Air Force details increased bonuses, more flexibility in ‘17 Aviation Bonus Program

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel Services, testifies before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel about the nation's pilot shortage March 29, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Grosso testified with Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel, U.S. Navy; and Maj. Gen. Erik Peterson, Director, Army Aviation, U.S. Army. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

The Air Force today released details on its fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus Program.

This year’s program implements an increase in maximum bonus amounts authorized in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act in addition to more flexibility in contract lengths.

According to the Air Force, the program combines additional non-monetary initiatives in an approach to improve readiness and capacity by better incentivizing experienced aviators.

Congress is authorizing the Air Force to increase the annual aviation bonus cap from $25,000 per year to $35,000 per year and has mandates that bonus amounts be based on a business case analysis to determine greatest need and appropriate monetary amounts.

“Actual bonus levels were determined by considering current and projected manning, current and projected retention levels, replacement training costs, and replacement training time,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force manpower, personnel and services deputy chief of staff, “These are the same factors used to determine bonus needs across the Air Force, such as selective re-enlistment bonuses and critical skills retention bonuses.”

Contract flexibility is also built into the new structure.

According to the Air Force, the fiscal 2017 aviation bonus contract options include one-year, two-year, and five-year options for all eligible 11X aviators, with the amounts tiered by the most critical needs. Bomber, special ops, and mobility pilots have a nine-year contract option while fighter pilots have nine-year and 24 years of aviation service (13-year maximum) options. RPA pilots, along with combat systems operators from various flying communities, are eligible for five-year contracts at varying amounts, tiered by critical needs.

The Air Force says its strategy is to mitigate the pilot shortage and consists of non-monetary and monetary initiatives in three main areas: production of pilots, reducing demand/need for pilots in non-flying positions, and increasing pilot retention.

Some of the non-monetary initiatives include reducing the demand signal for non-flying assignments, headquarters staff positions and developmental opportunities; creating flexible options for developmental assignments that will reduce involuntary separations and provide flexibility for Airmen and families; reductions in additional duties; addition of contracted administrative support in operational units and more hands-on consultation with base leadership when choosing who will fill various assignments.

The Air Force is also looking at additional monetary incentives for aviation, especially those targeted at mid-career aviators. The fiscal 2017 NDAA provided authorization to increase Aviation Incentive Pay, commonly known as monthly flight pay, which the service plans to increase this summer.

“I appreciate the support from Congress to offer our pilot force increased compensation for them and their families who serve beside them,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

“We hope this new approach will make it easier for more airmen to stay in the service,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “The country needs them.”

More information on aviation bonus eligibility is available at the myPers website.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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