The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 25, 2013

Air Force aims to land more top guns amid pilot shortage

(Continued)

It requires commercial co-pilots to have 1,500 hours of flying experience, the same as captains. Currently, first officers are required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires just 250 hours of flight time.

Dennis Prokopowicz, an assistant system chief pilot with Jet Blue Airways, said it will be difficult for civilian pilots to achieve that many hours, but much easier for military pilots.

“Getting that kind of experience for a civilian pilot is hard to come by,” he said. “Renting a Cessna can cost around $100 per hour. You don’t have to pay for that in the Air Force.”

Prokopowicz spent 20 years flying fighter jets and attack planes in the Air Force across the globe, including Germany, Italy and South Korea, before he decided to leave.

But many decide to leave well before 20 years. The Air Force said part of the problem is finding and training new pilots. The shortage of veteran pilots has resulted in a lack of trainers.

Another logistics problem has emerged with the proliferation of drones, and the need for drone pilots. Drones went from being a handful of aircraft on Sept. 11 to the “fastest growing part of the force,” said Peter W. Singer, author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare.

The surge in drones was driven by demands for more armed systems in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to the Air Force scrambling to find pilots for them in the mid-2000s, he said.

As a result, pilots were plucked from fighter jet assignments and placed in control of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. In all, 153 fighter pilots were permanently reassigned to drones.

Recognizing the mounting shortage, the Air Force has stopped the practice of using fighter pilots for drones, called RPAs, or remotely piloted aircraft.

“We have in the past used fighter pilots in RPA assignments but have largely shifted away from that process and are now training pilots specific to the RPA mission,” said Konopatzke, the Air Force lieutenant colonel. “This goes back to the fact that we recognize the shortage in fighter pilots.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Congress racing to finish Congress races to finish veterans, highway bills

    July 31, 2014

  • Target New CEO [Duplicate] Target names Pepsi's Cornell as chairman, CEO MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Target has hired Pepsi executive Brian Cornell as its new chairman and CEO as it looks to recover from a huge data breach and troubles in Canada. Cornell replaces interim CEO John Mulligan, who is chief financial officer for the M

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brain wave monitoring is better gauge than using a focus group, study says To predict a large population’s likely response to something — a product, politician or policy — political consultants, marketing gurus and advertising execs have long favored the focus group. Ask a small segment of the target audience what it thinks

    July 31, 2014

  • Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail NEW YORK (AP) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation's staggering economy. A midnight Wednesd

    July 31, 2014

  • Exchange Bee Researcher [Duplicate] Bee researcher takes aim at central Minnesota park WAITE PARK — Crystal Boyd strained four bees, three flies and one leafhopper from a yellow pan trap, the third of 12 in a transect topping a granite outcrop in Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area.She popped everything into a labeled, zip-top plas

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos

  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014

  • Homeowner killed, another injured in Vegas crime spree LAS VEGAS — A horrific carjacking and home invasion spree ended with two people dead and a woman in critical condition. One victim, Richard Ramos, a 59-year-old father of four, “fought to his death” to protect his wife and children from their attack

    July 30, 2014

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-9 [Duplicate] UPDATE: Suspect in Minnesota officer killing in custody WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say a man wanted in the shooting death of an officer is in custody after being shot by police. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos says 39-year-old Brian Fitch Sr. got out of a minivan firing at

    July 30, 2014 4 Photos

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-3 [Duplicate] Minnesota officer killed making traffic stop WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop and authorities said they were searching for a suspect. Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, 47, was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulli

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possible suspect caught in Minnesota cop shooting WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A potential suspect in the shooting of a police officer in Minnesota has been captured. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the officer was killed. Television news footage showed the man being pulled from his vehicle Wednes

    July 30, 2014