By Capt. Neil Samson
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — A global positioning system attached inside your car’s front windshield calculates your shortest time, distance and fuel savings resulting in fewer trips to the gas station and less money withdrawn from your debit card.
Just as a GPS is able to save you money that could be spent on other parts of your life, Mission Index Flying, or MIF, is a system employed by Air Mobility Command and is one of many initiatives that allow aircrews to perform the mobility mission more efficiently.
Mission Index Flying is the military version of a civilian capability known as Cost Index Flying, or CIF. CIF balances the cost of time versus the cost of fuel, not just minimizing fuel use, but reducing operational costs across the enterprise, branching out into areas such as time-based maintenance and other enterprise costs.
Striving for fuel efficiency affects everyone in the command from air crews to the maintainers and support crew on the flightline.
AMC Fuel Efficiency Office’s Eric Lepchenske said, “More than $842 million dollars has been taken out of the fuel budget from fiscal 2012 to 2017. Since fuel is a ‘must-pay bill,’ we are faced with a choice; we can implement efficiencies that gain $842 million or face possible cuts in other operational areas, such as flight hours if we are unable to do so. Implementing MIF is one attempt to avoid such cuts.
“If we are flying fewer hours because we can’t meet that $842 million budget reduction, then there is a risk that there will be less need for the support and maintenance crews on the ground,” said Lepchenske.
To use MIF, aircrews input various aircraft and atmospheric parameters on a mission laptop at different intervals during a mission, with the software providing them with speed and altitude recommendations for maximum aircraft performance and efficiency.
“We chose to the use the term Mission Index Flying because it is applies more readily to the military,” said Lepchenske. “Although similar, the way AMC will utilize Mission Index Flying and handle the costs to our mobility enterprise is different when compared to how civilian aviation uses CIF.”
Even though MIF is an air crew-centric system, everyone who works with aircraft or aviation fuel has a role to play in the fuel efficiency mission.
“MIF is one of more than 70 initiatives that contribute to the overall fuel efficiency mission,” adds Lepchenske. “Precision cargo loading and precision fuel loading are other initiatives that involve support and maintenance crews and that directly complement MIF.”
For aircrews, Lepchenske advocates learning the MIF system initially through the fundamental MIF 101 and 102 training. This will give aircrews the basic MIF skills necessary to employ and create efficiencies with the system. As they gain confidence with the system, aircrews should attempt to employ some of the more advanced features of MIF that will provide even greater efficiencies and operational flexibility.
“I recommend aircrews avoid the attitude of ‘here’s something new, something else I have to do that is taking time away,'” said Lepchenske. “Instead, learn the (MIF) system so that you can employ it towards efficiency, while looking for ways that the system can help you.”
Headquarters AMC Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate’s FEO employs a fuel tracker to ensure aircrews are employing MIF on any given mission and to determine fuel efficiency gains provided by the system.
“C-17 MIF has been in the field the longest, with C-17 MIF aircrew training completed in September 2011 after the system fielded in April, and we are already performing analysis on its effectiveness,” said Lepchenske. January 2012 was the last full month of C-17 analysis.
“We saw more than 2.5 percent in fuel reduction on those C-17 missions during which the system was used,” said Lepchenske.
“The C-5 recently went operational, so we haven’t analyzed its data yet,” said Lepchenske, “All tanker aircraft have gone in the field for training purposes this past January, but we anticipate going operational by the end of March.”
“The system will save you fuel, you just have to employ it,” said Lepchenske. “Allowing us to be more fuel efficient allows us to be more effective.”