Mitchell Institute Releases New Policy Paper
“Protecting the ‘Pipeline’: Overcoming the Air Force’s Pilot Shortage”

ARLINGTON, Va (June 19, 2018) —The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce the latest installment in its Mitchell Institute Policy Papers series, “Protecting the ‘Pipeline’: Overcoming the Air Force’s Pilot Shortage,” by Senior Visiting Fellow Michael C. Sirak and Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, Mitchell’s director of research.

This new paper examines driving factors behind the dearth of trained, qualified Air Force pilots. The service is around 2,000 individuals short of its stated requirements, Sirak and Stutzriem write, and the crisis is at its worst in the fighter community, where there are around 1,300 empty pilot slots, a 25 percent vacancy.

While the service has faced shortages before and is moving to increase pilot production, the current crisis is compounded by several factors, such as the lack of stable and predictable budgets from Congress and the impact of the Budget Control Act. With the service’s aircraft fleet at a record low number, pilots also find themselves deploying at a high, sustained rate to provide the necessary effects on a global basis. This has an adverse impact on quality of life, especially for airmen with families. Further compounding this situation, Air Force pilots are in high demand in the commercial sector as airlines seek to bolster their respective ranks.

Sirak and Stutzriem argue that the Air Force’s pilot training enterprise is a “strategic national asset” that is vital to the viability of US aerospace power in the 21st century and must be funded appropriately. As the US moves to implement its new National Defense Strategy, it must seek to both train new pilots and retain seasoned veterans. In addition, the new T-X training aircraft and associated family of systems will be an integral component of the future pilot production enterprise.

The Mitchell Institute Policy Papers is a series of occasional papers that presents new thinking and proposals to respond to the emerging security and aerospace power challenges facing the US and its allies in the 21st century. These papers are aimed at lawmakers and their staffs, policy professionals, business and industry representatives, academics, journalists, and the informed public. The series aims to provide in-depth policy insights and perspectives to help illuminate potential solutions, informed by the experiences and expertise of Mitchell’s affiliated authors, paired with studious research.

For more information on the series, contact Mitchell’s Director of Publications Marc V. Schanz at or visit our website, at

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