Air Force Pilots told to Save Fuel

According to an Air Force Times article, the Air Force is directing its pilots to plan and conduct their missions more efficiently to save fuel.

Interestingly, while the article focuses on fighter pilots, fighter pilots are the ones least able to contribute to the fuel-saving effort.  LtGen William Rew noted that the restrictions on fuel consumption did not apply to the “combat phase of a training sortie.”  For a fighter, that would mean that the fuel-savings mentality would be valid for only a few minutes on each flight.

In addition, the “efficient” flying suggestions won’t necessarily change fuel consumption.  For example, the article notes that pilots are told to return home at 300 knots rather than 350 — but that assumes pilots were flying at the faster airspeed to begin with.  It also assumes the relative fuel burn between those two speeds is large enough to be measurable (in many cases, it isn’t).  Thus, while the article focuses on fighters, the fuel savings from fighter sorties could probably be measured in tens of gallons per sortie (or approximately $10-20).

By contrast, large aircraft (which aren’t even mentioned in the article) burn far more fuel than fighters.  A B-1 has four F-16-type engines and carries more than 20 times the fuel of a fighter.  A C-5 on the ground can burn more fuel than an F-16 would in an entire sortie.

There are certainly measures to be taken for fuel conservation, though the Air Force’s purpose must be balanced with such efficiency.  Fortunately, within the article the Air Force emphasized the importance of the mission over fuel.  Now it just needs to communicate the idea that “fighter jocks” aren’t necessarily the ones “turning and burning” all the Air Force’s fuel.