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GCN : October 2014
18 GCN OCTOBER 2014 • GCN.COM When you’re an Air Force boom opera- tor, time and accuracy come first. It’s the boom operator’s job to safely refuel aircraft in flight, which requires quick and exact weight and balance calculations during the fuel transfer. For years, boom operators working on the Air Mobility Command’s 59 tanker fleet were doing the best they could with aging software and personal digital as- sistants to run their calculations. It took an average of 46 minutes to perform the computations, and each calculation re- sulted in an average of seven to 10 minor errors. When the PDAs began breaking, it be- came clear it was time for a new solution. After deciding on a switch to iPads for its flight crews, the AMC requested a feasibil- ity study to determine whether the AMC’s own Software Engineering Office could develop an iOS-based mobile application for weight and balance computations. But while the Software Engineering Office’s 39 employees routinely engineer, maintain and update custom software for many parts of the Air Force as well as the Defense Department and U.S . Transporta- tion Command, very few had any experi- ence developing apps for iOS. Staff Sergeant Ryan Woods, lead de- veloper for the project, suggested that the team explore free or low-cost training al- ternatives. Two developers, in addition to Woods himself, ended up taking an online course offered by Stanford University. The course, plus plenty of trial and error, gave Woods and his team a good foundation for app building. In addition to having to learn iOS development, none of the team members had experience developing applications specifically for the KC-10 aircraft, which has its own unique specifications. To get up to speed, the team talked to KC-10 load and boom operators and consulted hundreds of pages of flight manuals and technical orders. KC-10 Extender boom operators can now use an iPad app for calculations that ensure weight is distributed correctly across the aircraft’s cargo floor. Air Force takes off with cutting-edge app Air Force software engineers built an app that now saves over 30 minutes for in-flight refueling PROJECT AT A GLANCE PROJECT: KC-10 Load Management System OFFICE: Air Mobility Command, U.S. Air Force TECHNOLOGY USED: iOS, Apple XCode, Fortify Security Scanner, Clang Scanner, Apple iPad TIME TO IMPLEMENTATION: 6 months BEFORE: Boom operators were using aging Dell PDAs to help determine weight and balance. The existing application was slow and outdated. AFTER: Boom operators use the custom- developed KC-10 Load Management System on new iPads to quickly and more accurately calculate weight and balance. AF.MIL
November and December 2014