USAF Pilots Pass on $225,000 Bonuses

  • Nov 18, 2013 11:16pm GMT

It's not about the money.

USAF leadership has learned that fact the hard way when very few of the 250 pilots eligible for a $225,000 signing bonus declined to sign a nine year contract.

Every military pilot faces the reality that they'll fly a desk at some point during their career, but the sequester has grounded the pilots earlier than anyone ever imagined forcing some to consider the airlines and private sector if they want to keep flying.

The generals are missing two crucial points: it's the love of country and flying that keeps these fighter pilots in a military uniform.

Brian Everstine a writer or the Air Force Times has more on this latest fiscal challenge.

An extra $225,000 is apparently not enough to keep a fighter pilot in the Air Force.

In June, the Air Force announced a $225,000 bonus for eligible fighter pilots in exchange for a nine-year commitment. However, pilots are not taking the service up on the offer because of reduced flying hours caused by budget cuts, acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning said.

“If you’re not flying your F-22 because it’s grounded, you might as well go fly something else,” Fanning said.

Just a few pilots have applied for the bonus, Fanning said. The Air Force could not immediately provide a specific number.

The Air Force cannot compete with increasingly lucrative offers from the private sector, Fanning said. Private airlines are facing a large number of retirements in their pilot ranks and are going after Air Force pilots to fill their cockpits. That, combined with recent groundings of Air Force squadrons and fiscal uncertainty, is making it difficult to get long-term commitments from pilots in exchange for the bonus.

“They aren’t taking it because they aren’t flying,” Fanning said. “They don’t know what their future is.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 7 that pilots had told him they were “bored” because their squadrons were not flying.

“That doesn’t mean they’re planning to leave the Air Force, but it certainly means they are keeping their options open, at a minimum,” he said.

Welsh said enlisted airmen have told him they plan to find work that is “a little more exciting” because their squadrons weren’t flying.

In fiscal 2013, the Air Force was forced to ground 13 combat squadrons because of the budget shortfall under sequestration, with additional squadrons forced to fly at a rate of reduced readiness. If the budget cuts continue, the Air Force will be forced to ground more squadrons in both fiscal 2014 and 2015, Fanning said. The service also would be forced to cut 25,000 airmen and more than 500 aircraft over the next five years, with most of the cuts coming sooner rather than later.