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Money, Stability Luring Air Force Pilots Away

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CPT David Torres decided to leave the Air Force for a job that will allow him more
POPE AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force is facing a shortage of pilots and fighting to keep the ones it has. The lure of big money and more time at home has pilots fleeing to commercial airlines.

CPT Jeff Clifton has been gone a lot in the past, as long as 220 days a year away from his family. It's reasons like that that Air Force pilots who have served their nine years are leaving in record numbers. So much so, that the Air Force has almost doubled the $60,000 bonus it offers to pilots who sign on for another five years.

"I'd be lying to you if I said a lot of it wasn't a financial decision, obviously," Clifton explains. "They've increased the bonus a lot and that played heavy in that."

After a year of going back and forth, Jeff Clifton finally decided to re-sign.

Last year, only 36% of the pilots at the nine-year mark agreed to stay on. Air Force leaders say they need to keep 50%, or they're in trouble.

LT Brad Jessmer of the Public Affairs Office says there are enough personnel to do an Air Force mission well.

David Torres says it's the toughest decision he's ever had to make. Torres is not re-signing, and he will soon be looking for a commercial pilot job. But it's not because of money.

"For me it's a quality of life issue," Torres admits. "As far as time spent with my family and time spent with my kids, it was getting a little old coming back from these long days, long deployments and having to reacquaint yourself with your family every time."

To keep people like CPT Torres from leaving, the Air Force is reducing overseas assignments. Air Force leaders believe these new incentives will help them keep many of their best pilots instead of losing them to commercial airlines.


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