Science and Technology News

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Air Mobility Maintainers Help Air Force Cut Down Fuel Costs

By Capt. Kathleen Ferrero
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

Air mobility maintainers are helping to secure the future by becoming more fuel efficient, officials said.

Maintenance professionals are working to avoid future expenses by lightening loads on KC-135 Stratotankers and C-5 Galaxies; they’re also cutting back on use of gas-guzzling aircraft auxiliary power units.

One initiative that is making a huge impact is the KC-135′s Reduction in Zero Fuel Weight program, officials said. Until recently, the KC-135 was required to carry 8,800 pounds of extra fuel to maintain center of gravity and ensure constant flow through the fuel system. That fuel is separate from the fuel needed to refuel other aircraft — KC-135s can takeoff with as much as 322,500 pounds. Because aircraft burn fuel to carry fuel, it made sense to minimize this requirement, officials said.

Now, maintainers fuel half of the original amount required to cover the ballasts and center of gravity, said Maj. Mark Blumke, a fuel efficiency manager at Air Mobility Command’s Directorate of Logistics. This is largely due to upgrades, like heavier avionics equipment, that helps to distribute center of gravity.

Eventually, the goal is to modify the KC-135 to completely eliminate the required ballast fuel, reducing aircraft take-off weight even further, he said.

Likewise, maintainers are placing the military’s heaviest lifter on a weight loss program. C-5s have five systems currently identified to be removed to reduce weight and burn less fuel, Blumke said: the low pressure pneumatic system; protective armor; water storage tanks; portable water tank; and weight and balance computer.

The five systems will be removed in the field by Time Compliance Technical Order over the next one to two years, Blumke said.

“Removal will coincide with other maintenance activities and will not drive aircraft downtime,” he said.

“The systems are being removed because they are expensive to maintain or were made obsolete by upgrades; and they no longer serve a functional purpose on the aircraft,” Blumke said.

Another system that maintenance experts are working to change is the use of aircraft auxiliary power units. According to the AMC Fuel Efficiency Office, C-5, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-10 Extender aircraft operated approximately 76,609 sorties in fiscal 2011. Reducing APU use on each of these sorties by 1.5 hours could have saved nearly $700,000 per month.

For this reason, the command now directs minimal usage of APUs wherever aerospace ground equipment can be used in their place. Also, in February 2011, AMC’s logistics directorate launched the Mobility Air Forces Maintenance APU Usage Tracking Program to monitor how efficiently the equipment is being used around the world, Blumke said.

“Fuel efficiency has to be a factor in every decision we make,” he said. “Every dollar saved on fuel is a dollar that can be spent caring for Airmen, the mission and other Air Force priorities.

“Our maintenance professionals are helping to lead the way so that we can focus on those priorities in the future,” Blumke said.

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