The Air Force is offering cash to keep more of its pilots flying for the military. 

The service announced this week that they will offer up to $50,000 as a retention bonus. Qualifying pilots must apply by September 15. The offer comes as the service tries to shrink its long-standing pilot shortage. Last year the service ended the year 1,900 pilots short of its goal to have 21,0000 pilots in the air.

The problem has been made worse in recent years by commercial airlines, which stepped up hiring. During the pandemic, when commercial traffic ground to a near-halt, airlines encouraged pilots to take buy-outs. With air travel rebounding, commercial aviation faces its own shortage as a generation of pilots prepare for retirement. The airline industry traditionally lures experienced military aviators with better pay and fewer duties.

“Our experienced aviators are uniquely qualified to succeed in a combat environment and these incentives are necessary to maintain that talent and competitiveness with our pacing challenge,” said Maj. Gen. Albert Miller, Air Force Training and Readiness director, in a statement.

The Air Force has often offered bonuses to encourage aviators to reenlist. The $50,000 incentive tops the $35,000 offered last year. The bonus comes as Congress is mandating the Air Force to come up with a long-term solution for its historic pilot shortage. The service is expected to release its plan later this summer.