Attrition: Pilots Love the F-15E, and Leave the F-22



October 27, 2008: Despite signing bonuses of up to $125,000, the U.S. Air Force was unable to get many pilots to sign on for another five years (after they hit their eighth year of service, usually the mandatory service for someone to become a pilot). The bonus program did enable the air force to get 68 percent of pilots to extend their service, but the percentage that did so varied according to aircraft type. At the low end, only 43 percent of F-22 pilots stayed in. At the high end, it was 81 percent for rescue helicopter and F-15E pilots. The other signup percentages were, transport 71 percent, F-15C 68 percent, A-10 53 percent and F-16 51 percent.

Only the most skilled pilots are eligible for the high bonuses, when it comes time to sign on for another five years (or leave the service). Most pilots leave for a combination of reasons, mainly to spend more time with their families, and to make more money in a civilian job. Also, many pilots do not like the mandatory staff assignments, which mean spending several years flying a desk, instead of an aircraft. Meanwhile, the air force is still trying to figure out why so few F-22 pilots, and so many F-15E and rescue helicopter pilots, want to stay.


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