Instructor pilot strengthens airfield readiness through beta app
By Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 10, 2020
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The 50th Flying Training Squadron is Columbus Air Force Base’s premier fighter pilot training squadron where students selected for the fighter/bomber track fly the T-38C Talon trainer jet in phase III of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training.
Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training students from the 50th FTS are among the best chosen for the fighter and bomber track. Before they can climb into the T-38C Talon to master the skies, they have to adhere to the conditions of the airfield.
An important aspect of flight training is receiving clearance to enter, also known as stepping, onto the flight line from the Operations Supervisor (Ops Sup). The Ops Sup must brief instructors and students of the condition and status of Columbus Air Force Base’s and nearby airfields, as well as other pertinent information, for safety purposes.
To innovate and improve the process Capt. McKenzie Kane, 50th FTS Instructor pilot, has been designing an application over the past year to display such information called AF Status. The beta version of AF Status is now being used to replace a dated process to disseminate pre-flight information within the squadron and at Vance Air Force Base.
“The initial concept was developed a year ago, and is now in testing phases at the 50th FTS and Vance AFB,” Kane said. “Having spent most evenings and weekends writing the framework and battling to find a way to deploy the application; it is rewarding to see the app in the test phase.”
AF Status provides an array of information at the pilot’s fingertips, such as weather, flying status, runway conditions, and operational notes. The real-time application displays airfield conditions on TVs throughout the squadron and on instructor pilot electronic flight bags (Apple iPads).
In the early production stages the app caught the eye of Senior Airman Jacob Traugott, who at the time was in the 71st Operation Support Squadron as the lead software developer at Spark Industries on Vance AFB. Together with Kane, they formed a small community to get the application to the next phase, which would incorporate different airframes, different squadrons and new automated features.
“This product has enabled a completely different take on accessing current flying status data throughout the base,” Traugott said. “This would be an amazing solution for the Air Force to adopt. Once that happens it could go Air Force wide and has even more potential if adopted for pilots at any Flight Based Operations center.”
It is now being used by the 33rd, 8th and 25th FTS at Vance AFB as their primary use for flying operations status. There are additional design improvements in the works for AF Status, such as the ability for the Supervisor of Flying to update data for an entire base.
"Innovation is the key to the AF’s success in the future,” Capt. Kane said. “The technology advancement pace is only speeding up and we must lead the charge or we will lose the next war before it even begins.”