C-17s Test Fuel-Saving Formation over Pacific

Data from a recent C-17 test of the Surfing Aircraft Vortices for Energy, or $AVE, concept validated the fuel-savings potential of this formation-flying approach, announced Air Mobility Command. In mid-July, two C-17s flew back and forth from Edwards AFB, Calif., to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during an operational mission, with the trailing aircraft cruising in the vortex of the lead airplane for long distances, according to AMC’s Aug. 15 release. This allowed the trailing aircraft to consume less fuel; in fact, AMC projects savings of $10 million per year if the Air Force applies the concept across the C-17 fleet, states the release. “With only minor changes, we were able to attain double-digit fuel savings, which exceeded what we measured during our 2012 proof-of-concept test,” said Bill Blake, the Air Force Research Lab’s $AVE program manager. Next up, program officials eye a two- to three-year advanced technology demonstration to define the procedures and processes to apply the concept to other airplane types, said AMC’s Chief Scientist Donald Erbschloe. That project could begin as early as next year, he said. (Scott report by Roger Drinnon)