New career path for Navy pilots aims to curb retention crisis

The Navy hopes a new program scheduled to kick off sometime next year will help combat manning shortages in the service’s pilot community.

The Professional Flight Instructor program will provide well-qualified pilots and naval flight officers a chance to continue as flight instructors later in their careers, according to a naval administrative message issued Sept. 28.

Serving as an alternative to the traditional sea/shore rotational career path, the new program will offer greater assignment stability for those selected, the message said.

“The PFI program will help improve retention by providing greater career flexibility for officers and their families while leveraging on enhanced fleet experiences and critical instructional skillsets of our current cadres of Aviation Warfighting Professionals,” Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Creighan, the program’s director, told Stars and Stripes in an email Oct. 7.

Officers selected to become flight instructors can remain in the program until they choose to withdraw or retire, the Navy message said. Those who leave will no longer be eligible for command consideration, though they can still qualify for a statutory promotion board consideration.

The Navy is now accepting applications from qualified aviators and flight officers for the first PFI board, scheduled for Nov. 20, the message said. The program itself is expected to start sometime in 2019.

The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are all facing a pilot-retention crisis. The Air Force and Navy began offering bonuses to their pilots earlier this year. In March, the Navy increased the bonus available for certain officers to $175,000 for those willing to serve five more years.

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©2018 the Stars and Stripes

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