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Non-Commissioned Pilots in the RCAF Discussion

captloadie

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While I think the salary issue plays some part in the decision making process for pilots, at least for the AM guys I know who have left, the bigger issue is the work life balance, and the work schedule.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but how does the CAF compete with a job where you work 14 days a month, each of which you get to fly, vs. 21-23 days (not of your choosing) a month where as many as half may not be doing flying duties. How do we incentivize individuals to look after all the paperwork, lead subordinates, do all the other career stuff (even if not for promotion) when they can take a Big Red job and be paid to pick up a flight plan, fly the plane, and then get off and wonder when the hotel bus arrives (if they even have to RON at all). At the end of the day, I don't think we can, unless we drastically change the employment model of CAF pilots.

Perhaps it is time to admit that it isn't a retention problem, it is now the normal career path for potentially the majority of CAF pilots. Yes, there will be sunk costs in both training dollars, and experience, but maybe its time to just accept that as the cost of doing business.

There will always be a line up of new recruits coming through the door who want to be pilots. For every ten that reach Wings status and then qualify on type, maybe only 4 want to make it a long term career after their restricted release period, and the CAF should plan for this.

Or, and this would be a dick move to do, maybe we don't pipeline guys into airframes that let them be widebody ACs at the age of 25, so that at the ended of the restricted release period their resumes are quite as competitive with the mainstream Airlines.
 

daftandbarmy

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captloadie said:
While I think the salary issue plays some part in the decision making process for pilots, at least for the AM guys I know who have left, the bigger issue is the work life balance, and the work schedule.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but how does the CAF compete with a job where you work 14 days a month, each of which you get to fly, vs. 21-23 days (not of your choosing) a month where as many as half may not be doing flying duties. How do we incentivize individuals to look after all the paperwork, lead subordinates, do all the other career stuff (even if not for promotion) when they can take a Big Red job and be paid to pick up a flight plan, fly the plane, and then get off and wonder when the hotel bus arrives (if they even have to RON at all). At the end of the day, I don't think we can, unless we drastically change the employment model of CAF pilots.

But you get to break the sound barrier while raking bogies with 20mm cannon, and dropping bombs on bad guys, and then the women hang off you and stuff like that.

I don't know about you buddy, but I'm sold. :)
 

Old Sweat

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If you will allow a superannuated brown job to intrude, aircrew retention has plagued the RCAF for just about as long as I can remember. As a lieutenant in a very junior staff job in HQ 4 CIBG in Germany in the mid-sixties, I remember our brigade commander's less-than-enthusiastic response when Air Marshal Rhyno (sp??) stated to the assembled commanding officers and staff of the brigade, that we would all be pleased to know that the senior air staff had come up with a solution to a massive wave of releases of RCAF pilots. And yes, this was a product of the massive expansion in the west's civil aviation fleet, and just maybe any number of master plans didn't work in the long term.

Note: to be honest, there was a built in steady state of attrition in the RCAF back then. A large number of aircrew had short service commissions, and would be released after about five years commissioned service. Very, very few were able to convert to a regular commission, so the flying training organization had a built in busy state, no matter what else was happening. This changed, but did it do much to stem the drain in aircrew?

Over the last 50 plus years, some very smart people have devoted tons of effort to addressing the issue. Their success has been variable, but as a whole not all that good.
 

FJAG

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An article from around a year ago with respect to the US problem re ilot attrition:

Army hikes bonuses for first time in decades to stem pilot exodus
By SLOBODAN LEKIC | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 3, 2020
...
Last year, the Army’s pilot attrition rate grew to a record 10% of its force, due largely to aging aviators and competition. More than 40% of its warrant officers had more than 17 years of service, Army officials said in April.

Each of the Pentagon services has struggled to retain pilots, who are often lured away from the military by companies offering enticements such as signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement and a more predictable work schedule.

The exodus is likely to get worse. In North America alone, airlines will require some 200,000 new pilots in the next two decades as older pilots retire, industry analysts have predicted.

The other services also offer monthly incentive pay and have recently upped their retention bonuses.

The Navy will pay pilots $175,000 in bonuses over five years for staying in the service, it announced last month. The size of the bonus depends on the aircraft and length of reenlistment.

The Marine Corps in December announced it was offering bonuses of between $45,000 and $280,000 to reserve pilots who are willing to return to the cockpit.

The Air Force faced a shortage of about 2,000 pilots – 800 active duty and around 1,120 reserve pilots – at the end of 2018. The Rand Corp. has estimated that the active duty pilot deficit will double to around 1,600 by 2023.
...

Full article here.

Makes me think that captloadie is bang on: this is the new steady state career profile and we need to adjust our pilot production pipeline accordingly. (As an aside, note the aviation WO statistic that 40% of the WOs had more than 17 years service. That leads to the conclusion that retention is less of a problem with either aviation or with WOs then jet and transport jockeys)

:cheers:
 

SupersonicMax

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You cannot focus on production to fix your staffing shortages.  This reduces the overall level of experience and, thus, the overall capability. To build experience you need to fly quality hours. And that takes years.  A fresh pilot out of the OTU is not equal to a pilot with 2-3,000 hours of experience with many qualifications. At the rates we are seeing attrition, even producing more pilots will lead to a decrease of experience that will lead to capabilities that we will have to give up (and they can't come back without a significant time and money investment). 

We need to focus on retention to focus on the quality of the force (this is, I would argue, a much bigger problem than the number of pilots itself).
 

daftandbarmy

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SupersonicMax said:
You cannot focus on production to fix your staffing shortages.  This reduces the overall level of experience and, thus, the overall capability. To build experience you need to fly quality hours. And that takes years.  A fresh pilot out of the OTU is not equal to a pilot with 2-3,000 hours of experience with many qualifications. At the rates we are seeing attrition, even producing more pilots will lead to a decrease of experience that will lead to capabilities that we will have to give up (and they can't come back without a significant time and money investment). 

We need to focus on retention to focus on the quality of the force (this is, I would argue, a much bigger problem than the number of pilots itself).

The Army is in a similar fix: retention is apparently much, much 'harder' than simply recruiting more 'cannon fodder'.
 

dimsum

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FJAG said:
This leads to the conclusion that retention is less of a problem with either aviation or with WOs then jet and transport jockeys)

My guess is that helicopter companies don't hire nearly as many as the airlines. 

Also, the licenses are different, so a rotary-wing pilot would need to get the appropriate licenses.  While the fixed-wing folks do need to get a CPL and ATPL on their own dime, they have a leg up in that it's still based on fixed-wing stuff. 

I don't really keep in touch with that stuff anymore so I may be wrong though.
 

Mick

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Transport Canada does give credit to RCAF pilots who have qualified to wings standard, and the conversion is very straightforward.

Converting an RCAF RW ticket to CPL (helicopter) is just as straightforward as the fixed wing side, plus any military fixed wing experience gained prior to Ph3 training will count towards a fixed wing TC license as well.

But it is true that there are fewer civilian RW jobs out there, and a lot of them (most of them?) don't operate out of major airports in (or near) major cities.
 

dapaterson

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My understanding is that the entry level jobs outside the military in RW generally demand more hours and some specific experience.
 

Mick

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Just did quick search of helicopter companies.  Looks like anywhere from 600 to 1500 hours required.  I'm not sure what the average RW pilot would have in the logbook once they're in a position to make a career change,  but I don't think 1500+ is an unreasonable guess.

A lot of northern "bush" flying sure, which might not be appealing for pilots (and families) who are considering a civilian job.

On the fixed wing side, one could leave the RCAF with some good aircraft command time, but they'd still be looking at several years as FOs in the airlines.  Very long wait, especially at WestJet.
 

dapaterson

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I was looking over a 2010 report on the industry that flagged challenges in getting helicopter flight school grads enough hours for entry level positions.
 

SupersonicMax

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mick said:
Just did quick search of helicopter companies.  Looks like anywhere from 600 to 1500 hours required.  I'm not sure what the average RW pilot would have in the logbook once they're in a position to make a career change,  but I don't think 1500+ is an unreasonable guess.

A lot of northern "bush" flying sure, which might not be appealing for pilots (and families) who are considering a civilian job.

On the fixed wing side, one could leave the RCAF with some good aircraft command time, but they'd still be looking at several years as FOs in the airlines.  Very long wait, especially at WestJet.

Before the pandemic hit, someone could be an AC within 2-5 years after being hired at Air Canada.  COVID is temporary and the pilot shortage will keep growing once the pandemic is under control.
 

kev994

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Someone needs to train the new pilots, it continues for a long time after type qual and it takes a while to develop the instructing skill set. Not to mention to instruct the instructors. When we try to jam too many new pilots into a unit it becomes a cluster&@$$ and nothing gets accomplished. Way off topic.
 

Mick

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dapaterson said:
I was looking over a 2010 report on the industry that flagged challenges in getting helicopter flight school grads enough hours for entry level positions.

I'm sure that's accurate, so former military pilots may have an advantage, plus they are all IFR-rated.  But again, the jobs may not be desirable due to where they're based.
 

Mick

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SupersonicMax said:
Before the pandemic hit, someone could be an AC within 2-5 years after being hired at Air Canada.  COVID is temporary and the pilot shortage will keep growing once the pandemic is under control.

I see you edited that claim a bit.  Yes, the upgrade time was shorter at AC, mainly due to retirements and the acquisition of the 737 MAX (a lot of pilots with 737 experience were hired). 

I would be surprised if any former RCAF pilots went from hired to Capt in 2 years.

The wait at WJ is significantly longer.

The industry doesn't expect a recovery to anything approaching pre-covid reality until at least 2023.
 

SupersonicMax

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mick said:
I see you edited that claim a bit.  Yes, the upgrade time was shorter at AC, mainly due to retirements and the acquisition of the 737 MAX (a lot of pilots with 737 experience were hired). 

I would be surprised if any former RCAF pilots went from hired to Capt in 2 years.

The wait at WJ is significantly longer.

The industry doesn't expect a recovery to anything approaching pre-covid reality until at least 2023.

I added Air Canada to be clearer and added a time-window for upgrades, to remove the impression that everyone was upgraded within 2 years.

Wesjet is indeed longer as the AC cadre is younger than ACs.  The fleet expansion (767s) however did provide some movement.

My point with the recovery is that we cannot bank on COVID and say we fixed our retention issues.  Those issues, in possibly a short 2 years, we will be back to where they were on 1 March 2020.  We will start losing record numbers of pilots again. Plus, our pilots actually gained a lot of relevant experience during that time whereas others may not have, increasing RCAF pilots’ marketability.
 

Mick

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But, back to the point of this thread - it's been an interesting discussion, but I think SSM has the most realistic solution.  A mix of financial incentives, career tracks (command vs technical), perhaps revisiting the requirement to have a degree.  Easier to accomplish than creating a new rank structure.

Is Op Talent still looking at this?
 

kev994

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mick said:
But, back to the point of this thread - it's been an interesting discussion, but I think SSM has the most realistic solution.  A mix of financial incentives, career tracks (command vs technical), perhaps revisiting the requirement to have a degree.  Easier to accomplish than creating a new rank structure.

Is Op Talent still looking at this?
Word on the street is that it’s still trucking along, slowed slightly by children screaming in the background as people try to work from home. Rumours are pretty similar to what Max proposed.
 

Mick

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SupersonicMax said:
I added Air Canada to be clearer and added a time-window for upgrades, to remove the impression that everyone was upgraded within 2 years.

Wesjet is indeed longer as the AC cadre is younger than ACs.  The fleet expansion (767s) however did provide some movement.

My point with the recovery is that we cannot bank on COVID and say we fixed our retention issues.  Those issues, in possibly a short 2 years, we will be back to where they were on 1 March 2020.  We will start losing record numbers of pilots again. Plus, our pilots actually gained a lot of relevant experience during that time whereas others may not have, increasing RCAF pilots’ marketability.

Re post-covid recovery, no disagreement there.

My response was more to dispel the notion that a military pilot could walk into any airline and be a Captain within 2 short years.  But, you are correct  that the upgrade at AC could be quick.

Just out of curiosity, were any of your former colleagues able to upgrade that quickly?

WJ is 7-8 years to upgrade, regardless whether your last ride was a Hornet or a Q400.
 

Mick

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kev994 said:
Word on the street is that it’s still trucking along, slowed slightly by children screaming in the background as people try to work from home. Rumours are pretty similar to what Max proposed.

Interesting.  Thanks.
 
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