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Published: Sunday, December 27, 2016 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2016 @ 12:00 AM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Two high-level civilian senior executives and a senior scientist at Wright-Patterson were recognized by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Rank Award this year, the Air Force said.
The selectees were chosen for a “focus on leadership and results,” the Air Force said.
The honorees were:
Michael A. Gill, executive director of the Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, who was chosen as a distinguished executive.
Ricky L. Peters, who retired as executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory this year, was selected as a meritorious executive.
Steven K. Rogers, an AFRL Sensors Directorate scientist, was selected as meritorious senior professional. He pioneered work in machine intelligence and data to defeat terrorist networks and cyber attacks, the Air Force said. Rogers is a senior scientist for automatic target recognition and sensor fusion.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 5:02 PM
The Air Force Thunderbirds return to training over the Nevada desert Wednesday, but have not announced a date the demonstration team will return to the air show circuit, the team’s leader said.
The team had suspended flights and canceled public performances since a tragic April 4 crash killed Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno during practice over the Nevada Test and Training Range.
“While our hearts are still heavy with the loss of our wingman Cajun, we know he’d want us back in the air and preparing to recruit, retain and inspire once more,” Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, team leader, said in a statement Wednesday.
“These flights will focus on maintaining our team’s proficiency with the demanding manuevers of our air demonstration,” Walsh added. “They will also strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks for the squadron.”
At the same time, the team will support a “robust investigation process” to ensure “the highest level of safety in our operations,” Walsh said.
He cautioned more cancellations of upcoming air shows are possible.
So far, the team canceled shows at March Air Reserve Base in California, in Lakeland, Fla., and upcoming “Wings Over Columbus” air show April 21-22 at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.
A memorial service was recently held for the fallen aviator.
he crash was the most serious since a Thunderbird jet flipped over and ran off a runway at Dayton International Airport last June during a familiarization flight, trapping two crewmen until they were rescued by first responders.
An Air Force investigation determined excessive speed and landing too far down on a wet runway contributed to the incident.
The mishap injured then team narrator and F-16 pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves, who was hospitalized for leg injuries, and destroyed the $29.2 million fighter jet on June 23, according to the Air Force. A second crewman who was a backseat passenger in the F-16D jet was uninjured, the Air Force said.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — A major gateway will close at Wright-Patterson on Friday for maintenance, impacting the travel of thousands of commuters.
Gate 19B off National Road will be closed from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer.
More than 5,700 inbound drivers travel through the entrance and nearly 6,300 drive off base through the gate every work day.
Crews will work on “routine maintenance” at the gateway, Mayer said.
“Since that (gate) is open 24/7 normally, they never have a chance to work on it,” he said.
Motorists may use Gates 1B off Springfield Street and Gate 22B off Interstate 675 as alternatives, according to Wright-Patterson.
Gate 19B had a major makeover last year with $1.3 million in upgrades that added overhead canopies, more guard booths and a barrier system, Wright-Patterson has said.
The base closed Gate 26A off Ohio 235 because of security concerns this month. The gate, which had more than 5,000 vehicles a day, remains closed.
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:14 PM
FAIRBORN — A party in Dayton had an international flavor Tuesday.
People from 17 countries and more than 120 volunteers came together to celebrate the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group’s International Fair at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn.
The cultures spanned Japan to the Spain, and Bali to the Philippines, among other places around the globe.
“We do it as thank you to the community for helping us to adjust to the local area and it’s a friendship gathering,” said Inma Kusnierek, of Springfield, co-chairwoman of the group and who is originally from Spain. “It’s just grown and grown and grown.”
Most of the attendees have ties to the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which processes foreign military sales at Wright-Patterson.
The funds raised from the event pay the tuition of one of the spouses or high school graduates to attend college, she said.
FIVE MILITARY READS
Published: Friday, April 13, 2018 @ 11:13 AM
Updated: Friday, April 13, 2018 @ 11:43 AM
Three military services face a shortage of one in four fighter pilots, and a gap in aviators could persist in the Air Force at least through 2023, the Government Accountability Office says.
The Air Force had the widest shortage among fighter pilots at 27 percent in fiscal year 2017. The service branch had fewer pilots than authorized in 11 of the past 12 years and the gap has grown substantially larger since the Air Force recorded a 5 percent shortfall in 2006, GAO said.
Now, the Air Force is about 2,000 pilots short – out of a total force of about 23,000 — and most of the shortage is in the fighter pilot ranks, leaders have said.
The loss in military ranks takes a high toll in both experience and dollars. The Air Force estimates it costs between $3 million to $11 million over five years to train a pilot, depending on the aircraft type.
John “Jazz” Jannazo, a former Air Force fighter pilot and now a defense industry consultant in Fairborn, said the GAO report that interviewed squadron leaders and members, was “spot on.”
It takes five years to be a fully qualified fighter pilot, he said.
“It takes time, and investment in our training bases – basic training, advance training, basic fighter training, advanced fighter training – all before you hit your operational squadron, and start to address the shortage,” he said in an email.
Fewer pilots in the cockpit is a trend in the other services that fly fixed-wing jets. The GAO report found the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps had gaps between the number of fighter pilots and what was authorized in fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
Marine fighter pilot vacancies grew to 24 percent last year compared to 6 percent below authorizations in 2013, GAO said.
For a pilot’s first flying tour, the Navy reported the gap grew to 26 percent last year compared to 12 percent in 2013. The shortfall could continue at least another year, GAO said.
Despite the challenges, the military services told GAO they were able to fully staff deploying squadrons, but that has meant in extending some deployments or pulling pilots out of non-deploying squadrons.
Getting back to full manning levels will take “the political will” of Congress and the president “to fund the training venues and the pipelines needed to ramp up to a level where we can close the gap, and then maintain the funding levels to ensure the gap does not come back the next time we get a ‘peace dividend,’” Jannazo said.
The report cited increased workloads for pilots in squadrons, fewer aircraft to fly, less training hours and more time in maintenance for aging aircraft among causes leading aviators to leave. The Air Force also drew more than 200 aviators between fiscal years 2011 and 2012 from fighter pilot ranks to fly unmanned drones, the report said.
Pilots have cited high deployment tempos and an airline hiring binge as other factors.
“Anybody who has flown on an airline recently can see that the civilian air traffic system is operating at close to capacity, so there is a lot of demand for pilots,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. “The airlines have traditionally recruited many of their pilots from the military, and today’s high demand has bid up prices to attractive levels.”
The Air Force has increased bonuses to aviators who stay, rising from $125,000 in 2012, to $225,000 the following year to up to $455,000 most recently.
More money hasn’t stopped the exodus. The take-rate has declined from 63 percent in fiscal year 2013 to 35 percent in fiscal year 2017, the GAO said.
“Once again money is the short-term answer to the retention—pay bonuses,” said Kenneth E. Curell, a Centerville resident and former Air Force and Air National Guard fighter pilot. “Not surprisingly bonus taker percentages decline in times of economic upturns and airline hiring and increase when the opposite is the case.”
While the military has put incentives into place to keep experienced pilots, there are “major drawbacks to military life,” Thompson said. “Pilots may not see their families for months at a time, and they may have to risk their lives while accomplishing missions. That kind of work can look less appealing as pilots age.”
More broadly, Curell said in an email, there is a disconnect between the those who have served in uniform and those who haven’t.
Less than 1 percent of the population who serve traditionally reflect “a significant percentage of offspring of military members who joined the military like their parents,” he wrote. “That number is declining and coupled with the continuing disconnect between military members and our nation’s civilian leadership and population, the military is at risk of being able to fill its authorizations.
“We have a Congress with little-to-no military experience, a President with none and congressional staffers with even less,” he added in an email. “Yet those are the very individuals determining the strategic pathway for the military and their views are not aligned with the realities of what our military is enduring.”