Air Force Pilots Eligible for $420,000 Bonus

NGAUS Washington Report
June 5, 2018

Fighter pilots are not the only Air Force flyers in line for large bonuses if they sign up for additional years of service. Bomber, mobility and special operations pilots, among others, are eligible for the maximum bonuses of $35,000 per year formerly available only to those who flew fighter jets.

A pilot signing up for the maximum 12 years of additional service could receive $420,000, according to Air Force Times.

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The Air Force is expanding its Aviation Bonus Program while struggling to fill its pilot slots. The service is competing with the commercial airline industry, which can pay higher salaries.

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, told Air Force Times in an email, “This is a strategic force management tool tailored annually to meet Air Force requirements and help retain the right mix of critical aviation skills needed to improve the readiness and increase the lethality of the force. This bonus doesn’t allow us to compete financially with airline salaries, but it recognizes the inherent sacrifices associated with aviation service and provides an offset to help potentially rebalance the scale between service and sacrifice.”

The Aviation Bonus Program once offered fighter pilots $25,000 annual bonuses and lesser amounts to other pilots. Congress boosted that to $35,000 in 2016, the publication noted, and lengthened the related time of service from nine years to 13. Maximum service time was cut to 12 years this year.

Pilots weren’t flocking to the bonus program, however. The overall take rate of 55 percent in 2015 dropped to 48 percent in 2016. It was 44 percent last year. The service hoped 65 percent would accept the bonuses and stay in the cockpits of Air Force planes.

In 2017, only five fighter pilots signed up for the full 13-year service commitment, which came with a bonus of $455,000.