Friday, October 12, 2012

Surfing Lessons From the Geese

Or, how to mix yer metaphors...  From the Usual USAF Source:
California Surfing Automated-Style: In a recent series of trials at Edwards AFB, Calif., two C-17s probed the fuel-savings potential of long-distance formation flying using automated control software to maintain position. This Air Force Research Lab-sponsored project is known as Surfing Aircraft Vortices for Energy, or $AVE, states an Oct. 11 AFRL release. It "involves two or more aircraft flying together for a reduced drag effect like what you see with a flock of geese," explained Donald Erbschloe, Air Mobility Command's chief scientist, in an Oct. 10 command release. The software allow pilots to "surf" the vortex of a lead airplane for long distances, thereby conserving energy, according to AFRL. "The autopilot held the position extremely well, even close to the vortex," noted test pilot Capt. Zachary Schaffer. The tests ran from Sept. 6 to Oct. 2. Analysis of initial data indicates that the trailing C-17 cut fuel burn by almost 10 percent while flying no closer than 4,000 feet from the lead aircraft, according to Edwards officials. This type of formation flying holds the promise of reducing fuel consumption by "millions of gallons" annually, according to AFRL.
"$AVE."  That's cute, innit?  I like the concept, though.  The reference to geese reminded me of one of the first of those tiresome management homilies I ever saw was force-fed... "Lessons From the Geese," Item Number One bein' this:
Lesson 1 - The Importance of Achieving Goals
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a 'V' formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range.


When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals. 
The rest is here... if you can stand it.

Aside:  I was tempted to make this a "Not Your Father's Air Force" post, but the ideer is good and there ain't no irony in it at all.  Disqualified.


  1. Amazing info (the V formation adding 71 % to the range) although I get your drift about the homily style. "Millions of gallons" saved is also pretty amazing. Does the 71 % for geese in a V translate to Planes flying in a V?

    1. Does the 71 % for geese in a V translate to Planes flying in a V?

      I have no idea... but I'm thinkin' "not." And how did that/those guy(s) comes up with the 71% number, anyway?

  2. Hhhmm, now that I think on it a bit (not too long otherwise my head hurts) this makes sense. After all, in auto racing they do something similar, called "drafting" I believe. (Not that I know squat-all about auto racing. Other than that.)

    The goose thing. That was very popular at my place of business for a while. But then the employees started crapping all over the parking lot and the sidewalks. And they'd walk through the hallways in V-formations, honking.


    1. That was very popular at my place of business for a while.

      DON'T get me started... Once upon a time I had an SSU* director who subscribed to the Harvard Business Review and we HATED to see the newest edition of the magazine on his desk, mainly coz we KNEW that whatever was being flogged in the HBR as the latest-and-greatest was gonna come our way within days, if not hours. That frickin' geese thang was an illustration.

      * SSU = Strategic Support Unit. EDS was divided into Strategic Business Units (led by presidents) and SSUs, led by directors.


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