Air Force Training:

Delaying Pilot Training Could Avert Unnecessary Costs

NSIAD-94-38: Published: Nov 3, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 3, 1993.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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GAO examined whether the Air Force is reducing the number of pilots in its force structure in the most cost-effective manner.

GAO found that: (1) the Air Force is training more pilots than it needs for current cockpit assignments; (2) about one-half of the graduating pilots are temporarily assigned to nonflying positions for up to 3 years while waiting for advanced training; (3) the Air Force is incurring unnecessary costs of about $311 million or more for these nonflying pilots because of requalification training and aviation career incentive pay; (4) the Air Force does not receive the full benefit of pilot training because of the reduced time some pilots spend in flying positions during their careers; (5) during fiscal years (FY) 1991 and 1992, the Air Force delayed candidates from entering into its undergraduate pilot training (UPT) program, but it no longer does this because of the anticipated pilot shortage in FY 1995 and its desire to use the UPT infrastructure fully and ensure leadership development; (6) the Department of Defense expects to complete its analysis of a potential pilot shortage and other aviator personnel issues by December 1993; (7) pilot requirements could be met by nonflying pilots; and (8) the Air Force's plan to assign 500 UPT program candidates to flying positions may not effectively alleviate the problem of excess pilots.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force did not reinstate its policy of delaying entry of pilot candidates into the Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, contrary to what GAO had recommended. Instead, the Air Force increased its number of available cockpit assignments. In doing this, however, the Air Force may have decreased the opportunity for experienced pilots in operating units to maintain their readiness and combat capability; increased its ration of aircrew to aircraft, flying hours, and operating costs; and reduced overall cost-effectiveness in ensuring a highly trained force to meet operational requirements and future contingencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to reinstate delayed entry into the UPT program for pilot candidates until enough cockpit assignments become available to absorb these pilots. Reinstating this practice will have the effect of lengthening the pilots' stay in the service, unless they choose to exercise other options such as leaving active duty service before entering the UPT program or remaining in a nonflying position.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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