Air Force pilots could receive up to $600k to keep flying

Commonly known as an “Elephant Walk,” a group of four U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing are on the taxiway prior to take off in Sioux City, Iowa on September 3, 2009. The aircraft are departing for a local air refueling mission. USAF Photo Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

The US Air Force is so desperate to keep certain in-demand job billets filled, they’re offering $50,000 a year in bonuses to pilots who don’t bail on the branch.

The move, which is so far unprecedented in the history of USAF retention incentives, can offer some aviators over half a million in extra pay.

Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Rachel Salpietra stated that eligible aviators who sign a new contract this year will receive between $15,000 and $50,000 annually for anywhere from three to 12 years.

To put that into perspective, that is over $45,000 to $600,000 for some personnel, depending on the length of service commitment.

According to the Air Force Times, the bonuses and boosts are limited to a small cluster of in-demand aviation fields.

The “elite few” include pilots of manned and drone aircraft, air battle managers and combat systems officers who will be finishing their initial service commitments by Fiscal Year 2023.

Pilots must serve for one full decade after finishing undergraduate training, while air battle managers and combat systems officers are locked in for six years.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed as of Tuesday, June 6 and will run until September 15.

For pilots with contracts set to end between fiscal 2024 and 2026, another four years of service could earn a contract-long bonus of around $200,000.

The US Air Force has been suffering from pilot shortages due to issues stemming from low pay, low morale, and other factors, leading many to leave the USAF for the commercial air industry.

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