September 30, 2010 (by SSgt. Amanda Savannah) - The 8th Fighter Wing zeroed out its allocated flying hours for 2010.
USAF F-16C block 40 #89-2060, marked as 8th FW flagship, flies over Kunsan AB on May 20th, 2010. The 8th FW zeroed out its flying hour program on September 30th for 2010. [USAF photo by MSgt. Jason Wilkerson]
The 8th Operations Group flew more than 7,100 sorties, totaling 9,850 hours, from October 2009 to September 2010.
"We actually overflew what our original authorization was," said Lt. Col. John Wilson, 8th Operations Group vice commander. "We were initially authorized 9,400 hours and then were authorized an additional 450 hours."
The hours the group flies begins with the ready aircrew program, or RAP.
"The RAP is designed to give the pilots a minimum amount of sorties they need to stay current in all facets of the F-16 mission," said Capt. Bryan Spence, 8th Operations Support Squadron wing scheduling officer. "There are a certain amount of requirements our AFI (Air Force Instruction) dictates each pilot needs to meet based on if they are an experienced pilot or inexperienced pilot. When it all boils down, there is a requirement of sorties each pilot needs for the year ... multiply that times the number of pilots we have on base, and the number adds up quickly.
"But ... we might not be able to log a RAP sortie based on a requirement that the AFI stipulates, so we also add a 'fudge' factor on top of that," Captain Spence added. "The number we have for our minimum requirements plus that 'fudge' factor gets us the number of sorties we need per year."
Wing scheduling then multiplies the number of required sorties by an average sortie duration, which gives the wing the flying-hour program it requires to execute its mission.
Once wing scheduling has the flying-hour requirements, the office works with the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to match those requirements to what the 8th AMXS can support.
"All that is compiled into the flying-hour request to ACC
(Air Combat Command) saying, 'This is what the 8th FW needs to execute to make sure we are maintaining a combat readiness status to take the fight North,'" said Captain Spence.
"We flew precisely 9,850 hours, and that's actually 450 hours above our original request," he said. The additional hours were "a combination of us needing them and ACC asking us to fly them, because there were other Air Force units that were not able to execute their flying hour program."
The hour and sortie requirements were then laid in the hands of the 35th Fighter Squadron "Pantons" and 80th Fighter Squadron "Juvats" to fly.
"We're given so many hours to execute each year, and it's almost like keeping a checkbook worth millions of dollars," said Lt. Col. David Shoemaker, 35th FS
director of operations. "We're given these hours once a year, and we have to spread them out and balance them to make them happen."
"It takes everyone to make the program successful - from maintenance, to the training officer who knows how to balance the training, to our aviation resource managers who keep us on track," Colonel Shoemaker said. "It's a huge effort by all of the groups and specialties in the wing."
Maj. Gene Sherer, 80th Fighter Squadron DO, said he works closely with maintenance and Colonel Shoemaker to ensure the squadrons are able to achieve and maintain their combat mission readiness.
"Also, with the high level of pilot turnover here, my job is to make sure I allocate those sorties appropriately to maximize the effectiveness of our scheduling process, which includes quite a bit of training for the new personnel.
"Those newly-trained personnel give us an increased capability to the wing as a whole -and we successfully completed the program because together with the (80th Air Maintenance Unit) AMU, we overcame a lot of things like weather, giving us the capability to perform," said Major Sherer. We greatly increased our sortie numbers in September with the help of the AMU, giving us jets back above and beyond our expectations. Without the AMU we couldn't do this; they've done an incredible job working to maximize our available aircraft and sorties."
Captain Spence also gave credit to the 8th AMXS for helping to make this happen.
"This is really a kudos to every maintainer on the line who put in those 12- to 14-hour days, plus weekends, to get our jets turning so we could fly this out," he said. "It just goes to show you that those guys were working really hard to make that happen, so they should all take pride in that there were very few select other units that were able to execute what the 8th FW did, which was zero out the flying hour program -- we were able to do that with their help."
"The 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's responsibilities cover a vast range of missions flown and supported from Kunsan AB," said Maj. Mike Allison, 8th AMXS commander. "The 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit 'Pantons' and the 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit 'Juvats' are comprised of some of the most outstanding young men and women in our Air Force, and their maintenance efforts over the past 12 months have played a pivotal role in closing out the annual flying hour program within the 8th Fighter Wing.
"I am extremely proud and privileged to command such a great unit of dedicated maintainers and support personnel," said Major Allison. "They make their staggering hard work and contribution to the success of the flying hour program look easy."
Colonel Wilson credited the entire wing with making the flying hours possible.
"It literally takes an entire wing, from keeping up with medical readiness on everyone who is touching the airplane, to the support structure necessary behind it, to the maintenance that goes into it," he said. "When it all comes down to it, it's an art to finish out the flying hour program. It's a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, a lot of paperwork, a lot of trial and error to get it done and done right. Across the board, if you take a look at one of those 9,000 hours, each one of those is the culmination of hundreds of hours of effort, so it's not something we take lightly."