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Military, civilian aviation leaders meet over pilot shortage issues

By Richard Tomkins
Military, civilian aviation leaders meet over pilot shortage issues
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein (L) meets with airline executives. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jannelle McRae.

May 23 (UPI) -- U.S. military aviation leaders, their civilian counterparts and others are to collaborate to address the mutual problem of pilot shortages.

Measures will include the gathering of data across industry and the military to better understand the national pilot supply and how to broaden pilot recruiting efforts.

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"Flying is a national treasure and national investment," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said during the meeting on May 18. "A challenge I have as the chief of staff of the Air Force is to ensure we can continue the long term: protect this nation and protect our critical infrastructure."

Goldfein recently hosted a National Pilot Sourcing Meeting with airline executives, sister-service aviation leaders and associations and educators.

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RAND, the University of North Dakota, the National Air Carrier Association, Airlines for America, Civil Air Patrol, the Regional Airline Association and the Air Force briefed meeting participants on manning, challenges and aviation opportunities, according to Air Force News Service.

The Air Force said the service -- including the Reserve and National Guard -- had a shortfall of 1,544 pilots at the end of Fiscal 2016. It is working to increase pilot retention, increase pilot trainees and reduce pilot requirements inside the force to address the shortage.

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"This meeting was valuable to bring us all together to discuss the challenges we're each facing," said Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Airline Association. "Just starting the dialogue between all of the participants in the room was an important step forward."

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"A4A and its members have a longstanding and unwavering support for our nation's military services and we express our sincere gratitude to Gen. Goldfein and his senior staff for hosting the meeting," said Billy Nolen, senior vice president of security, safety and operation for Airlines for America. "We look forward to our mutually beneficial partnership as we continue exploring areas of common interest."

The Air Force said participants at the meeting decided to collaborate to provide additional paths for students to become aviators, improving pathways to becoming a pilot, and to take advantage of available technology and safety research to ensure pilot training and qualification.

The group also agreed to explore improving the effectiveness of the "shared resource" of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.

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"We're not going to fix the numbers anytime soon, so we have to get after how we use those pilots in both uniforms," said Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, the Air Force Reserve Command commander.

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About 80 percent of Air Force Reserve pilots are part-time reservists, she said, and 96 percent of those also fly for airlines.

"Today's aviation enterprise doesn't adequately meet the needs for national defense and national commerce," Goldfein said. "This is the beginning of something I think will have big payoffs if we're disciplined in the way we approach it."

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