Air Force announces aviator bonuses

By Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs on December 17, 2015

Eligible active-duty aviators have until Sept. 30 to apply for the fiscal year 2016 Aviator Retention Pay or Critical Skills Retention Bonus programs, Air Force officials announced Dec. 15.

"The cost to train and develop our airmen is a significant investment for the Air Force," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh, III. "These incentives are cost-effective methods to retain a sufficient force of skilled and experienced aviators to meet our current and future requirements."

Air Force leadership, having advocated through the Office of the Secretary of Defense and to Congress for increased authority, announces that for the first time, the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act is authorizing remotely-piloted aircraft pilots to be paid using the same authorities as all other aviators. This new legislative authority cannot be implemented until cross-service guidance is drafted and approved. In the meantime, the Air Force will offer a Critical Skills Retention Bonus to those career RPA pilots (18X) whose undergraduate RPA pilot training service obligation is expiring.

Officers who have earned an aeronautical rating prior to attending Undergraduate RPA Pilot Training (URT) are eligible for an identical bonus offering under the fiscal 2016 Aviator Retention Pay program outlined below. The combination of bonuses now allows the Air Force to compensate all RPA pilots at the same level regardless of aeronautical rating.

"It is important to ensure RPA pilots receive a bonus that is equitable to other pilots," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "Therefore, we worked closely with OSD to implement the CSRB for them and with a commensurate amount this year. These airmen are making extremely important contributions to the fight; we need these professionals to stay with us and we're committed to retaining them in our force."

In fiscal 2016, RPA pilots who have accumulated six years of aviation service after completion of undergraduate RPA pilot training are eligible for a bonus of five annual installments of $25,000, with the option to receive 50 percent of the bonus total payable up front. Once the new authorities and cross-service guidance are available, RPA pilots will be eligible to transition to longer bonus periods matching those currently available to other aviators.

Depending on the aviator category and length of the ARP contract, incentives will vary from $15,000 to $25,000 per year with some categories eligible to receive 50 percent of the ARP total payable up front.

Similar to the fiscal 2015 program, airmen who will complete their Undergraduate Flying Training active-duty service commitment (ADSC) anytime in fiscal 2016 may submit an application to the Air Force Personnel Center to lock in a contract under the fiscal 2016 ARP program terms and conditions.

Airmen applying for these bonus programs should typically expect to see payments within three weeks after final approval of their application and processing by DFAS. Complete eligibility requirements and application instructions are available on the myPers website.