Drone Pilots vs Airplane Pilots

bafanguy

Well-Known Member
About a year ago, there was an Avweb article about drone pilots (link below). While following the whole issue of pilot supply in which the military has always played a significant part here, the last paragraph got my attention:

"An internal Air Force study highlighted recently by NBC news notes that of 244 undergraduates allowed to pick any career in the Air Force, one quarter elected to sign on as drone pilots. More to the point, of 487 fighter and bomber pilots assigned to three years drone duty, more than 410 elected to continue their careers as drone pilots when the three years were up."

http://www.avweb.com/news/avtraining/drone_pilot_training_forecast_uas_208586-1.html

I know the world changes but being someone who couldn't identify with NOT wanting to sit in the pointy end, I wonder if the USAF (or the other services) isn't getting the usual number of applicants who want to fly an airplane while sitting in one.

Would any of that explain the USAF putting out an ad for pilots recently or do they do that routinely and I've overlooked it ?

http://www.indeed.com/job/Pilot-at-US-Air-Force-in-United-States-3ddf086396718299

Can those of you close to the situation offer any insight on the recruiting environment these days ?
 

Hacker15e

Blue Eyed Murder in a Size 46L Uniform
About a year ago, there was an Avweb article about drone pilots (link below). While following the whole issue of pilot supply in which the military has always played a significant part here, the last paragraph got my attention:

"An internal Air Force study highlighted recently by NBC news notes that of 244 undergraduates allowed to pick any career in the Air Force, one quarter elected to sign on as drone pilots. More to the point, of 487 fighter and bomber pilots assigned to three years drone duty, more than 410 elected to continue their careers as drone pilots when the three years were up."

http://www.avweb.com/news/avtraining/drone_pilot_training_forecast_uas_208586-1.html

I know the world changes but being someone who couldn't identify with NOT wanting to sit in the pointy end, I wonder if the USAF (or the other services) isn't getting the usual number of applicants who want to fly an airplane while sitting in one.

Would any of that explain the USAF putting out an ad for pilots recently or do they do that routinely and I've overlooked it ?

http://www.indeed.com/job/Pilot-at-US-Air-Force-in-United-States-3ddf086396718299

Can those of you close to the situation offer any insight on the recruiting environment these days ?
I think that you can't read very much into that study. People who have been trained to fly airplanes, in general, want to continue flying airplanes. I don't know the details of that study, but I can tell you that there are a LOT of outside factors that would play into the "return to cockpit" numbers noted.

For instance, the article implies that these pilots would be returning to cockpits when their "three years were up", when in fact it doesn't actually state what the alternative assignments available were. I know that in the fighter community, at least, there weren't really fighter cockpits for those guys to go back to or slots in the re-qualification training courses for them to even attend. With the drawdown of so many F-15 and F-16 squadrons, and the remaining squadrons being populated by the new pipeline training grads and all-ready qualified pilots, there weren't positions for them to fill. The training units, with a limit to the number of students they could train in a given year, were absolutely filled just training basic pipeline trainees. I know guys that I was flying T-38s with who could not get spots to go back through training to get back to a fighter.

I suspect that most of the "alternatives" to staying in the RPA/UAV world were going to fly a desk or another such undesirable job, so they decided to keep the job that would keep them in a direct operational environment.

The other important fact here is how "abused" line pilots have been over the last 10 years or so with respect to operations tempo and deployments. Many, many pilots I know (mostly MAF guys, not CAF guys, but the sentiment is the same...) volunteered to go UAV/RPA because it was a job they deployed much less out of, and which had a daily operations tempo slower than their operational world jobs. Guys need a break, want to actually see and be with their families, etc., and some of these RPA jobs have offered that.

Anyway, right NOW things are not looking great for getting hired into the AF; we are going through another year of budget cuts and trimming the force size. Pilots are being forced out, offered incentives to leave voluntarily, and offered early retirement for those who qualify. The vast majority of pilots I know and serve with are either taking one of these offers or considering it once they're eligible. There is a giant sucking sound of pilots leaving the AF over the next several years.

That being said, this means the prospects for guys wanting to join in the next 2-5 years are probably going to be amazingly good.

http://forums.jetcareers.com/thread...mits-and-military-flying.205407/#post-2325686

My bet is that there is going to be a giant vacuum of aviators, especially, in the AF here in 3-5 years.

In the post-Desert Storm drawdown, it was about 97 or so before the AF had realized its mistake in letting too many pilots go and training too few pilots in the UPT pipeline. Once that realization hit, the floodgates opened and there were "pilot slots for all my friends" for the next 5 years.

So, if tradition holds (and especially if Russia continues to sabre-rattle in Eastern Europe and "The Caliphate" starts trying to kill people outside the Levant and Mesopotamia), we should see a similar hiring spree in about the same number of years.

That is, of course, unless the RPA lovers have their way.
 
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