Opinion

Fighter pilots pass up $225,000 bonuses; they want out

Pilot

The Obama administration is finding out that not even six-figure bonuses can keep experienced military pilots in the Air Force — they just want to fly.

Because military budget cuts have restricted fighter pilots’ flight time, they’re turning down the Air Force’s $225,000 offer for a nine-year commitment, according to the Air Force Times.

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

Only a few pilots have taken advantage of the bonus since it was offered in June, Fanning said. Much like the number of Obamacare enrollees, no specific number was provided.

The Air Force Times reported:

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.”

Pilots have become “bored” ever since their squadrons have essentially been grounded, according to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s Nov. 7 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“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.

That attitude has filtered down to enlisted personnel, who want to find something “a little more exciting” now that their squadrons aren’t flying, Welsh added.

Thirteen fighter squadrons were grounded in fiscal year 2013 because of sequestration. Many of the remaining squadrons have had their flying time cut back, leaving the United States at a reduced state of readiness.

The Air Force Times reported:

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.

“It’s going to take five years to dig out of this,” Fanning said Thursday at a Defense One summit in Washington, D.C., the Times reported.

Thankfully, however, the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign is still fully funded.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Texas mom speaks out about viral letter to Obama: ‘I’m one of millions’

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