SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Miranda Balentine, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, is excited about Airman-powered innovation and believes one significant way forward in reducing the Air Force’s aviation energy demands is through the ingenuity of Airmen.
“Airmen are shifting focus, changing the inertia of how we've always done business, and thinking, ‘How can we do business differently?’” she said.
Jerry Linscott, flight planner from the 618th Air Operations Center, and his teammates in the flight planning and diplomatic clearance division, are continually searching for new ways to conduct business and find more efficient routing for missions.
Two years ago, they noticed that the Federal Aviation Administration did not have a military-specific routing process for aircraft transitioning through the East Coast. Crews arriving and departing from East Coast locations frequently receive clearances that differ greatly from those in their original flight plans, which can lead to the aircraft being in the air or on the ground longer than expected.
The practice is so common that the Air Force Instruction governing aircraft operating procedures requires aircraft to carry extra fuel in case of air traffic contingencies.
Linscott believed there was a potential for the Air Force to save millions of dollars if the requirement to carry extra fuel could be eliminated.
“Eliminating the need for extra fuel will increase the payload capacity of the aircraft and will make for a more effective and efficient mission,” he said.
In coordination with Air Mobility Command and the Department of Defense, Linscott began collaborating with the FAA. As Linscott worked to compile data, air traffic control centers provided all possible flight path options for military aircraft frequenting East Coast locations.
Linscott analyzed the data and categorized the routes by cardinal direction. His first target was Andrews Air Force Base, which alone had over 45 different departure and arrival routes. He then submitted a request for the FAA to drastically reduce arrival and departure routes for military aircraft. Through his research, Linscott determined that if aircrews could file and receive known flight plans corresponding to the routing agreed upon by the FAA and Air Force, planners would be able to more accurately predict fuel load requirements, eliminating the need to carry extra fuel for contingencies.
"This is a great example of how a heightened awareness of operational energy can contribute to overall Air Force energy goals of mission assurance through energy assurance," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Operational Energy Roberto Guerrero.
The initiative engaged three of the four operational energy pillars emphasized by the Air Force Energy Office: policy, platform, people, and process. As a result of Linscott’s research, the process of arriving and departing Andrews AFB is expected to be streamlined once the preferred routings are received from the FAA. This will enable the optimization of fuel planning, which could drive a policy change eliminating the requirement to carry surplus fuel for aircraft across the entire Air Force fleet.
"Thanks to Mr. Linscott's keen observations on airspace utilization, we have the potential to make great strides in not only optimizing operational energy, but also in greatly enhancing mission effectiveness," Guerrero said.
That level of dedication, ingenuity and pursuit of opportunities is vital to raising energy awareness and inspiring innovation powered by Airmen.