Skip to comments.Drone ‘Stigma’ Means ‘Less Skilled’ Pilots at Controls of Deadly Robots
Posted on 05/02/2014 7:37:36 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
The Air Force recently acknowledged that due to a stigma surrounding its drone program, many pilots at the controls of the deadly weapons are less skilled and officers overseeing them are less competent than their manned aircraft brethren, as alleged by the Government Accountability Office.
Lets be honest, when people dream about flying People in this generation didnt grow up and say, I want to fly an RPA [remotely piloted aircraft], Air Force spokesperson Jennifer Cassidy told ABC News last week. They were the ones that watched re-runs of Top Gun and said, I want to be a fighter pilot. So in fact the people that were lower ranking [in flight school], I guess you could say, are the folks that went to RPAs. It doesnt mean they were bad pilots, or bad officers, it just meant you got to have some at the top and some at the bottom. Thats how that worked.
Cassidys comments came in response to ABC News questions regarding a report from the Government Accountability Office, released earlier this month, that said the Air Force has faced challenges in recruiting RPA pilots since it began this career field.
The demand for drone pilots has exploded in recent years. While the Air Force had approximately 400 in 2008, the service now has more than 1,300, according to the GAO. The demand, however, is still higher and the Air Force has had trouble keeping up.
The GAO report says the Air Force has fallen well short in its recruiting goals for RPA pilots the last two years and nearly half of current pilots have been pulled from manned aircraft units or from manned aircraft training as temporary fill-ins. And the pilots that have been pulled over werent necessarily the best....
(Excerpt) Read more at abcnews.go.com ...
No mention that some people don’t want to be involved with what they see coming concerning these.
My gosh, a career field in which one can waste a truck load of jihadi technicals, then go home to supper? What could be better than that?
Norm Augustine said by 2050 the DOD will be down to one plane that the Air Force and Navy will share on alternate days and the avionics will comprise 100% of the plane’s weight, the rest will be software.
Pretty soon they will be able to link the drones and one pilot will be able to fly a squadron by himself.
And of course those that can’t cut it in the military drone program will become drone pilots for Amazon. Flying right over my head.
The Army does OK finding pilots.
The Air Force is doing their usual.
The Air Force doesn’t have the “high school to flight school” warrant officer thing because they haven’t had warrant officers for decades.
Active Duty ping.
You are confusing regular aviation with drones.
One doesn’t have to an officer or warrant officer in the Army, to fly drones.
The Air force is doing their usual, at first their fight was not only that it has to be full pilot flying a drone, but one also on current flight duty, meaning a twisted ankle or temporary loss of flight status, would put a drone pilot out of commission.
I didn’t know that the Army allowed enlisted to fly UAVs.
The odd thing is that flying a drone is EXACTLY like flying a drone simulator. There really is no reason any of the pilots to even have real flight experience. It has to make training easier to able to have the pilots completely proficient by the first time they fly a real one, and if they do screw anything up there is always the option to kick them out of the chair and have an expert take over.
I’m proud of the servicemen that fly these craft in defense of our freedom. It is true someday they may be used for oppression, and I hope no one participates in that. But they save millions of dollars and countless lives. Thankfully the aircraft is just a machine can be expendable.
“Currently, only the army allows enlisted troops to handle larger UAVs. Three years ago the head of the U.S. Air Force publicly rejected growing calls from air force commanders that NCOs be used as UAV operators. This is an old dispute that goes back over 70 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force struggles to train a few hundred UAV operators a year, while the U.S. Army has no trouble training over 2,000 a year. NCOs are eager for this kind of work and often are better at it than officers who are experienced pilots of manned aircraft. This is believed to be caused by the fact that operating a UAV is more like using a consumer-grade flight simulator game than flying an actual aircraft. The NCOs often have lots of experience with video games and get better the more they actually operate UAVs. Most of the army operators use the small (five pound) Raven UAV, which provides platoons, companies, and vehicle convoys with aerial reconnaissance. Interestingly, UAV operators each spend about 1,200 hours a year controlling UAVs in the air, versus 450 hours for army helicopter pilots and even less for air force pilots in the combat zone.”
“This is an old problem with many senior air force and navy commander insisting the UAVs be operated by officers, while commanders closer to the action believe NCOs could do the job and that would eliminate the shortages and morale problems with officers doing it. The old controversy over whether all pilots (most of whom are highly trained warriors, not leaders, which is what officers are supposed to be) must be officers is still unresolved.
This controversy began at the start of World War II, when the army air force (there was no separate air force yet) and navy both had enlisted pilots. These men were NCOs (”flying sergeants” or “flying chiefs” in the navy) selected for their flying potential and trained to be pilots. Not leaders of pilots but professional pilots of fighters, bombers, and whatnot. Officers trained as pilots would also fly but in addition they would provide the leadership for the sergeant pilots in the air and on the ground.
As the Army Air Corps changed into the mighty AAF (Army Air Force, 2.4 million troops and 80,000 aircraft at its peak), its capable and persuasive commander general Hap Arnold insisted that all pilots be officers. Actually, he wanted them all to be college graduates as well, until it was pointed out that the pool of college graduates was too small to provide the 200,000 pilots the AAF eventually trained. But Arnold forced the issue on officers being pilots and the navy had to go along to remain competitive in recruiting. When the air force split off from the army in 1947, the army went back to the original concept of “flying sergeants” by making most pilots “Warrant Officers” (a sort of super NCO rank for experienced troops who are expected to spend all their time on their specialty, not being diverted into command or staff duties).
Many air force pilots envy the army “flying Warrants” because the Warrant Officers just fly. That’s what most pilots want to do, fly a helicopter or aircraft, not a desk. But a commissioned officer must take many non-flying assignments in order to become a “well rounded officer.” Many air force pilots don’t want to be well rounded officers, they want to fly. So a lot of them quit the air force and go work for an airline. But often they stay in the air force reserve and fly warplanes on weekends and get paid for it. This is considered an excellent arrangement for the many pilots who take this route.
But now the air force has this growing force of UAVs, which are piloted from the ground. Increasingly, as the flight control software improves, the pilots do less piloting and more “controlling” (sending a few orders to the airborne UAV and letting the software take care of the details). Initially, the fighter and transport pilots ordered to perform UAV duty were not happy about it. In addition to losing flight pay, they were not flying. While guiding a Predator or Global Hawk from the ground could have its exiting moments, there was no hiding the fact that you were sitting on the ground staring at a computer screen most of time. Worse yet, you couldn’t “feel” the aircraft in flight. Pilots know well that this aspect of flying is one of the most enjoyable, exciting, and useful aspects of their job. Being a UAV jockey had none of the fun, challenge, or extra pay of real flying. The air force finally decided to give the UAV pilots flight pay and promise them they could go back to “real aircraft” after two or three years of UAV work.
A fifteen week training course is used to train air force pilots to operate UAVs. Since qualified pilots are taking this course the washout rate is only two percent. Some pilots are even volunteering to stay with the UAVs, even though the air force, for a long time, considered UAV controller work a “temporary assignment.”
Bottom line: We’re paying people quite a bit more money to do something an NCO or WO could do. And how does all this go with the Key West agreement?
The bottom line is the Air Force what the article writes about, Air Force incompetence rooted in greed and ego and how much we are willing to put up with it.
We need them to look to the future, not fight against it.
Bet those ground pilots cut their teeth on video games.
That is a good point, there is no question that an enlisted person who loves the whole idea, the environment, the entire package of being not just a computer gamer, but a military drone pilot while doing it, is capable, and there is no question that hot blooded pilots who hate the idea, the environment, the activity, and can’t stand the work can be trained to be capable.
So which one will stay in the Air Force and do it well, and which one will want to quit, and probably do less well, before he leaves?
Why hire people who think the work is embarrassing and beneath them, instead of those who find it rewarding and challenging?
this business of manned fighters is coming to an end. the operators in future will be AA degreed techs in early career whatever that means in military terms. they just have to master the GUI and obey orders (get clearance before wasting a target).
Halo...has already created the most talented group of remote aviators the world will ever see........right here....U.S.
In the AF there are certain career dead enders. If you want to rise to senior command you must be a pilot, period. With SAC gone and Global Strike Command still not fully established then you must be either a cargo or fighter pilot. It is best to be a fighter pilot. No drone pilot will see this as an opportunity to rise to senior command. Solution, turn drones over to senior NCO’s. Professional, competent, responsible. Being a Master Sergeant drone pilot will not diminish their chances of promotion to Senior or Chief Master Sergeant.
My suggestion to the 4-Stars was to use Major and Lt. Col pilots coming off of staff jobs to fill the UAV (drone) pilot positions. Their are very few manned aircraft leadership positions that they, as a group, can be assigned to. If they don’t get one of these leadership positions, I can tell you that they would be very happy (or at lease medium happy) to still “fly” something and especially happy to put the crosshairs on a terrorist and schedule him for elimination.
Unfortunately, they went with something they know, a normal career track starting from Lieutenant and trying to have a typical pilot career track. But they quickly busted that concept with the promise of follow on manned aircraft assignments as a carrot. No Lieutenant pilot, fresh out of flight school, wants to sit on the ground while the UAV has all the fun.
Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping!
To get onto The Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping List you must threaten to report me to the Mods if I don't add you to the list...
I think it’s wonderful that we have technology that allows us to defeat an enemy while putting fewer souls at risk. I hope we stay well ahead of our enemies.
However, it’s hard to imagine that flying a craft remotely will be taken as seriously as flying a craft with the pilot on board. There’s quite an incentive to return and land an aircraft when you’re in it.
Thing become a tad “abstract” if you know you are in a simulator. Especially if the “pilot” is brought up on video games.
Let’s hope we take the real destruction seriously.
O using them so much just helps diminish our military forces and their training.
Used to be that only the best were allowed to fly a RAV because they were usually one of a kind and proof of concept.....that was long ago and far away
So, the Air Force personnel are second best. Can you imagine the fat deputy sheriffs that are flying them?