Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Recruitment of Pilots.

19.

asked the Minister for Defence if his Department recruit direct entry pilots and, if not, why; if he considers that the pay and conditions of service are sufficiently attractive to encourage recruitment or to retain pilots; the number of pilots at present available and the number in June 1977; and the number recruited during this period and the number who left.

Up to 1977 a scheme existed for the recruitment of Air Corps Cadets for training as pilots. At present, suitable junior Army Officers are selected for training as pilots on being commissioned. Three officers are expected to qualify as pilots under this scheme later this year and it is also intended to commence the training of additional officers as pilots shortly. I consider that this is the best method for the recruitment and training of pilots for the particular requirements of the Air Corps. It is not intended to recruit direct entry pilots for the corps.

I consider that the pay and conditions of officers in the Air Corps are sufficiently attractive to encourage recruitment and retention of pilots.

There are 56 pilots in the Air Corps at present. There were 49 pilots in the Air Corps on 1 June 1977 and 15 cadets or officers were undergoing training as pilots on the same date. A further 24 cadets or officers were undergoing training as pilots on the same date. A further 24 cadets or officers have commenced training since then. Of the intake of 39 trainee pilots, 23 qualified as pilots and three more are expected to qualify later this year. Sixteen pilots left the Air Corps since 1 June 1977.

Could the Minister give a more specific reason why he will not accept direct entry pilots? The Minister said there are 56 pilots in the Air Corps at present. What is the establishment strength?

The total establishment strength of commissioned ranks is 168.

The present establishment strength is 168 and we can only attract 56 pilots under the present system. This means we need a very large number to reach establishment strength and they will not be recruited under the present system. Does that not mean that the Minister should consider the adopting of direct entry pilots?

Changes are being made which will correct the imbalance there.

What changes are being made? Because conditions and allowances are not good under the present system we will not reach the establishment strength during the lifetime of anybody in this House.

I think it will, because the strength is being examined all the time ——

Would the Minister accept that each year conditions are getting progressively worse and that we are moving away from the establishment strength? Is that a fact? The Minister tells me improvements are taking place all the time ——

I do not accept that.