Posted on September 20, 2018

Air Force Wants to Halt Pilot Attrition by Appealing to Sense of Community

Oriana Pawlyk,, September 20, 2018

The U.S. Air Force is trying new initiatives to sustain and build its pilot ranks, including a unique fly-only track within Air Mobility Command, bonus incentives and preferred basing.

But another element the service wants to build on? Trust.

“We have asked them to do a lot over 25 years,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command. He spoke during a panel addressing the service’s pilot shortage at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference.


“I think the momentum is building. In Air Combat Command, we’re flying more. … My preferred technique is to keep you busy flying. But I want you to trust us,” Holmes said.


“I hope to get that feedback. My gut says we haven’t broken trust,” she said. ” {snip}

She said AMC is responsible for roughly 40 percent of the Air Force’s pilot attrition each year, contributing to the service’s overall pilot shortage. The bonus take rate has not seen a spike either, she said.

“The economy is looking for you,” Holmes said to airmen in the room, referencing the recent airline hiring boom. He said airline hiring efforts are the biggest factor that drives pilot retention and production problem in the services.

Twenty-five years of continuous combat have made Air Force fliers the “best the world has ever seen,” Holmes said.


The composition of flight squadrons needs to reflect the entire U.S. population, he said. Squadrons today, particularly fighter squadrons, are still mostly composed of white males, something that must change to reflect the country’s demographics, he added.


“I can’t offer you the compensation that Delta Airlines can,” Holmes said. “What we can offer you is a life of meaning and purpose. I want you to feel like you are a part of a community … the squadron is the place where that community exists.”