Air Force pilot develops plan to reduce jet fuel consumption

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Tho Dang
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force spends more than $9 billion annually on energy. Aviation consumes 86 percent of that amount.

In support of the Air Force Energy Strategic Plan to foster an energy-aware culture and reduce aviation fuel consumption, an instructor pilot from the 5th Flying Training Squadron has introduced some innovative ideas to make pilot training more energy efficient.

Lt. Col. Mark Lyons, a reservist and commercial pilot, is spearheading the effort to conserve jet fuel in the Air Force, starting with the Air Education and Training Command.

Lyons is a member of the Air Force Energy Analysis Task Force, which leverages reservists who are also commercial airline pilots. As a task force member, Lyons pairs his commercial experience and military background to identify, test and promote best practices that can save fuel and money.

As part of a year-long trial, Lyons developed four training techniques to reduce fuel consumption in the T-1A Jayhawk, which were tested in T-1 simulators here with a small group of students from Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training classes 14-12 and 14-13.

One of these techniques is called the fuel-efficient descent or the optimized-profile descent.

"We are teaching our student pilots to select the optimal point to begin their descent into an airfield," Lyons said.

When the students select the correct point to begin their descent, they are able to pull the power back to idle and descend from the sky without using fuel.

So far, the new approach has reduced fuel usage by 35 percent during the descent phase of flight.

"Lt.Col. Lyons' training initiatives go far beyond the fuel savings in the T-1 and are helping to instill a culture of energy efficiency in new Air Force pilots," said Lt. Col. Chip Bulger, the Energy Analysis Task Force director. "Fuel savings in the T-1 are valuable; however, the fuel efficiency mindset new pilots carry into aircraft such as the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-17 (Globemaster III) have limitless potential."

The overarching goal of this training is to create an energy-aware culture in the Air Force, specifically in the flying community, Lyons said. By incorporating these practices early in training, students learn to be energy conscious at the beginning of their careers rather than having to change habits later in life.

"Successful completion of the T-1 fuel efficiency small group try out at Vance Air Force Base sets the stage for permanent adoption in the 71st Flying Training Wing and more broadly across AETC," Bulger said.

A pilot introduced to fuel-efficient flying prior to follow-on training can make significant contributions toward the Air Force's goal to achieve a 10 percent fuel usage reduction.

(Second Lt. Isabel Crump contributed to this story)