Any insight from the FMs on CFPs requiring a level off altitude well before the aircraft can actually climb to that altitude (thus causing problems with fuel required estimates)?
Flight Managers, Flight Planners, Long Range TACC Planners, and general users of ACFP have no performance references to validate the ACFP outputs. ACFP uses Flight Performance Modules (FPMs) based on the data either provided directly from the manufacturer or derived from the performance charts in the MDS -1-1. This data is the same data available to the aircrew. If there is a significant difference between the output of ACFP and the T.O., we recommend report this up your Stan/Eval channels to HQ AMC/A3V for resolution.
Due to a strong tailwind, my CFP flight time to a large AMC base in the CONUS was reduced significantly from the planned flight time listed on my GDSS frag. Can this cause problems at the destination station?
GDSS cuts are based on historical / statistical / seasonal flight times of different airframes. This estimate serves as the "planned" flight time until the FM begins their mission review 6 hours prior to takeoff. At that point, the FM will adjust the flight times using CFP and forecast wind inputs. Standard TACC mission controller procedure would be to call the destination station and tell them to check GDSS arrival times for the tail so they have situational awareness. However, large AMC bases are required to monitor as well.
Essentially, there are multiple layers of "eyes" on flight time changes like this one‐‐the FM makes the changes required for your IFM paperwork, TACC controllers notify the downrange station of the change, and the destination AMC presence (if applicable) is further required to watch inbound traffic using GDSS to ensure you receive timely support when you arrive.
If you do find that your earlier arrival is a "surprise" to the destination station‐‐especially a base with a large or home station AMC presence‐‐please let us know, and we will investigate it both at our end and at the particular station, to see where there may be a communication issue or a need for additional coordination.
My IFM package was missing an 1801 for leg 3 of a multi-leg mission plan.
Per AMC/A6IM, there is a known computer problem that occasionally prevents the 1801 from being attached with the crew papers in GDSS. This glitch occurs once or twice a month. The GDSS folks have taken steps to minimize the problem, but a long-term fix would require an extremely expensive re-work of the software replication agent. The work‐around is for the crew to ask the flight manager to re‐send the 1801 or for the crew to download the package again (the 1801 will eventually show up in the papers). Given the frequency of the problem and the relatively simple work‐around, it is not cost effective to completely fix the computer glitch. In light of this, however, please continue to call your flight manager for any issues you see with your IFM packages.
What does TACC do to mitigate the impact of deteriorating weather conditions at the destination airfield while a sortie is en route?
This is a great example of how aircrew and TACC share the responsibility to ensure mission success. To counter the impact of changing weather conditions, MDSV3 guidance directs pilots to update destination weather en route and prior to initiating descent. TACC weather personnel on the floor also monitor deteriorating weather conditions at destination airfields, and alert FMs when fields drop below minimums on active mission legs. However, this is manpower dependent (given up to 450 TACC controlled aircraft flying, daily). Our Weather Directorate has developed additional tools to help highlight fields that drop below minimums and spur corrective FM action, but we can't guarantee we'll catch every affected field that falls below minimums. To the maximum extent possible, we do try to assist in catching these types of issues prior to arrival, but as the expert‐on‐the‐aircraft for your particular mission, we rely on the AC's knowledge, expertise, and SA as we work with you from the TACC floor to accomplish the mission.
While crossing the Atlantic en route to CONUS, I discovered I had enough fuel to overfly my planned fuel stop and proceed direct to the destination. However, when I contacted my Flight Manager, I was informed that I might have to wait a few hours for customs support at the destination station if I flew direct—even though it was a main AMC base. Why is that?
TACC can only request customs support‐‐we do not directly control them. In this case, the DO/FM team passed on what they had been told by your destination station. There, as at other non‐international airports, customs personnel may have to drive possibly a number of hours to the military location, so even a couple hours notice may require additional time for customs response.
The FM's intent is not to discourage you from electing to overfly‐‐they are postured to support, but ultimately left it to your discretion. In this case, as well as with future opportunities, TACC is here to support the execution of your mission effectively and as efficiently as possible‐‐generally, the AC, as the "expert‐on‐the‐aircraft," is in the best position to determine the right option to complete the mission.
Why do weather reports in my IFM package only provide a forecast for +/- 1 hour around scheduled arrival? This does not provide very much information in the case of a significant mission delay.
Weather information provided for inclusion in IFM packages is required to "meet the request" of the Flight Manager, which is, by AFI definition, the arrival time +/‐ 1 hour. This also potentially avoids confusion, providing an easier‐to‐read report on forecast arrival weather without having to pick it out of a more complex TAF report. In the event of delays, however, TACC weather personnel are available 24/7 to provide updated weather information. Crews are absolutely encouraged to contact a TACC weather briefer any time they have questions or require updates as a result of mission itinerary or time changes.
Why were the weather forecasts in my IFM package so different from the observed headwinds and other conditions we experienced during the flight? These differences resulted in a much greater fuel burn than that indicated by CFP calculations
TACC weather forecasts come directly from data provided by external agencies (typically, Operational Weather Squadrons that report on a specific part of the world). TACC weather personnel then use that data to build the weather products included in your IFM package.
Although we can't directly affect the weather data provided to us, given specific actual weather conditions, we can compare the observed conditions to the provided forecast and query the external agencies regarding significant and/or recurring discrepancies. In the future, when you observe significant disparities between forecast and actual weather conditions, please provide us as much information as possible regarding your observed conditions (wind velocities/date/time/location), so we can better investigate or identify any issues within the weather reporting system.
As you know, those weather/wind forecasts directly impact fuel calculations within the CFP. Those automated calculations are based on ‐1‐1 guidance and do take into account full instrument approach procedures, tech order aircraft performance models, etc. TACC does not have the ability to "tweak" CFP calculations. However, we do add fuel to the resulting calculated required ramp fuel to account for aircraft specific biases or AMC‐directed guidance.
Why would the FM not automatically provide an updated CFP when I identified updated/different cargo load information on the next leg?
The flight manager will typically run a new CFP when they become aware of payload deviations. The FM Ops Manual has payload deltas by MDS, that if exceeded require a new CFP. The delta for the C5 is 10K, which did not render an automatic update in this case. Also, as you get closer to takeoff, you may be able to run an updated flight plan faster than the FM running a new CFP (due to existing CFPS software).
Unfortunately, our flight planning software takes some time to generate an updated CFP--it's for this reason the FM most likely offered a new CFP as an option, as opposed to automatically running one so close to takeoff. We do have new flight planning software in development to address this issue--however, it will still take some time to bring this software online. In the meantime, when your launch sequence permits, you can expect updated CFPs from your FM to accommodate significantly different cargo weights.