Attrition: Navy Astronauts Get a Pay Cut


December 22, 2007: The U.S. Navy is no longer allowing astronauts to receive contract extension bonuses. These are the bonuses the navy pays to carrier pilots to encourage them to stay in uniform. This year, about 375 pilots will receive a $125,000 bonus to stay in five more years, while about 400 will get $45,000 to stay in three more years. Until the latest change, each year, 5-10 pilots serving as astronauts were receiving the bonuses as well. But with budgets being cut, and plenty of pilots applying to be astronauts, it seemed safe to cut the bonus for pilots who wanted to fly in space.

The bonuses make economic sense, as it costs millions of dollars to recruit and train an experienced carrier pilot (or "aviator", so as not to confuse them with the pilots that guide vessels into ports). Military pilots are constantly being tempted by higher paying, and less dangerous, jobs in commercial aviation. Navy aviators are particularly vulnerable to these recruiting pitches, because of the long periods spent away from home, when the carrier is at sea.


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