As the fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that the U.S. Air Force grows from approximately 100 around 370, the number of non-flying pilots will create a group of pilot-officers second only to the F-16 drivers. Under a new program the Air Force is planning to qualify some 300 drone pilots over a four month period.
In order to qualify as a drone pilot each applicant will have to meet FAA standards to become a pilot without ever having sat in an actual aircraft themselves. In order to accomplish this goal the Air Force will recruit officers with a rank of Captain or higher with 4 to 6 years of experience for these non-flying positions.
At the present time the Air Force rotates flying pilots through the program but has had challenges attracting non-flying pilots to these positions and has been creating a new career path and training facilities to acquire the necessary pilots. Enlisted personnel will not be allowed to fly the larger Predator and Reaper drones, but may be trained to operate smaller 'micro' air surveillance aircraft like Desert Hawk and Scan Eagle.
Just think, you go to work in the morning at an Air Force base in the United States, fight the war in Afghanistan all day and then go home to dinner in your Nevada home at night! I wonder how long before the air cargo industry evolves into using drone aircraft to move cargo at night? No vertigo, no hijackings and if the aircraft crashes (and hopefully does not hit a house) no injuries or death! Add to that the reduced costs and pretty soon FedEx and UPS may be looking at some pretty significant cost savings!
My how the world is changing!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
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