- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The U.S. Air Force has once again had a “close, but no cigar” result on its plan to close a persistent pilot manning gap.  

Efforts to attract, train and maintain a pool of 1,480 pilots by the end of fiscal 2020 came up short as the service expects a tally 1,300 pilots across all communities by year’s end.

The shortcoming constitutes the fifth consecutive year that the Air Force failed to meet its stated goal, Military.com reported Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Ann Stefanek recently told the website via email that the trajectory for closing the gap looks promising.

“The Air Force is developing several initiatives to help us meet and sustain these higher production levels,” she wrote. “The planned growth in production, in conjunction with a continued focus on retaining our current pilots, is critical to restoring health. While we’ve arrested the decline, we still have several years of focused production and retention efforts to completely stop the pilot shortage.”

Air Force officials have relied on hefty aviation bonuses and the Pilot Training Next initiative — a study started in 2018 to more efficiently recruit and keep top talent — as a means of reaching its goal.

The service’s fiscal year 2021 budget request also seeks $27 million for its Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, or RDT&E, and Operations and Maintenance budgets, Military.com added.

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