A Pilot at a Time

As part of a multi-pronged plan to reduce the growing gap between the pilots it has and the pilots it needs, the Air Force is increasing the number of pilots it produces—a balancing act all its own. Air Force officials say a shrunken force is at the root of the pilot shortage and prevents a quick fix, but planners are working to ramp up pilot production. This fiscal year, a total of 1,230 pilots—including Active Duty, Air National Guard, Reserve, and foreign military members—will graduate undergraduate pilot training, according to the Air Force. But the service is increasing class sizes to reach 1,400 pilots a year. As part of that, USAF is looking to increase the number of fighter pilots it produces from the current 250 Total Force pilots to 350 in Fiscal 2017. The ultimate goal is to produce 400 fighter pilots a year—an amount planners think the Total Force needs to overcome the shortage. Planners are also looking for ways, including the use of civilian contractors, to increase its capacity to train even more.