Air force says progress being made to recruit pilots even as COVID-19 slams airlines

An RCAF CF-18 takes off from CFB Bagotville, Que. on Thursday, June 7, 2018. The Canadian Press

The commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force is reporting progress in his long-running fight to recruit and retain more pilots.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger says the air force needs 90 more pilots to fly the military’s planes and helicopters.

Read more: Canada nearing end of decade-long search for new fighter jet, top official says

The air force is supposed to have about 1,500 pilots and was short around 225 at the end of December 2019.

Meinzinger notes the military has rolled out a number of initiatives over the past two years to address the problem.

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They include a pay increase for pilots and a reorganization that reduced the overall number of pilots needed.

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Meinzinger says it’s unclear how much a slowdown in hiring by commercial airlines during the pandemic has helped, and he worries the air force’s gains could be temporary if airlines begin hiring again.

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