The Air Force believes it has contained an emergency threatening its core mission, despite persistent estimates it doesn't have enough pilots at a time it's facing off against new threats from China and Russia.
By the end of 2018, the Air Force had a shortage of roughly 800 active duty pilots spurred by an inability to retain airmen and train new ones quickly enough. Shortages among Reserve units account for another 1,200-pilot shortfall. The service counts roughly 12,500 active duty pilots among its ranks. Outside assessments predicted the problem would only worsen within the next five years.
The pilot shortage is part of a wider international problem as militaries and commercial airlines scramble to fill empty cockpits. And it has wrought widespread concern, including from some in Congress who consider the shortage "a serious crisis."
"We were in a downward spiral," Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force's top officer, tells U.S. News in an interview.
A principal source of the problem is the allure of private airlines that seek the vetted experience of Air Force pilots, combined with the draw of greater salaries and flexibility in the private sector that forces airmen to look skeptically upon staying in the military. In ideal circumstances, the Air Force would train no fewer than 1,100 pilots per year. The Rand Corp. estimates the current active duty shortage of 800 pilots will more than double by 2023. (end of excerpt)
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