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Aviation Continuation Pay (ACP - The Bonus)


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The AF puts people through Med school on scholarship and they commission with as much student debt as an average military pilot.  But those Drs still get their rock star pro pay while the pilot starts out with a laughably low flight pay.
If we're making a purely civilian comparison, the average civilian flight university to airline pilot track likely involves a similar investment.  Their school may only leave them with half the debt of a Dr, but the pilot gets paid peanuts for the next decade as he builds time and creds for that airline job.  I think the career investment and income are more comparable than you let on.


There's more demand for doctors across the board, and they take longer to make than a pilot...

The air force trains a pilot and gets a 10 year ROI via the ADSC. And there's no shortage of young Americans that want to fly jets.

The AF gets a 1:1 return for the doctors who take the scholarship money to pay for their medical school, so at best a 4 year ROI. Then again, the AF only pays about $400k to get a doctor, while the cheapest pilot (C-17) is $800k in direct training plus roughly $200k in pay/allowances, so the payback is about the same ($100k per year old ADSC)

It takes roughly 2 years to have a basic pilot trained, and roughly 2-4 years to become an AC/IP/4FL, so 4-6 years to get a "fully qualified" pilot. It takes 4 years med school plus 1-6 years in residency, so 5-10 years to get a certified doctor who can practice.

Not all doctors get rock star pay either. https://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/payentitlements/Pay-Tables/HPO4/
If they don't sign a retention bonus, many get paid about the same after they complete their residency as a pilot on the bonus after their initial commitment ($43k for most medical specialties, compared to the $12k+35k=$47k for a pilot, though the pilot has a multi year ADSC the doctor does not have). The big money goes to certain specialties, and those spots to get into those specialties are competitive nationwide (mil and civ).

One thing the doctors on scholarship give up is their selection of specialty: no matter how good they match to residencies, they are still needs of the AF. So even if they scored well enough to go to say anesthesiology to make the big bucks ($300k+ a year on the outside in a major city), if the AF needs flight docs that year, well, they are going to go be flight docs/general practice. Even if there's an anesthesiologist residency position in the military, all med school graduates can compete for that spot, not just the ones on military medical scholarships. This also essentially locks them into that specialty for the rest of their career, and switching specialties means recompeting for a residency match (which again are limited, and competing against the new med school grads), and then completing the new residency at resident pay (1-6 years at $25k-50k/year working 60-80 hours a week.

That last part is why my brother decided not to take an offer for a military medical scholarship-there's a loss of control over your career at a critical point, the initial residency match, which has a significant impact on your career earnings potential.
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I'll also add that there are some serious downward pressure on doctor salaries nationwide as well. Doctors are expensive, so many healthcare systems are turning to nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, CRNAs, etc. Those can do many of the basic tasks that a doctor can, to include waiting some prescriptions, but they don't get as much training (no residency required, shorter training programs).

So the healthcare system is doing what the AF is doing: quantity over quality in the production pipeline to meet demand.

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So if we just make the pay comparable to the airlines and fix none of the other BS that pilots hate how does that help exactly?  Because if the money is the same and airlines are less BS don't the airlines still win for all of the other reasons mentioned?
That said I know folks on all sides of the fence who were:
1. "f'this noise I'm out" as soon as their ADSC was up
2. Palace chase ASAP to get a line number then pick up AGR orders
3.  Airline & TR
4. Stay on AD with no bonus to have free agent status with regard to assignments
5.  All in bonus takes that are ride or die Air Force.
The only demographic I see winning/gaining anything under a "pro pay" system is the folks who are all in Air Force already.

It seems to me like the system has those camps modeled as it is doing what it can to apply the bonuses given the constraints (imposed by congress) they are under.  Also, Springer has life figured out.  I take as much pride in flying the aircraft that I own and/or rent as I do anything the USAF has put me in.  Plus it can be just as much or more fun.  In my case I just married well to a woman that agreed to buy me an airplane with her salary!  But I know plenty of AD guys that can afford to own planes and fly a ton even on the AD salary.  Everything is just a tradeoff.


While I love almost everything about this post, the intense southern accent I had in my head reading it has to mean something, right?

~Bendy


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The simple reality is that the US Government doesn’t view AF pilot manning as a significant issue. Lower level individuals speaking to higher level individuals in this government is severely crippled by toxic behavior…happens in-service and between service leader and civilian appointees. We’ll come to terms with it eventually…as soon as we are denied access or can’t keep aircraft from overhead. Should be fun.

~Bendy


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10 hours ago, jazzdude said:

It takes roughly 2 years to have a basic pilot trained, and roughly 2-4 years to become an AC/IP/4FL, so 4-6 years to get a "fully qualified" pilot. It takes 4 years med school plus 1-6 years in residency, so 5-10 years to get a certified doctor who can practice.

One consideration is how do we best compare apples to apples. A doc with 6-9 years of training is what comparison in the flying world? By about 9 years in, the AF had spent probably thirty million to get me, one pilot, to where I was (experience/proficiency/capability wise). And the AF let that $30m pilot walk because they’re unwilling to pay a bonus amounting to .3%/year (assuming Rand rec of 100k/yr) of their current, total investment. $100k/yr would have been pretty damn difficult to walk away from...$35k, not even a second thought. 

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1 hour ago, Guardian said:

Will it affect all equally? AD, Guard, Reserves?

 

LOL, that would be an absolutely terrible move.  With stop loss, you're likely to get a pulse that shows up to work, and in the case of part-timers, who will participate much less.  You (the gov) got yourself into the fuck mess, don't drag me down with your bullshit bandaid.  

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, brabus said:

One consideration is how do we best compare apples to apples. A doc with 6-9 years of training is what comparison in the flying world? By about 9 years in, the AF had spent probably thirty million to get me, one pilot, to where I was (experience/proficiency/capability wise). And the AF let that $30m pilot walk because they’re unwilling to pay a bonus amounting to .3%/year (assuming Rand rec of 100k/yr) of their current, total investment. $100k/yr would have been pretty damn difficult to walk away from...$35k, not even a second thought. 

We rail against the AF for not giving us $100k a year bonuses but as you know they are restricted by what Congress authorizes. I remember a certain senator from Arizona had a big say in that. 🤷‍♂️
 

What I do think is totally f’d up, beyond belief, is that the AF doesn’t max out the bonus for every pilot to the $35k allowed. It’d be pennies on the dollar in their annual budget. 

Edited by Bigred
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We rail against the AF for not giving us $100k a year bonuses but as you know they are restricted by what Congress authorizes. I remember a certain senator from Arizona had a big say in that. 🤷‍♂️
 
What I do think is totally f’d up, beyond belief, is that the AF doesn’t max out the bonus for every pilot to the $35k allowed. It’d be pennies on the dollar in their annual budget. 

That Senator did some great things, but he thought that the compensation he had in the 70s was sufficient and blocked a lot of progress on that front.
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We rail against the AF for not giving us $100k a year bonuses but as you know they are restricted by what Congress authorizes. I remember a certain senator from Arizona had a big say in that. 🤷‍♂️
 
What I do think is totally f’d up, beyond belief, is that the AF doesn’t max out the bonus for every pilot to the $35k allowed. It’d be pennies on the dollar in their annual budget. 


That is still a Congress problem. The AF is required to present a business case for all pilot bonus offerings to prove that it is needed at a specific amount for each community.

It doesn’t help that the other Services say their pilot retention is “fine” and actively discourage increasing the bonus further.
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That is still a Congress problem. The AF is required to present a business case for all pilot bonus offerings to prove that it is needed at a specific amount for each community.

It doesn’t help that the other Services say their pilot retention is “fine” and actively discourage increasing the bonus further.

I’d argue it’s both AF leadership and Congress. Which AF leader has taken the business case to Congress and actually said, “we have a problem”?

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One consideration is how do we best compare apples to apples. A doc with 6-9 years of training is what comparison in the flying world? By about 9 years in, the AF had spent probably thirty million to get me, one pilot, to where I was (experience/proficiency/capability wise). And the AF let that $30m pilot walk because they’re unwilling to pay a bonus amounting to .3%/year (assuming Rand rec of 100k/yr) of their current, total investment. $100k/yr would have been pretty damn difficult to walk away from...$35k, not even a second thought. 


There isn't an apples to apples comparison. The AF can hire a doctor off the street, it can't hire a pilot off the street. Recruitment and retention are two different problems.

The AF can rely on an outside training source to train doctors. So doctors have more choice in where they work, and can move in/out of the service relatively seamlessly. So if the AF has too many doctors, it can separate them easily, knowing that if they need more doctors in the future, they can just hire off the street.

If the AF could do the same for pilots, it would. But that wouldn't mean competing with legacies for pilots (with the pay that brings), it's really competing against the regionals and part 135 operators for pilots. Plus, what legacy pilot is going to quit to go on AD, and lose their seniority? Especially when they could just go to the ARC of they want to scratch that itch.

The retention of flying experience is in the ARC. AD needs pilots to fill staffs. So as long as people punch out of AD and go to the ARC as at least a TR, the total force stays okay experience-wise for flying ops. Where it gets hurt is losing good pilots on AD staff to guide the AF, in planning/requirements/acquisitions/policy/etc.

But it all comes back to the budget being a zero sum game. Roughly 12k pilots on AD, $100k pro pay for everyone comes out to $1.2B/year. Rough wag if you only give pro pay to pilots who complete their initial ADSC is $600M/year. Assuming it is worth it, what gets cut to pay that bill?
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2 hours ago, jazzdude said:

But it all comes back to the budget being a zero sum game. Roughly 12k pilots on AD, $100k pro pay for everyone comes out to $1.2B/year. Rough wag if you only give pro pay to pilots who complete their initial ADSC is $600M/year. Assuming it is worth it, what gets cut to pay that bill?

The amount of students we’re sending through UPT and all of the B-courses? That’s the whole point - it’s orders of magnitude cheaper to retain your $6.9M pilot than it is to perpetually train new ones. AETC’s budget is $10B/year, so I’m sure it could come from that. Then factor in AETC taking less pilots out of their MWS. It’s an orders of magnitude efficiency improvement.

But! I have a theory that the Air Force and airlines are secretly ok with military pilots leaving, as the government is basically subsidizing airlines with 2k hour pilots. Airlines have never been financially solvent without some sort of government help, and one way to do that is to keep them accident-free for 20 years with the help of experienced military pilots. There are other factors of course, but airline profits are slim, and they could neither afford to build 2k hour jet pilot experience from scratch nor suffer multiple widebody crashes per year like the 1980s.

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The amount of students we’re sending through UPT and all of the B-courses? That’s the whole point - it’s orders of magnitude cheaper to retain your $6.9M pilot than it is to perpetually train new ones. AETC’s budget is $10B/year, so I’m sure it could come from that. Then factor in AETC taking less pilots out of their MWS. It’s an orders of magnitude efficiency improvement.
But! I have a theory that the Air Force and airlines are secretly ok with military pilots leaving, as the government is basically subsidizing airlines with 2k hour pilots. Airlines have never been financially solvent without some sort of government help, and one way to do that is to keep them accident-free for 20 years with the help of experienced military pilots. There are other factors of course, but airline profits are slim, and they could neither afford to build 2k hour jet pilot experience from scratch nor suffer multiple widebody crashes per year like the 1980s.


Would you sign on to fly for another 10 years? What about if the bonus was $1M in exchange for that 10 year commitment? Could the AF convince enough pilots to take that bonus to actually ramp down UPT/FTU production? It's not just training costs, but predictability in manning, which the AF gets through the initial ADSC as well as a 5+ year bonus ADSC.

Part of the problem is DOPMA, and ceilings for the number of FGOs, and it would take a huge cultural shift to having line captains that stay on for a career (where pro pay or better bonuses would have a greater effect, since the promotion carrot goes away). But that requires a change in the up or out mentality (which Congress gave us the option to do, along with the 5 year promotion windows and merit based promotions).

The airlines have the pressure of seniority to keep pilots from jumping ship elsewhere, and those golden handcuffs get tighter the longer a pilot stays with the company. Sure, airline pilots can quit if they don't like it there, but it means starting over at the bottom at another company's seniority list in a volatile industry that is no stranger to furloughs or companies going bankrupt/out of business, or moving to a different industry.

I think you're theory is right, but it's not a secret. The AF is fine with airlines poaching pilots, as long as a good portion of those pilots also participate in the ARC. The airlines are fine with absenteeism due to guard/reserve commitments because it locks those pilots in (if you drop 5 years straight off mil leave, you probably won't leave the company because of your accrued seniority). And the individual pilot plays airline commitments against mil commitments to improve QoL/schedules. So everyone wins, especially that individual reservist pilot.
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22 hours ago, jazzdude said:

The retention of flying experience is in the ARC. AD needs pilots to fill staffs. So as long as people punch out of AD and go to the ARC as at least a TR, the total force stays okay experience-wise for flying ops. Where it gets hurt is losing good pilots on AD staff to guide the AF, in planning/requirements/acquisitions/policy/etc.

 

The lack of experience in the CAF is also getting people killed, losing pilot and machine in the process.

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On 7/3/2021 at 8:42 AM, Sprkt69 said:

The lack of experience in the CAF is also getting people killed, losing pilot and machine in the process.

 

The AF higher echelon so far seems fairly comfortable/copacetic about that trade. Down here in the worker's floor we just get to bury our former students, sports kvetch at MDS conferences about manning policies we can't change, and plan missing man flyovers ad nauseam. 

Not trying to be gratuitously despondent, but from where I sit, a lot more visible (from the public's perspective) losses would have to happen to create political pressure onto the Service Chief on this front. 

 

 

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The AF higher echelon so far seems fairly comfortable/copacetic about that trade. Down here in the worker's floor we just get to bury our former students, sports kvetch at MDS conferences about manning policies we can't change, and plan missing man flyovers ad nauseam. 
Not trying to be gratuitously despondent, but from where I sit, a lot more visible (from the public's perspective) losses would have to happen to create political pressure onto the Service Chief on this front. 


Looking at just fatalities, it's likely low enough that it's acceptable to leadership. So you're right, it'll unfortunately take a lot more deaths to cause a change.

However, anecdotally, there seems to be a lot more near misses. And the near misses don't get logged on a slide or metric, and "hides" the safety issues on the line. Sure, there's the ASAP program, but that requires people to fill out paperwork after a long day with competing priorities.

I don't think the solution is paying pilots 100k extra a year to compete with the legacy airlines. It's more fixing the culture/environment where people enjoy their work and it doesn't become a grind, and the only way to do that is to decrease ops while we rebuild. That's not to say no bonus is needed, but money isn't the only issue that needs fixing to improve pilot retention.

If there's a legacy that our time in Afghanistan (and the primacy that CENTCOM enjoyed for the past 2+ decades) has on the AF, it's that we've burned out our crews and airframes for little to no strategic gain.
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1 hour ago, jazzdude said:

 


Looking at just fatalities, it's likely low enough that it's acceptable to leadership. So you're right, it'll unfortunately take a lot more deaths to cause a change.

However, anecdotally, there seems to be a lot more near misses. And the near misses don't get logged on a slide or metric, and "hides" the safety issues on the line. Sure, there's the ASAP program, but that requires people to fill out paperwork after a long day with competing priorities.

I don't think the solution is paying pilots 100k extra a year to compete with the legacy airlines. It's more fixing the culture/environment where people enjoy their work and it doesn't become a grind, and the only way to do that is to decrease ops while we rebuild. That's not to say no bonus is needed, but money isn't the only issue that needs fixing to improve pilot retention.

If there's a legacy that our time in Afghanistan (and the primacy that CENTCOM enjoyed for the past 2+ decades) has on the AF, it's that we've burned out our crews and airframes for little to no strategic gain.

 

Oh you're preaching to the choir. But it's moot. Pilot retention is NOT something the AF legitimately cares about. The Service Chief has bought lock stock and barrel this PTN illuminati version of fixing the manning problem via production. Which is itself peddled in a version that purports attaining said goals without the need to re-up a former UPT location (Moody being the obvious one in present circumstances).

For the record, that pseudo-intellectual pet project is not attaining the production targets they have been aiming for since FY18. My prediction is that it will continue to fail to meet targets until the current autocrat in the training throne retires and the next chucklehead tells everybody to start ramping up some other pet project.

Now, even under the Chief's own implicit stipulation of focusing on  production over retention, chances of actually enacting Occam's Razor (e.g ramp up Moody) and getting on with the task at hand? Zero. Our capitalization priorities are FUBAR as it is; zero chance that ever becoming a COA that won't get wholly dismissed from the jump. So PTN gaslighting, and more hull losses is what you'll get.

--brk brk--

On the QOL front, the reality is that a lot of the thrash that made ops tempo what it was, is AFCENT/CENTCOM created, and none of the AF sub-hierarchies dared push back for effect. AETC tours were supposed to be a reprieve, but they got co-opted into that individual augmentee, operation deny xmas nonsense peddled by CENTCOM, and cheered on by the cOmBaT-cRed/deployment-bros that found themselves in the seats in NAF/staff circles. Meanwhile, that one "deployed" base in Qatar looked like mornings at the local Home Depot parking lot. Fwa run amok. But keeping people in garrison for a tour, or honoring BoP follow-on is all of a sudden blasphemy? Copy. 

 

No amount of money is gonna fix that. That's why I went AFRC from day one. I got 99 problems here, but being told I'm "a drain" on the Total Force because I choose to stipulate non-financials (schedules and homesteading in my case) over money or promotions when offering my indentured servitude (aka control), is just not one of them. For the RegAF otoh, squeezing gratuitously appears to be a given, and no amount of money is gonna fix that anti-labor pathology. You need a doctrinal shift, and that's a wish in one hand type o' thing from where I sit.

 

So yeah... the airlines are hiring. 🤷‍♂️

 

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At what point of war or losing our standing in the world do our airlines take a hit or go away making the jobs go away as well. I realize I sound all Red Dawn but with the level of Marxism being pushed making its way to socialism, it doesn’t seem like it’s that far off. We are complaining about the flight pay (me too) but how long will it be around? How long will good paying airline jobs be around or even earned military pensions?

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9 hours ago, Guardian said:

At what point of war or losing our standing in the world do our airlines take a hit or go away making the jobs go away as well. I realize I sound all Red Dawn but with the level of Marxism being pushed making its way to socialism, it doesn’t seem like it’s that far off. We are complaining about the flight pay (me too) but how long will it be around? How long will good paying airline jobs be around or even earned military pensions?

If it makes you feel better, even the national run airlines pay their pilots pretty well, and I don't see American airlines absolutely disappearing in your scenario. Nearly every country has some sort of domestic/national airline.

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13 hours ago, Guardian said:

At what point of war or losing our standing in the world do our airlines take a hit or go away making the jobs go away as well. I realize I sound all Red Dawn but with the level of Marxism being pushed making its way to socialism, it doesn’t seem like it’s that far off. We are complaining about the flight pay (me too) but how long will it be around? How long will good paying airline jobs be around or even earned military pensions?

It'll be around until everyone typing away on this message board is dead.

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