Thursday, June 17, 2010

USAF Initiates Drone Pilot Training Track

Finally recognizing that using fully trained aircraft pilots to sit in comfy chairs to remotely pilot drones was not the best decision, the USAF has settled on training 'unmanned aerial system' operators specifically to do that mission.

Taking fully qualified pilots to do this job was bad for multiple reasons, but the two biggest were cost (it costs over a million dollars to train an actual pilot), and morale problems (taking a real pilot and dropping him into a trailer to run a flying lawnmower through a video screen was a real hit to the ego, and a career ender).

Five test classes were put through training beginning in 2009, to establish and fine tune the curriculum. Graduates of the first class are now 'flying' operational missions. The second class just graduated, and will soon become operational.

The USAF has a stated need of 1100 drone pilots and operations officers by 2012. Establishing this as a seperate career path from pilot training is smart - saves money, and helps calm down the morale problems.

It will be interesting to me to see if the graduates of this new career path are awarded wings, and if they'll wear flight suits to work.

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