JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- T-1A Jayhawk and T-6A Texan II jet trainer aircraft instructors from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, travelled here to brief 14th Airlift Squadron pilots on what it takes to become an instructor, Nov. 13, 2017.
The visit helped promote the need for instructors due to the training school increasing the number of students being admitted to the training curriculum. The school currently trains about 1,200 students annually, but aims to train up to 1,400 students annually come fiscal year 2019.
“Part of the Air Force’s remedy for the pilot shortage situation is trying to retain as many as they can,” said Capt. Joe Zujus, 48th Flying Training Squadron flight commander. “To cover the number of pilots they need, they’re opening up more opportunities for individuals to join on the front side to account for those who leave on the back side.”
At the end of fiscal year 2016, the total force made up of the active duty, reserve and guard, was short 1,555 pilots across all mission areas. In light of this crisis, the Air Force directed a Fighter Enterprise Redesign and the formation of the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to address the most critical aspects of the pilot shortage.
The visit to Joint Base Charleston was orchestrated by Lt. Col. Adam Bingham, 14th AS commander, for C-17 Globemaster III pilots who are changing duty stations. In a proactive effort to retain pilots, Bingham wants to provide information to those pilots who may potentially become instructors.
“When an officer begins undergraduate pilot training they will either come to us or go to Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma or Laughlin Air Base, Texas,” said Zujus. “To become instructors, these members will go through a four to six month training course at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas to regain an understanding of the T-1 or T-6 aircraft. Then they are taught how to properly instruct a student.”
The training has three phases. Phase one is the academic portion which lasts about a month. During the second phase, students learn how to fly in a T-6 aircraft for six months. In the final phase, students train in a T-1 aircraft for another six months. “The whole point for us coming down here was to share information,” said Capt. Ryan Fortney, 14th Student Squadron transition flight commander. “To be open and honest about expectations and what benefits are gained from these assignments. Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command are focused on the mission down range. Air Education and Training Command is focused on the mission too, but their mission is to train, educate and prepare the future pilots of the Air Force.”