Posted : Saturday Jul 3, 2010
Pilots are hearing calls the earthbound are well familiar with: Slow down. Don’t turn on the engine until you are ready to leave. Do you really need to go there?
These are new rules for aircrews, part of the Air Force effort to use less fuel and save money.
“Trying to teach a fighter pilot or a bomber pilot to approach energy differently can almost be as challenging as trying to educate my daughters to turn the lights off and not spend so much time drying their hair,” Lt. Gen. William Rew, vice commander of Air Combat Command, told other military leaders and energy industry officials at a two-day Air Force energy forum in May.
Driving the conservation push is fuel use — 84 percent of the Air Force’s energy costs.
Before the consumption crackdown, pilots didn’t worry much about saving fuel unless the gas gauge needle was on empty and they needed to find a tanker, according to Rew.
Pilots “like to go fast and think, ‘if I go afterburner, I want to use as much as I want,’” Rew said.
Now, ACC pilots get an annual review of their fuel savings. If they don’t do well, they get a talking to.
“We’ll have a little attention adjustment or they will suffer the consequences,” said Rew, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and three-time wing commander.
Rew told Air Force Times that pilots aren’t restricted on fuel use during the combat phase of a training sortie. The focus is on what happens before and after planes enter the training range.
At Red Flag exercises over Nevada, for example, commanders tell the fighter pilots to cut their speed on their return to Nellis Air Force Base. Instead of 350 knots, the pilots fly at 300 knots.
Air Education and Training Command aims to start aircrew members thinking about fuel conservation while they are still earning their wings, said Lt. Col. Frank Yannuzzi, chief of the flying training branch for undergraduate flight training.
Most measures are simple, he said, such as keeping engines off during preflight preparations until they need to be turned on and not filling up fuel tanks, which make a plane heavier, unless the mission requires it.
Once the student pilot is off the ground, training takes priority over fuel conservation, Yannuzzi said.
Flight simulators are another way the Air Force can save fuel. How much a student pilot uses a simulator depends primarily on his skill level and the type of plane, said Ron Hamada of the graduate training division.
A new student pilot flying a T-6 Texan trainer needs as much time in the air as he can get, he said. A student pilot moving on to training for operational assignments, though, would use a simulator.
For example, a C-130J Hercules student pilot trains only in a simulator during the basic phase of his course and moves to a plane for the mission training phase.