January 2, 2010:
For nearly half a century, the military faced heavy losses of pilots, because commercial flying offered higher pay, safer working conditions, and less time away from the family. Deregulation (of the air transportation industry) and prosperity (especially in the 1990s), has changed all that. While 90 percent of new hires in U.S. commercial aviation had military flying experience right after the Cold War ended, only 30 percent do today. The main reason for that is the deregulation of the airlines three decades ago. By the early 1990s, air fares had dropped 30 percent (after accounting for inflation). More people were flying, and more often. The economic boom of the 1990s enabled more new, no frills, low cost airlines to enter the business. These drove down the salaries for pilots, especially new hires. Meanwhile, the pay for military pilots went up. As a result, more and more military pilots decided to stay in uniform. Commercial aviation had finally lost its appeal for military pilots, and it's unlikely that pay for commercial pilots will ever return to its former heights.