Author Topic: RCAF aircrew shortage  (Read 17723 times)

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Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #100 on: October 11, 2018, 12:51:13 »
Summary of piece at Macdonald-Laurier Institute:

Quote
The pilot retention crisis facing Canada’s air force: New MLI commentary

The Canada-US relationship has been front and centre in public view over the past year, with trade disputes and contentious renegotiations around NAFTA, which was successfully concluded in the renamed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. So far, the bilateral security relationship has largely escaped scrutiny.

Yet, as outlined in a new MLI commentary by Senior Fellow Richard Shimooka, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) faces serious challenges when it comes to personnel management, procurement, and capabilities that may threaten the relationship in the future.

The most immediate problem is the retention of experienced pilots and support staff. As Shimooka notes, “over 63 percent of operational squadrons are understrength, with the RCAF pilot capability about 16 percent below strength and the fighter force at least 20 percent short.”

Compounding this retention problem is the botched procurement process for a CF-18 replacement. According to Shimooka, “The new Liberal government’s decision to restart the entire process exacerbated the already precarious retention situation, tipping the balance against pilots staying.”

The full report, titled NORAD, Continental Defence, and the Polit Retention Crisis Facing Canada's Air Force, is available here [ https://macdonaldlaurier.ca/files/pdf/201801002_Commentary_Shimooka_NORAD_RCAFwebreadyFinal.pdf ].

Of particular concern was the Liberal’s government’s decision to pursue an interim fleet of Super Hornets. This was heavily criticized, not least in a 2017 MLI paper that detailed an expert consensus against the proposal. And, shortly afterwards, the government reversed course and opted instead to procure a number of retiring Australian F/A-18As.

“[T]he acquisition of used RAAF aircraft will not address pilots’ concerns surrounding the aging fighter fleet and functional obsolescence,” warns Shimooka. “The new Liberal government’s decision to restart the entire process exacerbated the already precarious retention situation, tipping the balance against pilots staying.”

Given the problems of aging airframes and pilot retention, the RCAF faces diminishing interoperability and operational relevance to the US Air Force for both domestic and expeditionary operations. As Shimooka concludes “US force planners must now weigh the value of the CF-18 when considering future operations.”
https://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/pilot-retention-crisis-facing-canadas-air-force-new-mli-commentary/

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Offline GarryB

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #101 on: October 25, 2018, 21:21:45 »
1) Many potential pilot recruits would not want to risk the chance of being assigned rotary wing vice fixed wing.

I've been told that approx. 62% of the RCAF cockpits are rotary and, given the huge advancements in drone technology, many jobs in the civilian rotary world have become obsolete. Thus little future on the outside for rotary experience compared to the immense shortages facing the fixed wing and airline industries.

2) Requiring 3 years of additional service after an OTU is a huge deterrent for prospective recruits which could extend their obligatory service once in the RCAF

The realities are that the easiest and fastest, least risk way into the airlines (and aviation industry as a pilot) means not joining the military.

Loved the airforce training and career I had but given the scenarios today not sure I would have joined.  Sad but true...

Offline Ditch

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #102 on: October 25, 2018, 23:04:05 »
ATPL-H holders are rare and sought after in civilian market, much better starting wages for helo drivers.

Pilots owe 7 years after Wings, the 3 year restricted release policy won’t impact the NWG on their first OTU.

Who’s grass is greener?   I live a much better home life in the AF vice if I was turning pairings at Big Red or the Teal machine.  I’m home every night, work short days, don’t fly in stupid weather, never feel pressured to fly.

We don’t have a shortage of people wanting to fly and serve their nation - we just have a throughput issue.
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Offline bradley247

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #103 on: October 26, 2018, 06:43:20 »
Pilots owe 7 years after Wings, the 3 year restricted release policy won’t impact the NWG on their first OTU.

It affects their second tour though, and greatly affects their decision to stay. With training delays and tour lengths these days, the majority of pilots on orphan fleets will be forced to sign a 3 year RR that goes past their 7 if they want another flying tour, which in turn forces them to sign an additional 4 year TOS for the “privilege” of being allowed to keep doing their job (as your TOS must cover the entirety of the RR period).

 I know multiple experienced pilots who, forced to choose between a ground tour or losing their move, have refused to sign a new RR and released because of that policy.

Who’s grass is greener?   I live a much better home life in the AF vice if I was turning pairings at Big Red or the Teal machine.  I’m home every night, work short days, don’t fly in stupid weather, never feel pressured to fly.

We don’t have a shortage of people wanting to fly and serve their nation - we just have a throughput issue.

Consider yourself lucky then, because not all fleets are like that. We are so short of people in my community that we are burning people out. People are running on five or less days off a month for months on end (which they will never get back), and they’re away from their families for months each year. The rare times they are home, they’re inundated with mandatory fun and other BS. 

As a result we are hemorrhaging pilots, and every single one I’ve spoken to that has left says the grass is much greener on the other side; their quality of life is better, they have a schedule they know in advance and guaranteed days off each months.

Pumping new pilots into the RCAF isn’t going to solve the problem. We have an experience shortage as much as we have a pilot shortage. You can only decrease the experience level so much before planes start to crash and people start to die.

Offline Ditch

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #104 on: October 27, 2018, 02:23:05 »
I know multiple experienced pilots who, forced to choose between a ground tour or losing their move, have refused to sign a new RR and released because of that policy.
Why didn’t they just take the ground tour?  That’s why they exist, to give drivers some rest and M-F schedule.

Can’t whine about a tough flying schedule and then balk at the opportunity to take a break.

Quote
People are running on five or less days off a month for months on end (which they will never get back), and they’re away from their families for months each year. The rare times they are home, they’re inundated with mandatory fun and other BS. 
That’s a failure in Squadron leadership.  Weak backbone and the inability to say “no”.  MALA , FRMS, HPMA - all good four letter acronyms to combat everything you just listed.

I manage a team of operational crews on a 24/7, 365 mandate - I ensure they get their 8-10 SDOs per month and manage them accordingly if they need a break.

Someone is saying “yes” to the RFEs that your Squadron is flying, find out who that person is and have a frank discussion with them, vice an anonymous website.

Throw me a PM if you like and I will chat with your OpsO - I undoubtably know someone around his/her office and can strike up a conversation. 


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Offline bradley247

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #105 on: October 27, 2018, 09:32:19 »
Why didn’t they just take the ground tour?  That’s why they exist, to give drivers some rest and M-F schedule.

You missed the point. It’s not about getting a break, it’s about being penalized no matter what if they want to keep doing their jobs. It takes away their options and forces their hand.

If they do another flying tour, they don’t have the luxury of sliding over to another squadron flying the same aircraft. They are forced to sign a 3 year RR and a 4 year TOS. Depending when they get posted, that can make it 5-6 years before they could release with a move.

If they take the ground tour, they are now going to go uncurrent, and be forced to sign a 2 year RR, and once again a 4 year TOS if they ever want to fly again.

Don’t forget as well that those RR periods aren’t reciprocal, they have no obligation to keep you flying for those three years. I’ve seen more than one person posted to a ground tour or shipped off to Moose Jaw a year or two into their 3 years.

People who want to keep their options open face the choice between a 100% chance of losing their move (worth tens of thousands potentially) or just walking away, many are choosing the latter. I’m in the same boat in the coming year and strongly considering the latter as well; I actually want to stay and fly, but I feel like the penalty for staying is so high that it’s essentially a now or never decision, get out now or commit for life.

That’s a failure in Squadron leadership.  Weak backbone and the inability to say “no”.  MALA , FRMS, HPMA - all good four letter acronyms to combat everything you just listed.

It’s an institutional failure, not a squadron failure. We are desperately short on crews, and most of the BS we put up with is outside of the squadrons control.

MALA and FRMS do nothing to take long term fatigue into account. If I got enough sleep in the last week, I should be 100% ready to go, but nowhere does it account for not having enough SDOs in the past quarter.

Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #106 on: October 27, 2018, 11:36:59 »
I they take the ground tour they are now going to go uncurrent, and be forced to sign a 2 year RR, and once again a 4 year TOS if they ever want to fly again.

There are clever ways to get around that, such as keeping the guys on staff tour with a minimal currency such that they don’t require an OTU after they get back.  That’s what we do.

Offline garb811

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #107 on: October 27, 2018, 14:44:41 »
Sorry for wandering in on this one, but I recall there used to be a program to keep pilots current even when posted to a desk job, along the lines of continuation jumping for airborne folks not posted to a jump position.  Has that fallen by the wayside? Tracking that would be hard to do for those bound to a desk in Ottawa but if someone is posted to an active Wing, wouldn't it make sense to give them cockpit time even if they are posted to Wing Ops or whatever?

Offline kev994

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #108 on: October 27, 2018, 14:59:20 »
If someone is a current AC for a platform flown on the wing and has time to fly regularly, then sure. But right now we have more FOs than we know what to do with so we have no capacity to fly more FOs. And then there are quarterly sims that they need to go to Trenton for a week for... it’s not feasible for more than 1 or 2 augmentees.

Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #109 on: October 27, 2018, 16:50:48 »
Sorry for wandering in on this one, but I recall there used to be a program to keep pilots current even when posted to a desk job, along the lines of continuation jumping for airborne folks not posted to a jump position.  Has that fallen by the wayside? Tracking that would be hard to do for those bound to a desk in Ottawa but if someone is posted to an active Wing, wouldn't it make sense to give them cockpit time even if they are posted to Wing Ops or whatever?

There is no formal program.  It is normally an arrangement between the individual, his unit and the supporting Wing.  We send guys from Winnipeg/Ottawa back to the Wings to get at least one flight every 365 days (which is the absolute minimum in order not to do an OTU).

Offline GarryB

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #110 on: November 09, 2018, 17:30:39 »
"ATPL-H holders are rare and sought after in civilian market, much better starting wages for helo drivers."

Flying with a guy the other day who does IFR training in helos and said less than 10% of the guys are finding employment in the civilian world.

"Who’s grass is greener?   I live a much better home life in the AF vice if I was turning pairings at Big Red or the Teal machine.  I’m home every night, work short days, don’t fly in stupid weather, never feel pressured to fly."

Been on both sides.  In the civilian world I get to choose where I live, what lifestyle I want based on equipment and seniority, no secondary duties and a very good salary and pension.  Loved my time in the airforce but would say my quality of life (flying 9 days a month) has never been better.

Online Fred Herriot

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #111 on: February 07, 2019, 08:35:38 »
A quick question:  What is the reason for the fact that pilots have to be officers?  There have been times in the past when NCMs have been allowed to get their wings and fly.  And given the current pilot shortage, wouldn't this serve as a way to maintain and enhance current operational readiness?

After all, if someone from the technical trades is allowed to become a pilot, s/he would have the background about understand his/her aircraft's systems.  While I assume pilots are trained to understand same at 2 CFFTS/3 CFFTS, having the extra technical background experience would help a lot.
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Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #112 on: February 07, 2019, 09:03:12 »
Our techs know very well one type of systems.  Pilots need to have a good understanding of all systems.  And that’s one part of what a pilots needs to understand of dozens.  I don’t think a tech would make a better pilot than a non tech because of the training they get.  We don’t have a shortage of pilot applicants.  We have a shortage of experienced pilots.  That is sqarely due to how the organization treated us over the years and an aviation’s socio-economy.

Offline Good2Golf

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #113 on: February 07, 2019, 12:06:57 »
Organizational pre-conceived ideas about responsibility and aptitude keep the CAF/RCAF from considering non-Officer pilots these days.  The internal narrative has changed from the days when a Sgt could be a pilot and command a crew of 15, including a commissioned officer door gunner.  I’ve seen aircraft technicians become flight engineers and then commission (because those are the rules) to become a pilot....and a darned good one at that, but those are exceptions, and clearly had appropriate aptitude prior to considering applying to be a pilot (who “just happened to be” an NCM prior to pilot application).

As far as I know, there is no serious consideration to have NCMs pilot manned aircraft.

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Offline Dimsum

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #114 on: February 07, 2019, 15:43:22 »
commissioned officer door gunner

I would VOT tomorrow to do that.
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

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Offline Eye In The Sky

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #115 on: February 07, 2019, 18:00:27 »
I would VOT tomorrow to do that.

Or you could just go MH!   ;D

You'd even get free swimming lessons as a bonus!!!!!!! 
Everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes the reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions.

Offline Loachman

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #116 on: February 07, 2019, 19:25:36 »
A quick question:  What is the reason for the fact that pilots have to be officers?  There have been times in the past when NCMs have been allowed to get their wings and fly.  And given the current pilot shortage, wouldn't this serve as a way to maintain and enhance current operational readiness?

While I am generally in favour of NCO Pilots in Tac Hel, how would this solve a Pilot shortage? The training would have to be the same length, it would take the same length of time to achieve the same experience levels to become fully useful, and pay should be the same for the same qualifications and responsibilities. If paid less, these hypothetical guys would be even more likely to jump to the civ world, to which they would be equally attractive.

After all, if someone from the technical trades is allowed to become a pilot, s/he would have the background about understand his/her aircraft's systems.  While I assume pilots are trained to understand same at 2 CFFTS/3 CFFTS, having the extra technical background experience would help a lot.

Aside from what Max has already explained, we are not exactly flush with experienced techs either. It takes a few years to train them and get them to useful levels of experience as well, so yanking them out of their occupations and putting them through another lengthy training and experience-building process benefits neither community.

Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #117 on: February 10, 2019, 12:52:48 »
Somehow one has some doubts how successful...

Quote
Clock ticking as Air Force looks to stop hemorrhaging experienced pilots

A shortage of experienced pilots is forcing the Royal Canadian Air Force to walk a delicate line between keeping enough seasoned aviators available to train new recruits and lead missions in the air.

Air force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger described the balancing act during a recent interview with The Canadian Press in which he also revealed many pilots today are likely to have less experience than counterparts in similar positions 10 years ago.

Much of the problem can be traced back to veteran aviators leaving for commercial jobs, or other opportunities outside the military, forcing senior commanders into a juggling act over where to put those still in uniform.

The dip in experience as veteran aviators leave for commercial jobs or other opportunities has forced senior commanders to juggle where to put those still in uniform.

“In order to (support) your training system … you’ve got to pull experienced pilots into those positions, but you have to have experienced pilots on the squadrons to season the youth that are joining the units,” he said.

“So it’s a bit of a delicate balance. And when you’re in a situation where you don’t have as much experience, broadly speaking, you’ve got to balance that very carefully. Hence the idea of retaining as much talent as we can.”

Fixing the problems created by the shortage will become especially critical if the air force is to be ready for the arrival of replacements for the CF-18s.

Meinzinger said such transitions from one aircraft to another are particularly difficult — the RCAF needs to keep the same number of planes in the air to fly missions and have senior aviators train new pilots, while still sending seasoned pilots for training on the incoming fleet.

“Ideally you want to go into those transitions very, very healthy with 100 per cent manning and more experience than you could ever imagine,” Meinzinger said.

While he is confident the military can address its pilot shortage in the next few years, especially when it comes to those responsible for manning Canada’s fighter jets, the stakes to get it right are extremely high.

The federal auditor general reported in November that the military doesn’t have enough pilots and mechanics to fly and maintain the country’s CF-18 fighter jets. Air force officials revealed in September they were short 275 pilots and need more mechanics, sensor operators and other trained personnel across its different aircraft fleets.

There are concerns the deficit will get worse as a result of explosive growth predicted in the global commercial airline sector, which could pull many experienced military pilots out of uniform.

“That’s the expectation, that Canada will need an additional 7,000 to 8,000 pilots just to nourish the demands within the Canadian aerospace sector,” Meinzinger said. “And we don’t have the capacity as a nation to produce even half of that.”

Within the military, there also hasn’t been enough new pilots produced to replace the number who have left. The auditor general found that while 40 fighter pilots recently left the Forces, only 30 new ones were trained.

The military is working on a contract for a new training program that will let the air force increase the number of new pilots trained in a given year when necessary, as the current program allows only a fixed number to be produced.

Meanwhile, Meinzinger said the loss of more seasoned pilots means others are being asked to take on more responsibility earlier in their careers, though he denied any significant impact on training or missions. He said the military is managing the situation through the use of new technology, such as simulators, to ensure the air force can still do its job.

“There’s no doubt commanding officers today in RCAF squadrons, they have probably less flying hours than they did 10 years ago,” he said.

“What that (commanding officer) has today is probably an exposure to 21st-century technology and training. So I think that certainly offsets the reduction of flying hours.”

Meinzinger and other top military commanders are nonetheless seized with the importance of keeping veteran pilots in uniform to ensure those climbing into the cockpit for the first time have someone to look to for guidance — now and in the future.

New retention strategies are being rolled out that include better support for military families, increased certainty for pilots in terms of career progression and a concerted effort to keep them in the cockpit and away from desks and administrative work.

Other militaries, notably the U.S., that are struggling with a shortage of pilots have introduced financial bonuses and other measures to stay in uniform. Meinzinger couldn’t commit to such an initiative, but did say that “nothing is off the table [emphasis added].”

The situation may not represent an existential crisis, at least not yet, but officials know it is one that needs to be addressed if Canada’s air force is to continue operating at top levels for the foreseeable future.

“Experience is what allows us to (transfer knowledge) and grow for the future,” Meinzinger said. “And that’s why I talk about it as being kind of the centre of gravity. In the extreme, if you lose all your experience, you can’t regenerate yourself.”

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.
https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/02/10/clock-ticking-as-air-force-looks-to-stop-hemorrhaging-experienced-pilots/

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Offline Brihard

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #118 on: February 10, 2019, 14:08:36 »
Same dilemma some other trades are facing (MPs come to mind). We train people up with highly transferable skills that are in demand due to demographic pressures, and then we pay them significantly less than their civilian counterparts. Labour is a market, and supply and demand don’t care about our problems. Money talks, so throw enough money at the problem to keep them around. As much as we all love to rip on pilots, they put a ton of time, effort, and smarts into getting pretty good at something few people can do. Can’t blame them if they pay back what’s expected and then gravitate towards a much bigger paycheck.
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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #119 on: February 10, 2019, 15:05:07 »
Same dilemma some other trades are facing (MPs come to mind). We train people up with highly transferable skills that are in demand due to demographic pressures, and then we pay them significantly less than their civilian counterparts. Labour is a market, and supply and demand don’t care about our problems. Money talks, so throw enough money at the problem to keep them around. As much as we all love to rip on pilots, they put a ton of time, effort, and smarts into getting pretty good at something few people can do. Can’t blame them if they pay back what’s expected and then gravitate towards a much bigger paycheck.

Exactly.  Some people think this is the first time it's happened too.
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Offline Loachman

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #120 on: February 10, 2019, 15:42:56 »
The last Pilot Get Well Programme (1997/1998ish) did not do so well. Depending upon experience levels, some Pilots were eligible for a $75000.00 bonus for signing on for another five years, some for $50000.00, and some for none. One-third of the money was to be paid immediately, and one-third on the first and second anniversaries of re-signing.

This caused several problems and irritations.

COs had Captains making more money than them over three years.

It created first-, second-, and third-class Pilots; guess how the latter two components felt.

It put takers into higher tax brackets, so it was not as generous as it seemed (spreading it out over five years did not occur the the grown-ups).

It came with a five-year restricted release period. That meant that those in the "treat-me-nicely" pensionable/almost pensionable segment of their careers could be posted to whatever crappy job or location that needed filling with no recourse.

It was, essentially, a big, fat, wet, juicy, wriggling worm on an enormous sharp, barbed hook.

Only a few who had already decided to stay in for that long no matter what happened swallowed it. The rest did not want to jeopardize their freedom.

I was eligible for the full amount, but did not take the hook - and was damned glad that I did not.

Somebody needs to study the irritants, take them seriously, and relieve them as much as possible. More money would likely help, but it has to be a real pay increase rather than bait, but the irritants have to be corrected.

Rolling Aircrew Allowance into pay would be one possible method of achieving that, rather than double-penalizing people who want to fly by sticking them into non-flying positions while simultaneously stripping them of part of their income.

Offline Dolphin_Hunter

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #121 on: February 10, 2019, 16:39:11 »
Rolling Aircrew Allowance into pay would be one possible method of achieving that, rather than double-penalizing people who want to fly by sticking them into non-flying positions while simultaneously stripping them of part of their income.

This could work.  Submarine Crewing Allowance works this way.  Submariners get two allowances, however SUBCRA ceases 3 years after a submariner is posted ashore (or out of a submarine position).


Offline kev994

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #122 on: February 10, 2019, 17:24:52 »
Where is this ops trade we are allegedly getting? I would settle for someone to handle some paperwork so I can actually spend some time instructing.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #123 on: February 11, 2019, 00:40:58 »
Where is this ops trade we are allegedly getting? I would settle for someone to handle some paperwork so I can actually spend some time instructing.

You've hit the nail on the head. It seems it's not all about 'carrots and sticks'... which means we're pretty much sc$ewed because that's all we know how to do to motivate people....


Motivating Employees Is Not About Carrots or Sticks

Anticipate roadblocks to enable progress. When you ask anything significant of team members, they will undoubtedly encounter roadblocks and challenges along the path to success. Recognize that challenges can materially impact motivation. Be proactive in identifying and addressing them. What might make an employee’s work difficult or cumbersome? What can you do to ease the burden? What roadblocks might surface? How can you knock them down? How can you remain engaged just enough to see trouble coming and pave the way for success? Employees are motivated when they can make progress without unnecessary interruption and undue burdens.

The bottom line is: Don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate employees. Talk with your team about the relevance of the work they do every day. Be proactive in identifying and solving problems for your employees. Recognize employee contributions in specific, meaningful ways on a regular basis. Connect with your own motivation, and share it freely with your team. Put away the carrots and sticks and have meaningful conversations instead. You’ll be well on your way to leading a highly motivated team.

https://hbr.org/2017/06/motivating-employees-is-not-about-carrots-or-sticks
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Eye In The Sky

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Re: RCAF aircrew shortage
« Reply #124 on: February 12, 2019, 18:32:06 »
Rolling Aircrew Allowance into pay would be one possible method of achieving that, rather than double-penalizing people who want to fly by sticking them into non-flying positions while simultaneously stripping them of part of their income.

I'd prefer to see the RCAF go with a Professional Aircrew career track, like the RAF does.  Folks in the PA track (the RAF guys I know called it a 'spine'), they go onto a different pay table.   PA never will go to a command level (SCWO, WCWO, etc) but they'll always stay in a flying position of some sort, whether operational and an OTU, etc. 

Because of the separate pay table, they are able to continue to get pay raises and pension benefits that are commensurate, but recognized for their operational/flying abilities, vice their MWO/CWO skills.

Best of both worlds!  Right now my only option to keep flying it to 'opt out' and hope I don't get a ground job.  If they did this with all air/flight crew trades, I think you'd greatly improve the corporate knowledge at the flying sqn's. 
Everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes the reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions.