Sentence of the Day

By the fall of 2009, toward the end of Barack Obama’s first year as president, the Air Force was training more drone-joystick pilots than airplane-cockpit pilots.

From Fred Kaplan’s The World as Free-Fire Zone.


How many airline-cockpit pilots was the Air Force training by the Fall of 2009 relative to any other country with an Air Force?

Also, there was already a mature force of trained cockpit pilots, while drone piloting was a rapidly-emerging specialty. So it's not as if this shows that drones are more important or more numerous than conventional aircraft now.

Free-fire? Is that an AF specific term? "Weapons free" is the correct term everywhere I've been.

A free-fire zone in U.S. military parlance is a fire control measure, used for coordination between adjacent combat units. The definition used in the Vietnam war by US troops may be found in field manual FM 6-20:

A specific designated area into which any weapon system may fire without additional coordination with the establishing headquarters.

I've spent 12 years in military aviation, and never once heard free-fire. Weapons-free or weapons-close were always used. Free-fire might be a AF term. Wiki is great, but I've got the t-shirt.

I think that means you're too young. I've certainly heard my Vietnam vet uncles use the term.

I imagine you'd have to take into account how much cheaper it is to acquire and train folks able to run a joystick than folks about to fly a jet plane.

This. IIRC, the number thrown around in the early-to-mid 90s (when I still had a shot at a pilot slot), was that the USAF spent $1 million/pilot. I've always assumed that was a differential, coming on top of whatever else they spent to convert someone into an officer.

Exactly. I would venture to guess that the airforce also trained more mechanics, cooks, and medics than fighter pilots, but I doubt the airforce is reinventing itself as a Jiffy Lube, restaurant, or hospital.

What if I did obama destination.

If this is at the end of Obama's first year in office I doubt that anything he did influenced this.

It almost certainty stems from budgets of the prior president.

Reading the article is good.

"Obama...accelerated this trend, launching 52 drone strikes on Pakistani territory just in his first year. In 2010 he more than doubled the number of these strikes, to 122. Then, the next year, the number fell off, to 73. In 2012 it declined further, to 48—which still equaled the total number of strikes in all eight years of Bush’s presidency."

Yes, this program was started under Bush. But Obama, as commander in chief of the armed forces, is responsible for the choices to continue and expand the use of drones.

You folks are only talking about ground attack and I'm refractory.

Who will be training all the airline pilots? Or will the airliners be remotely piloted? UAV will certainly be an inappropriate term for those.

It's RPV - Remotely Piloted Vehicle.

But in reality, Planes can already fly themselves in include takeoff and landing. Autopilot routines have evolved into very sophisticated autonomous systems. Even RPV's can fly on their own and RTB (Return to Base) if they lose contact with the human pilot. Training to be a RPV pilot will therefore probably be adequate training to be a commercial pilot.

Oh for the love of Hap Arnold...

Airlines will train airline pilots, same as they always have.

Only those in touch with their inner economists will hesitate to get on a remotely piloted passenger plane. ("Hmmm, there's something about the incentives here that makes me a bit...uneasy.")

Secret drone missions ... secret kill lists ... secret courts ... Whatever happened to the rule of law?

Has the number of airplane-cockpit pilots being trained declined relative to prior years and to the number of operational aircraft? Are we witnessing additional work, or replacement of work?

Old joke about where commercial planes are going. There will soon be only a pilot and a dog in the cockpit. The pilot is there to feed the dog and take him outside between flights. The dog is there to bite the pilot if he tries to touch the controls.

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