Editorials

Airlines will need 50,000 pilots, may find them at a base near you

Gen. Carlton Everhart II observes Air Force training

Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton Everhart from Scott Air Force Base visited the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulf Port, Ms.
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Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton Everhart from Scott Air Force Base visited the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulf Port, Ms.

When your workplace is short staffed and the boss asks you to work extra hours, most people are happy to help out.

But what if the extra duty goes on for months, or even years? What if travel is involved that sends you away from your family for extended periods?

What if another employer comes knocking with better hours and more money?

U.S. Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart II faces that problem as commander of Air Mobility Command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. One of his pilots is taking off or landing somewhere in the world every 2.8 minutes.

AMC is now down 315 pilots, but within four years another 1,600 pilots will be eligible to leave. The healthy economy has the airlines knocking on the Air Force pilots’ doors with better hours and salaries.

“We just cannot outspend the airlines,” Everhart said. “But our airmen do this because of what’s in their hearts for service.”

You can only play on their patriotism and willingness to serve for so long. Then you need Plan B.

Instead of treating the airlines as adversaries, Everhart is meeting with them in May to work on solutions.

Fixing the shortage may involve some combination of pilot pay boosts, bonuses or student debt forgiveness with help from President Trump’s plan to spend another 10 percent on defense. It might involve losing some pilots to the airlines but with continued service through the Reserves or National Guard. The airlines might have other ideas to help.

Keeping pilots may be costly, but compare that to the cost of recruiting and training. Or compare it to the cost of being unable to address a humanitarian or military crisis.

Ultimately, you need to get back to having the right number of workers for the job. It’s not fair to constantly trade on another person’s patriotism, or to continue asking the person’s family to sacrifice.

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