If all you want is to fly in the Air Force, a new program might be for you.
“This fulfills a promise to our airmen that we listened to them and wanted to implement their ideas,” Gen. Carlton Everhart, head of AMC, told Air Force Times.
In April 2017, Everhart reached out to airmen via email and social media to solicit ideas on how the Air Force can better retain talent as it deals with pilot shortages. The Air Force is down about 2,000 pilots, with about 1,600 mobility pilots eligible to separate in the next four years.
The four-star received more than 700 responses from airmen, and one of the top suggestions was a flying-only career track.
Everhart said he’s seeking a small cadre of active-duty mobility pilots who are majors or major-selects with 11 to 13 years of commissioned service.
Selectees will still be required to maintain all Air Force standards, including health and fitness and readiness requirements, but professional development education and advanced academic degrees will be optional.
“We hope to retain pilots by reducing developmental requirements for officers not interested in command,” Everhart said. “Those things we have traditionally said were the stepping stones to move you into a leadership track to broaden your expertise … are now optional.”
There won’t be any required duties not related to flying, but those in the program still need to go through training, standardization and tactics. Since they’re flying-related billets, selected airmen can still continue to fly as they complete those duties.
Airmen can also decide to leave the program if they’d rather switch back to a leadership role or a leadership track, he said. Then there will still be enough time to catch back up with peers.
“We’re going to try to give the options back to the aviator,” Everhart said.
Pilots chosen for the Aviator Technical Track can remain in one assignment for up to five years if they so choose, which Everhart hopes increases predictability and a better work-life balance.
“We’re trying to guarantee them one specific location for five years,” he said. “We are listening to concerns about quality of life.”
There will also be opportunities for pilots in the program to explore avenues outside of AMC, Everhart said.
“You may not just stay in Air Mobility Command,” he said. “You may go to another [major command].”
Eligible airmen can start applying for the program today via the MyPers website, and the application deadline is Aug. 17. A board of senior officers will convene on Aug. 29 to review the submitted packages.
“We’re looking … for people who can do mentorship in a squadron and bring these young kids onboard and maybe have opportunities to public speak in schools to bring those young, inspiring students to say, ‘Hey, I want a career [in aviation],’” Everhart said.
The pilots chosen for the initial round can also help shape the future of the program, Everhart said.
After about a year of the program being in place, Everhart said he wants to get feedback from those pilots and see what needs to be tweaked.
“I think [the program] offers more flexibility instead of potentially constricting them into certain avenues,” he said.
Everhart said there’s a possibility of eventually expanding the program to other career fields, such as maintenance, air traffic control and cyber.
“Setting the foundation and seeing what we did right and what we did wrong will allow others to improve upon it,” he said. “This is just the start.”