Air Force pilot shortage growing, top leaders say

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:07 PM


            Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee June 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. AIR FORCE PHOTO
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee June 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. AIR FORCE PHOTO

The Air Force pilot shortage has grown to nearly 2,000 despite pumped-up financial bonuses to retain more military aviators in the cockpit, top Air Force leaders say.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson blames one key reason for the growing losses: “We’re burning out our people because we’re too small for what the nation is asking.”

RELATED: House defense leader at Wright Patt, says AF pilot shortage growing

Wilson said sequestration, or defense spending reductions under the Budget Control Act of 2011, had eroded readiness and contributed to the woes of retaining experienced aviators.

“Sequester is still the law of the land,” Wilson said. “If we go through another sequester again, a 2,000 pilot (shortage) will be a dream. People will walk.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the Air Force planned to ramp up flight school production to 1,400 pilots earning their wings every year, up from about 1,200 annually today.

“What keeps me up is if we can’t move past sequestration in its current form, we’re going to break this force,” Goldfein told reporters.

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The 1,926 pilot shortage represents almost one out of 10 pilots of the 20,000 who serve in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, officials said.

The White House also recently expanded Air Force authority to call back the retired pilots, but in tightly limited numbers that will not come close to closing the gap.

House Armed Services Committee chairman and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, visited Wright-Patterson last month and announced the Air Force pilot shortage had reached about 1,900 aviators.

In March, the Air Force said it was short 1,555 pilots, and of those 1,211 were fighter pilots. In response, the service branch offered figther pilots up to $455,000 in bonuses over 13 years to remain in uniform, and extended financial incentives to other areas short of workforce needs.

Wilson said the Air Force’s additional priorities are modernizing the fleet, including nuclear-tipped missiles and bombers, launching a 12-month review of science and technology research programs, developing leaders, and strengthening U.S. military alliances around the globe.

But it was the budget and the ongoing concerns over sequestration that dominated the two leaders conversation.

“Our biggest need right now is for a higher and stable budget,” said Wilson, a former New Mexico Republican congresswoman.

RELATED: AF secretary in exclusive interview talks about BRAC, security threats

Wilson said during “State of the Air Force” address Thursday that was streamed live from the Pentagon the Air Force was investigating what led to the service branch’s failure to report the military criminal conviction of two domestic assault charges against the alleged gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, in a Texas church shooting massacre that killed 26 and injured 20 on Sunday.

Authorities said the former airmen died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a high-speed chase with two bystanders. One of them apparently shot Kelley at least once before the pursuit, reports said. Kelley had been stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and sentenced to a year in a Navy brig near San Diego.

The Air Force has confirmed it failed to report Kelley’s conviction to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, which would have prevented him from legally purchasing a firearm, the service branch said.

“We are looking at all of our databases and if we have problems we find, we’ll fix them,” Wilson said.

Dayton reaches $1.5M settlement over nuisance odors

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 2:48 PM

Dayton reaches $1.5M settlement over nuisance odors

The city of Dayton has agreed to accept a nearly $1.5 million settlement with an agricultural and industrial company over discharge issues that led to sewer blockages and foul odors.

Cargill’s corn milling plant in Dayton produces about 3 million to 4 million gallons of waste every day that is fed into the city’s sanitary sewer system, city officials said.

The city took enforcement action against the company because its discharge was causing blockages in the sanitary sewer as well as an unpleasant smell, said John Musto, Dayton’s chief trial counsel.

The blockage issues have been resolved, officials said, and the city and Cargill will work together to try to reduce smelly hydrogen sulfide levels in the waste water system associated with the company’s discharge.

“The settlement also provides a framework for the parties to work together to identify a cost-effective method for preventing odors in the city sewer serving the corn mill,” said Kelly Sheehan, spokeswoman for Cargill.

MORE: Dayton faces long-term budget issues, despite income tax hike

Since 2014, the city of Dayton issued Cargill a series of notices of violation and administrative orders for not following regulations related to pretreatment of wastewater discharge, officials said.

The company, which has a plant at 3201 Needmore Road, appealed about 41 of the notices.

But the city and Cargill have reached a settlement in which the city agrees to rescind the notices of violation and the company will drop its pending appeals.

Cargill was required to pay penalties to the city to appeal the notices, which were held until the appeals were decided, Sheehan said.

MORE: Why the NACCP wants Dayton voters to decide on traffic cameras

Under the settlement, the city will keep that money to help pay for odor control trials and sewer cleaning, Sheehan said.

“Cargill’s wet corn mill in Dayton, Ohio, takes great pride in operating in compliance with all environmental laws and Cargill’s own strict environmental standards,” she said.

Cargill also agreed to stop using lime in the pretreatment process last year, and there have been no blockages in the system since that time, said Musto.

Cargill and the city expect to discuss setting parameters on the company’s wastewater discharge to reduce sulfates in the system, which causes hydrogen sulfide, leading to stinky odors, Musto said.

The city wanted a resolution that addresses toxic odors in the wastewater system but that is also cost-effective for Cargill, who is an important employer and community partner, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

“This takes care of issues from the past,” she said.

Suspect in Pennsylvania police officer's shooting death in custody; mother also arrested

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 5:46 AM
Updated: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 7:49 AM

Rahmael Sal Holt
New Kensington police
Rahmael Sal Holt(New Kensington police)

Rahmael Sal Holt, the suspect in the shooting death of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Officer Brian Shaw, is in custody after a days-long manhunt.

>> Watch the news report here

Police had been searching for Holt since Friday night’s shooting. He was arrested Monday morning at a home on Ladora Way in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood after law enforcement agencies received a tip that he was there.

In addition to Holt, eight other people were arrested – including his mother.

>> Visit WPXI.com for complete coverage

Shaw, 25, was killed after he pulled over a Jeep on Friday in a traffic stop on Leishman Avenue. According to court documents, the Jeep never stopped and Holt, who allegedly killed Shaw, fled and Shaw pursued him on foot. 

>> Suspect named in Pennsylvania police officer's shooting death

Tavon Harper, who police say was driving the Jeep, took off, police said. Holt then fired multiple shots, killing Shaw, according to court documents.

Shaw was transported to Allegheny Valley Hospital, where he later died. 

>> Read more trending news 

WPXI confirmed with multiple sources that Shaw was ambushed that night and at least one of the bullets went through a soft spot in his body armor.

Trenton youth on bicycle struck by car

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 6:31 PM

Trenton police are investigating after a youth on a bicycle was struck by a car early Saturday evening.

A police dispatcher said the accident happened about 5:45 p.m. at East State Street and Sal Boulevard.

MORE: Weather watches, advisories in effect

The dispatcher said the youth was taken to an area hospital but that no further information was available.

Jail captain charged with assault for pepper-spraying inmate

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 6:22 PM

Brookville woman pepper sprayed in seven-point harness at Montgomery County Jail

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office captain whose pepper-spraying of a restrained inmate — and disappearance of records of the incident — spurred a federal probe and civil lawsuit pleaded not guilty today to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Capt. Judith Sealey was charged in Dayton Municipal Court on Nov. 8 for pepper spraying Amber Swink while Swink was strapped into a restraint chair in the county jail in November 2015.

“We entered a not guilty plea on her behalf,” said her attorney, Anthony VanNoy. “I believe it’s the wrong charge. I believe they should not have charged her criminally.”

“I recognize what the video depicts, but it doesn’t tell the entire story of what went on.”

After Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. announced in May that a grand jury found there was insufficient evidence to bring felony assault charges, the case was referred to Dayton city prosecutors to consider misdemeanor charges.

RELATED: Dayton asks Cincinnati to review jail pepper spray case

Dayton Chief Prosecutor Stephanie Cook handed the decision on whether to press charges to Cincinnati city prosecutors. Dayton officials said they wanted to avoid any appearance of conflict because Cook sits on a jail advisory committee created in response to lawsuits from Swink and others.

SPECIAL REPORT: Justice in the Jailhouse — Lawsuits, accusations plague county jails in the region

Swink settled her lawsuit against Montgomery County in August, with the county paying $375,000.

Federal agents have not announced any findings in the case, which includes concerns over how and why video and other records of Sealey pepper-spraying Swink disappeared from county records and only surfaced through Swink’s lawsuit.

RELATED: Missing paperwork raises questions about pepper spray probe

This news outlet reached out to Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer for comment. This story will be updated if comment is received.