The Air Force is cutting drone flights from 65 a day to 60 due to pilot-retention problems, The New York Times is reporting. Officials hope the move will stem the tide of trained pilots who are leaving the program in droves.
The biggest problem is that a significant number of the 1,200 pilots are completing their obligation to the Air Force and are opting to leave. In a recent interview, Colonel [James] Cluff said that many feel “undermanned and overworked,” sapped by alternating day and night shifts with little chance for academic breaks or promotion.
Aside from the long hours, “the fear of occasionally causing civilian casualties” and competition from the private sector were also listed as factors for pilots leaving the program.
The cutback comes at a time when the demand for drones is higher than ever. Pentagon officials were hoping to raise the number of flights to 70 but were forced to curtail those plans due to manpower shortages. Even a recent move to double incentive pay to $18,000 a year was unable to help with retention.