WASHINGTON – At the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, becoming a fighter pilot remains a hotly coveted goal.
But a culture change is slowly taking hold.
Initially snubbed as second-class wannabes, the airmen who remotely control America's arsenal of lethal drones are gaining stature and securing a permanent place in the Air Force.
It's a far cry from the grumbling across the air corps a few years ago when Air Force leaders — desperate to meet a growing demand for drones — began yanking fighter pilots out of their cockpits and placing them at the controls of unmanned Predators and Reapers.
The shift is critical as the Air Force struggles to fill a shortfall of more than 300 drone pilots to meet the U.S. military's enormous hunger for drones.