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Air Force Pilot Develops Plan to Reduce Jet Fuel Consumption

Lt. Col. Mark Lyons, a 5th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, sits in a T-1A Jayhawk flight simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Frank Casciotta)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Air Force spends more than $9 billion annually on energy. Eighty-six percent of that amount is spent on aviation.

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 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," said Lyons.

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, 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 and C-17 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, said Lyons. By incorporating these practices early in training, students learn to be energy conscience 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," said Bulger.

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

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