Sound Off: Should the Air Force Allow Enlisted Pilots?

A U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon takes off during training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., on Nov. 29, 2017. Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese/Air Force | By Oriana Pawlyk

The Air Force soon will begin studying whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, will explore how pilots can learn and train faster "by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training," but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

And the study will gather perspectives from enlisted airmen.

"In order to be successful, AETC officials are seeking students from different learning backgrounds. The enlisted airmen eligible for the program will be selected from a pool of basic training airmen who have recently completed basic training," according to a service release last month.

"In this selection model, we can pool the data to determine what qualities, habits of mind and patterns of thought equal success in the flying training environment," said Lt. Col. Robert Vicars, pilot training next initiative director.

"We are then able to filter that data to develop simulators, apps and testing tools to pull in the very best talent," he said.

While the service is not considering expanding enlisted pilot opportunities into manned aircraft at this time, it could be a possibility in the near future.

"If we do this right, and the students learn all the functional competency sets, as well as key and critical learning objectives and skills, then we would expect to be able to pin wings on them," Vicars said.

If the Air Force's latest "pilot training next" study leads to enlisted pilots, would it help relieve the service's growing pilot shortage, which now stands at nearly 2,000 pilots? Would using enlisted airmen in the pilot ranks be more feasible or preferred than bringing back the warrant officer program? What could enlisted airmen bring to the table? Sound off!

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.