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AMC pursues fuel efficiency initiatives

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- From electronic flight bags (EFB) to flight management system modifications, Air Mobility Command Airmen are contributing innovative and cost-saving ways to enhance the command’s fuel efficiency.

According to Lt. Col. Vince Zabala, the AMC’s fuel efficiency program manager, energy costs for the Air Force total nearly $8 billion, with about 86 percent of that cost spent on aviation fuel. Air Mobility Command consumes approximately 56 percent, more than all other major commands combined.

Since 2008, AMC’s fuel efficiency division has reviewed over 80 possible methods of reducing fuel consumption and improving efficiency across the mobility Air Forces, including changes to policies, procedures, planning, maintenance practices, aircraft material changes and science and technology advances.

Recent examples include the KC-135 Engine Compressor Upgrade Program, which began in fiscal year 2013. The modification improves longevity and efficiency of the engines and saves fuel and sustainment costs. Additionally, the 618th Air Operations Center’s Air Refueling Liaison Office developed a plan to avoid extra fuel costs of approximately $29.5 million by using tankers already airborne to fill refueling requests, rather than launching a sortie specifically to fill that request.

“Our mission is to evolve (mobility Air Forces) culture to empower a more efficient fuel usage mindset to enhance (rapid global mobility’s) effective delivery of cargo, fuel and passengers to joint and coalition warfighters across the globe,” Zabala said. “Progressing towards this goal, we have seen a significant evolution to being more mindful of the fuel we burn and how we can be more effective with the resources we have.”

The command’s headquarters staff isn’t the only organization becoming more mindful about fuel efficiency.

The fuel efficiency group at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, was created to help Airmen there to concentrate their efforts and help the command achieve its fuel efficiency goals. The group is composed of maintainers, reservists, pilots, schedulers and boom operators.

“The group’s mission is to focus the attention of everyone at MacDill on maintaining our currency and training, and to maintain our warfighting capability, but doing it efficiently as possible and safely,” said David Nelson, the 6th Air Mobility Wing lead air operations specialist and fuel efficiency officer. “The team places emphasis on total force integration, and using the knowledge and skillset from each department. They identify an issue, examine options, discuss needs versus wants, and the feasibility of the option.”

The group also discusses fuel efficiency efforts and initiatives during training days to ensure Airmen understand the importance of fuel efficiency and its impact on other aspects of the mission.

“Fuel efficiency is extremely important because a tremendous amount of our budget goes to fuel costs. A slight change can have a huge benefit, and even greater impact if instituted across the entire Air Force and AMC,” Nelson said. “This is why when we created the Fuel Efficiency Working Group, we included everyone involved — from operations, maintenance and Reserve. Having (Total Force integration) involvement formulates ideas and solutions, not only for fuel efficiency, but man-hour efficiencies.”

The group’s efforts were recognized when the 6th AMW garnered the overall 2016 Mobility Air Forces Fuel Efficiency Award.

MacDill AFB isn’t the only AMC unit to develop and implement innovative ways to improve fuel efficiency and mission effectiveness.

In March, the final KC-10 Extender equipped with the new communication, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system modifications was flown home to Travis AFB, California. The achievement, which marked the culmination of a six-year project, involved Airmen from Travis AFB and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, working with industry partners to integrate and test the system.

Additionally, in January all AMC wings were approved to use electronic flight bags. In April as part of the EFB initiative, AMC aircrews were approved to use global positioning system/automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (GPS/ADS-B) technology.

Both CNS/ATM and GPS/ADS-B enhances safety, situational awareness and fuel efficiency, while reducing costs and decreasing harmful effects on the environment. For example, the command’s EFB initiative saves the command nearly $3.8 million per year.

C-17 aircrews at Dover AFB, Delaware, are currently evaluating an application that calculates the optimal altitude and airspeed to fly, based on atmospheric conditions. The Pilots Performance Advisory System application has the potential to improve fuel efficiency on many missions worldwide, and the results of their evaluation will assist AMC in determining whether to field the app for the entire fleet.

"The Air Force’s vision of mission assurance through energy assurance is ultimately about innovative and conscientious Airmen working together to do everything they can day-in and day-out to improve effectiveness,” Zabala said. “As the largest consumer of aviation fuel in the DOD and the great number of missions the MAF executes worldwide, AMC and its Airmen have the greatest effect on more efficiently utilizing this precious resource. We are motivated about sharing the great work our Total Force Airmen have done to improve effectiveness through efficiency. We are always looking for better ways to efficiently accomplish the mobility mission.”

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