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Changing/Switching airframes


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2 hours ago, Sua Sponte said:

Huggy brought up that while he doesn't think the "mechanics of flying" of a -46 with one pilot is an issue, I'll add on to that. I don't think it's an issue if the single pilot has a lot of experience of flying. I'm sure we can agree that the commercial aviation and military worlds have vastly different definitions of what is considered an highly experienced pilot. In the MAF the highly experienced people are getting out to go to the airlines/cargo. That leaves very lightly to middle experience as the "highly experienced." The unique part of the -46 is that on the pilot side the program seemed to have pulled a lot of the shiny pennies from other MAF aircraft. We can all agree that the usual motivation for the shiny pennies to crossflow isn't to learn how to fly and eventually employ a new aircraft. It's to do staff job/get schools to get promoted. In my experience those PHOENIX products also weren't good pilots to begin with, now they're crossflowing to an aircraft they have to learn and will continue to be mediocre pilot until their PRFs are written and they get school/staff.

XXXX

In the -46 there are non-Edwards test units (there's a Test Ops Sq at McGuire for example), but the pilot I knew there just got out and he barely flew enough to only be a copilot in the -46.


I'm a 46 guy.

Sua absolutely nailed it. During a vanilla mission, if nothing goes wrong, I think a competent AC could operate the aircraft by themselves. However, rarely does this actually happen, especially operationally. Due to the factors that involve a lot of how we're expecting to deploy this I would expect only the most senior and experienced of the KC-46 cadre to be able to employ this safely. However, that cadre is shrinking every day. Like Sua said, the Shiny Pennies are the ring masters in the 46 community, and to keep this civil let's just say they're not the easiest people to work with. I know of exactly 1 person that is close to their commitment that isn't running for the exit. 

As far as employing it I'm purposely leaving out a lot of details, because our commie friends to the west are very interested in the jet and you'd be a fool if you think they're not datamining the F*** out of this website. 

I think I know the McGuire test guy. Last name M? 

Edited by LoveDumpster
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As much as I want to trust that random Facebook post that looks like the 22 ARW/CC or AMC/CC exec wrote, I don't. The MAF is more concerned with pilot retention than TTPs. What good are TTPs if you don't have the crew members to execute them? This is nothing more than floating the idea of only needing half of the pilot force to fly the same sorties. If/when we go into a recession next year, and the airlines slow down hiring, expect this "good idea" to go by the wayside because retention is up and the USAF will claim they fixed that problem....until the next hiring flood.

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Scooter, well presented case and thanks. No argument from me.  
The mission complexities supersede the "savings" of single-pilot ad that's where the AF should focus their effort. 
Certainly, a discussion on single-pilot ops is in order becomes it generates this sort of valuable discussion... and input. 
I hope the General considering this listens to the full range of mission impacts. 

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I’ve seen a bunch of folks talking that if anyone does this single pilot KC-46 thing, they need to be black balled from all the airlines. These are the same people that bitch about toxic leadership and all the other talkings points 24/7. I find it highly ironic that black balling a guy for something he’s ordered to do about the most toxic thing I’ve ever heard. 

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27 minutes ago, Danger41 said:

I’ve seen a bunch of folks talking that if anyone does this single pilot KC-46 thing, they need to be black balled from all the airlines. These are the same people that bitch about toxic leadership and all the other talkings points 24/7. I find it highly ironic that black balling a guy for something he’s ordered to do about the most toxic thing I’ve ever heard. 

If that's the case, they better have a Captain spot waiting for me, because I will be refusing an order and probably find myself unemployed real quick. 

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2 hours ago, Scooter14 said:

 


BTW This topic deserves its own thread.

Huggy,

On a good day from point A to point B, one could probably fly a KC-46 with a single pilot and a boom operator.

But why?

I see this as a distraction from the mission and not an enhancement to the mission.
 

 

I agree this topic is a great discussion!

As for your question why, let me ask why not?  why shouldn’t new employment methods be explored?  Combat is unpredictable, experimenting in training is prudent. Additionally even if this particular requirement does not manifest, there’s something to be said for building a crew force with flexibility of mind.  Trying new things is how you make people creative, and creative people find a way to win.  The dudes who reflexively say no because the suggestion challenges their concept of acceptable are what I’m poking at.

 I appreciate the -46 answers because I’m ignorant about your air frame and what makes sense. So please take my commentary as a philosophical discourse rather than COA endorsement.  Maybe it’s a terrible idea, I don’t know, but I’m turned off by people who laugh at new suggestions.

I’ll end with a gem from Sun Tzu: “Do not merely repeat tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

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53 minutes ago, tac airlifter said:

I agree this topic is a great discussion!

As for your question why, let me ask why not?  why shouldn’t new employment methods be explored?  Combat is unpredictable, experimenting in training is prudent. Additionally even if this particular requirement does not manifest, there’s something to be said for building a crew force with flexibility of mind.  Trying new things is how you make people creative, and creative people find a way to win.  The dudes who reflexively say no because the suggestion challenges their concept of acceptable are what I’m poking at.

 I appreciate the -46 answers because I’m ignorant about your air frame and what makes sense. So please take my commentary as a philosophical discourse rather than COA endorsement.  Maybe it’s a terrible idea, I don’t know, but I’m turned off by people who laugh at new suggestions.

I’ll end with a gem from Sun Tzu: “Do not merely repeat tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

Trust me - the KC-46 is not digging it's heels in when we try to do something new. At every major exercise we've been doing something that tankers have never traditionally done before. Tankers with NVGs, etc. My OPRs are full of firsts. However, there's a line between doing something a bit wacky and new, and something like single pilot ops; in my humble opinion, a f***ing ORM nightmare. 

Edited by LoveDumpster
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Trust me - the KC-46 is not digging it's heels in when we try to do something new. At every major exercise we've been doing something that tankers have never traditionally done before. Tankers with NVGs, etc. My OPRs are full of firsts. However, there's a line between doing something a bit wacky and new, and something like single pilot ops; in my humble opinion, a f***ing ORM nightmare. 


For both you and tac airlifter, I’m all for innovation. Accelerate change or lose, right?

However the air refueling enterprise as a whole must ensure we can safely and effectively be on time, as fragged with the go go juice to project and sustain combat airpower over the duration of a conflict as that is priority #1 for a tanker aircraft.

Any innovations/tactics/ideas we implement must enhance and not detract from priority #1.


You hit my point on your last line…Just because we can doesn’t always mean we should.
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Will there even be enough airframes for single pilot ops?

By definition, only need one airplane left for single pilot ops. Real question is will there be enough pilot(s) left?
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I don't buy that this is some sort of "in case of war break glass" test.  Please describe to me a scenario where you are short a bunch of copilots (due to attrition or some kind of attack) where you're not also short on ACs, IPs, and airframes. I'll wait. 
 

This is how you socialize a garbage idea you know no one will sign off on for its own merits.  You pitch it as some newfangled combat contingency test, get the waiver passed, and then implement it by precedent years after the original detractors are long gone. 
 

Call me a conspiracy theorist but what do you think is the air force's more pressing problem:

a) pilot shortage

or

b) near peer shooting war where we somehow have a bunch of perfectly functional -46s laying around with no one to fly them

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30 minutes ago, Pooter said:

I don't buy that this is some sort of "in case of war break glass" test.  Please describe to me a scenario where you are short a bunch of copilots (due to attrition or some kind of attack) where you're not also short on ACs, IPs, and airframes. I'll wait. 
 

This is how you socialize a garbage idea you know no one will sign off on for its own merits.  You pitch it as some newfangled combat contingency test, get the waiver passed, and then implement it by precedent years after the original detractors are long gone. 
 

Call me a conspiracy theorist but what do you think is the air force's more pressing problem:

a) pilot shortage

or

b) near peer shooting war where we somehow have a bunch of perfectly functional -46s laying around with no one to fly them

I haven't seen this mentioned by anyone on this board so far, but IMO, I think the single pilot ops intent is to provide an answer for nearly continuous operational availability and the duty day conflicts that come as a result.  You could turn one tail between 2 pilots and that gives you nearly full coverage over any day, only needing to throw 1 extra boom into the equation, rather than 4 pilots and 2 booms (or asking for 18 hour duty days with only one crew) for the same effect.  Is it dangerous to min turn with no other pilot as a back-up?  Absolutely.....but it would provide some flexibility to a deployed MC if the package needed a couple packed days of heavy sprinting while an augmenting force is enroute to support.  Just my 2 cents.  

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Do the Strike Eagle guys fly missions with a single pilot? B-1? BUFF? Bone? C-17? C-40? Of course they don’t. Just like the KC-46, they were designed to be operated and employed by multiple crewmembers. On the AMC side of things, the vast majority of pilots have been taught “crew concept” and CRM from very early on in their careers. As a guy with a fairly extensive tanker training background, I don’t think asking our pilots and instructors to make this shift is anything short of a monumental sea change. It’s a far more complex problem than just asking if one guy could, in fact, operate the airplane solo. This might get a bit long, so settle in. 
 

First, let’s tackle the simplest question: Can a 767 be flown single pilot? The answer is yes. I’ve practiced scenarios in the sim where the other pilot was considered incapacitated and removed from the seat. The airplane flies the same with one pilot at the controls as it does with two. The real question is: Is it safe and effective to do it routinely? Transport category airplanes are currently designed to be operated by two pilots. From a human factors standpoint, unlike the controls of a single seat tactical aircraft, the controls of an airliner are not necessarily designed to fall easily to hand. They don’t have to be. The operating concept has always been one pilot flies the aircraft, while the other handles navigation, radios, systems, the flight management computer, checklists, and any other task not directly related to pointing the airplane in the desired direction (although the PNF still shares responsibility with the PF in ensuring it does indeed go where intended). These are complex machines from a systems standpoint and when nonstandard things happen, the extra hands and brain cells are invaluable. IMO, in order to even begin thinking about making single pilot ops in these types of airplanes routine, you’d need to START with a total, ground up redesign of the flight deck with emphasis on 100 percent reliable heavy automation that can do things like respond to voice commands to shut down engines, pull fire handles, close fuel and air valves, etc, etc. Also, if you are coming from a tactical background, how often do you fly single ship? Most of the time there is some sort of mutual support, usually in the form of a wingman, yes? Well, mutual support in big airplanes means a guy or gal sitting next to you. I’m not sure I’ve EVER had a flight in a crew aircraft where at least one error wasn’t caught by the other crew member. Single pilot ops will GREATLY reduce the mutual support concept, even if all the advanced flight following and enhanced automation concepts are implemented and work perfectly. 
 

Second, and perhaps the most important question: Can you effectively employ a large tanker aircraft with a single pilot? I really don’t see how unless you not only massively revamp the aircraft, but also revamp everything from the training to command and control to receiver procedures, etc. While the mission is pretty chill most of the time (takeoff, turn left, find clouds to drag receivers through), there are times where mission management can become complex. Managing multiple receiver taskings, extra fragged fuel requests, multiple radios, a tactical environment, fuel offload plans (that will affect cg and w&b), rendezvous procedures, ATC and airspace considerations, weather considerations, and any number of other variables can and do cause helmet fires with a full crew compliment of two competent pilots and an experienced boom. Asking a single pilot to take this on without some serious upgrades to the equipment and the system will be an absolute. Fucking. Disaster. We haven’t even talked about fatigue yet. Missions were long enough in the KC-135 with a basic (two pilots & a boom) crew to the point they were probably dangerous at times. The 46 is receiver capable. So now you want to ask a guy who’s been flying the airplane by himself for eight or nine hours to take a console (consolidation: take on fuel from another tanker) and extend his day to truly dangerous proportions? Again, asking for disaster. 
 

I really thought this was a joke when I first heard it. If it’s really the AMC/CC pushing this, I hope his leadership sends him to a psych eval. If he has any experience at all flying big airplanes, he should know this is a complete non-starter given the current technology. Now, I’ve been out for a while and I realize that tech and capabilities are a moving target and things have probably changed in the last decade. But I’m very, very skeptical that we have put the pieces in place to even start thinking seriously about a concept like this and the people with the most to lose will be the ones tasked with trying to undertake this I’ll fated clusterfuck. Here’s an idea: how about the four star goes back to flying the line, by his own single pilot ass self for a few months in all the kinds of shitty conditions he’s talking about exposing his crews to? He wants this? He can validate the concept himself. 

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4 hours ago, Prozac said:

Do the Strike Eagle guys fly missions with a single pilot?

Not to be pedantic since you later mentioned multiple crew members and mutual support with a 2-ship and etc., but…yea, I’m pretty sure every strike eagle combat mission ever flown was with a single pilot 😅

Edited by nsplayr
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1 hour ago, nsplayr said:

Not to be pedantic since you later mentioned multiple crew members and mutual support with a 2-ship and etc., but…yea, I’m pretty sure every strike eagle combat mission ever flown was with a single pilot 😅

Goddamnit! I hate it when the nav is right! 😜

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Sign me up. Just because we’ve gainfully employed folks in the right seat on large aircraft, doesn’t mean they are necessary for safe and effective operation. God forbid the PF actually manipulates an FMS, or makes his own radio call. Bring on the downvotes. 

Edited by Standby
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As a fighter guy who recently transitioned to the airlines I think it needs to stay 2 pilots. There are a lot of moving parts in the airlines and having 2 people is super effective.  Add in the constantly changing schedules and redeyes and you need the extra set of eyes.  The other part that isn’t talked about is safety.  We lose planes a decent amount in the Air Force.  When was the last time you heard of a major US airline crashing from pilot error?  Think of the lost revenue from people switching airlines because of a single pilot induced error. That airline would quickly go out of business because the public wouldn’t book on them.  

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6 hours ago, Ryder1587 said:

As a fighter guy who recently transitioned to the airlines I think it needs to stay 2 pilots. There are a lot of moving parts in the airlines and having 2 people is super effective.  Add in the constantly changing schedules and redeyes and you need the extra set of eyes.  The other part that isn’t talked about is safety.  We lose planes a decent amount in the Air Force.  When was the last time you heard of a major US airline crashing from pilot error?  Think of the lost revenue from people switching airlines because of a single pilot induced error. That airline would quickly go out of business because the public wouldn’t book on them.  

Not entirely sure where the airlines fit into this.. but, you do bring up a good point. Wonder how mishap rates compare between single pilot and crewed aircraft. I’m going to guess crewed aircraft have lower mishap rates.. maybe they extra set of hands and eyes contributes to that?

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6 hours ago, Ryder1587 said:

As a fighter guy who recently transitioned to the airlines I think it needs to stay 2 pilots. There are a lot of moving parts in the airlines and having 2 people is super effective.  Add in the constantly changing schedules and redeyes and you need the extra set of eyes.  The other part that isn’t talked about is safety.  We lose planes a decent amount in the Air Force.  When was the last time you heard of a major US airline crashing from pilot error?  Think of the lost revenue from people switching airlines because of a single pilot induced error. That airline would quickly go out of business because the public wouldn’t book on them.  

Curious, do you get your own ATIS still? 

Edited by FLEA
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47 minutes ago, herkbier said:

Not entirely sure where the airlines fit into this.. but, you do bring up a good point. Wonder how mishap rates compare between single pilot and crewed aircraft. I’m going to guess crewed aircraft have lower mishap rates.. maybe they extra set of hands and eyes contributes to that?

High enough that insurance companies really don’t like single pilot jets. 
 

Interesting article by Mac McClellan (long time Flying Magazine editor) here: https://airfactsjournal.com/2019/11/are-single-pilot-risks-real/

 

Here’s ALPA’s (admittedly biased, but with well presented reasoning) take: white-paper-single-pilot-operations.pdf?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Sua Sponte said:

"Air Mobility Command is discussing the option as part of how it may handle war in the Indo-Pacific, where it believes large, slow jets including tankers would be more vulnerable to attack from Chinese anti-aircraft missiles. Shrinking the number of airmen onboard a tanker could help minimize potential troop casualties while still getting combat jets the fuel they need."

PACAF attrited half the F-105 fleet in three years and in the middle when they ran out of fighter dudes to fly them started  non-voling 135 guys to fly them...

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Well from a non-AMC guy, I hope the General and his folks aren’t afraid to attempt to try new things to make the most important MAJCOM more effective in a real war. Not saying this was it, but deviating from any business as usual will result in bitching (especially online). 

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