focused on quality performance measures.
In addition, the group agreed to explore improving the effectiveness of the “shared resource” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.
"We're not going to fix the numbers anytime soon, so we have to get after how we use those pilots in both uniforms," said Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, the Air Force Reserve Command commander.
She noted 80 percent of Reserve pilots were part-time reservists and of those; 96 percent also fly for commercial airlines.
With pilots being a national asset, the Air Force is dedicated to finding long-term solutions by continuing a relationship with commercial and educational partners to address the national pilot supply.
“Today’s aviation enterprise doesn’t adequately meet the needs for national defense and national commerce,” Goldfein said. “This is the beginning of something I think will have big payoffs if we’re disciplined in the way we approach it.”