U.S. Air Force faces fighter pilot shortage

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - In 2016, there was a shortfall of 700 Air Force fighter pilots, according to the United States Department of Defense.

That shortage is expected to grow to 1,000 in the next couple of years.

The United States Air Force Public Affairs says after an average of 11 years of service, many Air Force pilots are joining commercial airlines.

The Air Force is now looking for ways to get pilots to stay longer.

"One of which is to try to increase a bonus to our military pilots," said spokeswoman Ann Stefanik with U.S. Air Force Public Affairs.

Former Air Force pilot Richard Donnelly, of Roanoke, said to become a military pilot is no easy path.

"It takes a number of years. There's a two-to-three-year training program just to get to that level. Then years after that to perfect your craft in terms of flying. So probably five years to become a proficient fighter pilot," explained Donnelly.

While the U.S. Defense Department continues to try to improve the quality of life for a fighter pilot, Donnelly said he wouldn't trade his time in the Air Force for the world.

The Air Force says it may offer larger bonuses to pilots as an incentive to stay, hoping they can get the numbers back where they need to be for national security.