Galaxy rising: Positioning C-5 crews increases flight efficiency, saves fuel, money

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Sabrina D. Foster
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
It's been said that "flexibility is the key to airpower." It's because of that "flexibility" that Air Mobility Command officials are saving money by the millions and fuel in hundreds of thousands of gallons by positioning crews for C-5 Galaxy missions where they are needed without the expense of a permanent move.

Program managers at the 618th Air and Operations Center and AMC here have found a way to avoid costs and increase efficiency by positioning crews for C-5 flights where they are needed through the Mobility Mission Linking, or MML, program. MML is a tool permitting AMC to exercise flexibility in the face of shifting strategic airlift requirements.

MML can be executed by an informal agreement between the 618th AOC (Tanker Airlift Control Center) and multiple wings on an as-needed basis and then adjusted or turned off as requirements dictate. Also, aircraft locations often require geographically-separated units to travel to and from the central or eastern United States empty prior to initial on-load and following final off-load. In all, MML helps streamline C-5 air operations.

"The basis for the program is to shift resources to where the need is without the cost and burden of a permanent move," said Maj. Joshua Doty, strategic allocations director with the 618th AOC.

In just three short months, the MML program has produced positive returns.

According to Doty, between Dec. 4, 2011, and Feb. 29, nine positioning sorties were completely avoided and four positioning sorties were reduced using the MML program. Also during this time period 11 depositioning sorties were avoided while two depositioning sorties were reduced. AMC was able to save more than 349,000 gallons of fuel and 129 flying hours for a total cost avoidance of $1.3 million.

A majority of the Mobility Air Forces C-5 units are concentrated on the East Coast with the exception of units at Lackland AFB, Texas, and Travis AFB, Calif. The current nature of strategic airlift operations is focused on supporting Southwest Asia requirements from the Department of Defense's major aerial ports on the east coast (Dover AFB, Del., Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. and Joint Base Charleston, S.C.).

"In 2011, more than 45 percent of C-5 missions originating from Travis flew east of the Mississippi River prior to on-loading any cargo. Travis' C-5s on-loading and off-loading at an East Coast base accumulate up to 11 hours of flight time for each mission with no cargo on board," said Doty.

"Reducing time and costs associated with positioning flights could enable AMC to avoid spending unnecessary fuel, airframe life, crew expenses, and other variable costs," said Doty. "The savings further extend to customers who are required to pay for positioning segments. These cost avoidance and savings measures are extremely valuable, as fuel, maintenance, and personnel costs continue to rise while the DOD faces long term budget cuts."

The current C-5 MML began operations in December 2011 based on informal agreements between the 618th AOC, the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover and the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis.

Travis identified two aircraft which were dispatched on TACC taskings for approximately 60-day intervals. Additionally, Travis supplied one augmented crew for each aircraft on 21-day intervals. TACC management personnel monitor the tails and align conveniently positioned mission requirements. In many cases, linked missions use Dover as the final offload and the initial onload of the linked mission, thus reducing the number of positioning flight hours to zero.

Once dispatched, the crews and aircraft will return to Dover between linked missions for crew rest and maintenance support. Dover will support the crews and aircraft as in-transit, providing the same level of support as given to all visiting crews. The MML program is intended to increase airlift capability on the east coast without increasing the burden.

Travis will dispatch replacement crews to Dover nearing the end of the previous crew's 21-day interval. Crews will be moved to non-allocated aircraft using the most cost efficient modality available. Crews will travel to Dover via military transport as often as possible and use commercial transportation when necessary to prevent mission delay. Aircraft will rotate back to Travis when required for inspections and major maintenance.

More positive results from the program are also expected as the program continues to grow. Doty said fiscal years 2012 to 2016 have projected a savings of 3.5 million gallons of fuel and a cost avoidance of $12 million.

"The returns we've seen so far from this program have been positive," said Doty. "Anytime we can avoid costs and increase efficiency at the same is a move in the right direction. We are really looking forward to where the program can take us in the future."