USAF Pilot-Training Numbers Come Up Short Of Aspirations


The U.S. Air Force confirmed last week it will not meet its goal of adding 1,500 new pilots this year. The Air Force Times reports the service will come up about 120 pilots short of its annual target. Maintenance issues, staffing shortages and “other unexpected setbacks” are blamed for the shortfall.

USAF spokesman Benjamin Faske said, “The Air Force set a new target of around 1,500 new aviators a year in fiscal 2020 but has so far failed to meet its own bar. It will aim for that same goal in fiscal 2024.” Major General Clark Quinn, the two-star general in charge of pilot training, told reporters, “We’re going to try to make sure we are still flying because that’s what we do as an Air Force.”

Specific maintenance issues include slower-than-expected repairs on the engines powering T-38 trainer jets, limiting their dispatch reliability for more than a year, according to the Air Force Times. The T-38 serves as the Air Force’s only intermediate training aircraft for future fighter and bomber pilots.

Quinn said of the T-38 engine issues, “It has not gotten worse, but it has also not gotten better. The government is looking at perhaps doing some in-house parts production to try and help facilitate getting them back healthy.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I would wait to judge. The maintenance crews are really very good. They have come up with ideas on quality short cuts that have saved money and made the aircraft airworthy. I have also read how some of the crews have come up with ways to make their parts if they can get the drawings from Lockheed or Boeing or whomever. Additive manufacturing has been growing with these crews in leaps and bounds. It is sill a long process though, getting approvals for them to make these parts.

    • Agreed. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with many prior enlisted AF maintenance guys. Top notch. Many of those I work with are now DARs or DERs in various engineering fields and even flight test. Which begs the question, why did the AF consider them too lowly to fly? Meeting your pilot quota is easy, with no change in training requirements other than removing the need for those worthless butterbars.
      Let. Enlisted. Fly.

        • Agreed.

          Alternative: Remove the requirement to have a degree. Have a simpler path to O1E for younger enlisted that’s aptitude and performance based. You’ve done 4 years enlisted, stellar Evals? Passed an aptitude test? Sure you can go to OCS without a degree!

          Now you’ve maintained the “status”.

          • I agree that a four year enlistment can be equivalent to a four year degree. However, the enlistment teaches maturity, responsibility towards the mission, discipline, and generally a technical accomplishment, none of which most colleges provide. Many enlisted have a undergraduate degree also. But, look for pilot material, not only officer material.

  2. The amazing T-38s have been flying now 60, six zero years. Certainly one of the USAF’s best purchases. And to look at one now, it still look just as modern and high performance as it did when first delivered.

  3. “Meeting your pilot quota is easy, with no change in training requirements other than removing the need for those worthless butterbars.
    Let. Enlisted. Fly.”

    Sounds as if you came up short in attaining your 2nd Louie grade.

    • Correct. I came up short in surpassing the paywall. Used my GI bill to get an engineering degree, now I’m a PE with an application in for a DER ticket and I fly for fun.

      Perhaps someone here can answer how an art history degree makes a better candidate for pilot than a proven E5 who knows the airplane inside and out?

      • I ended my four year enlistment as an E5, with civilian Commercial, CFI. I didn’t consider flying because the requirements, college degree, didn’t permit me. However, I did roll over into the FAA for 34 years. I do love my USAF. It did give me so much more than I returned.