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There’s an app for that! Mobility allocation planning gets an upgrade

  • Published
  • By Corrie Poland

With the help of 21st century software and an agile development team, the process for planning global air mobility allocation got a modern reboot with the scheduling tool, Magellan – and it took less than a year to deploy across Air Mobility Command (AMC).

Airmen from the Air Mobility Command operations office and the 375th Communications Support Squadron at Scott Air Force Base partnered with Pivotal Software, Inc. and the Air Force Operational Energy office to create a digital application for the long-term scheduling of mobility ‘tails and crews.’ In January 2020, AMC officially recognized Magellan as a tool of choice for allocation planning and began integrating it into normal operations in the following months.

Hosted on the Kessel Run platform, Magellan provides an electronic interface for operational planners to allocate mobility aircraft and their associated crews over several months, providing greater visibility and enabling them to de-conflict recurring missions and high-demand periods.

Previously, planners were required to use spreadsheets, email, and conference calls – often needing to spend several hours each week to sync information across wings and address overlapping missions. Now the teams can log onto Magellan where aircraft and crew data are updated and synced automatically, saving them significant time coordinating each allocation cycle.

According to the Magellan Product Manager, Senior Airman Dane Hansen, the application improves planning efficiency and provides greater visibility on aircraft location and crew availability.

“We now have the ability to see capacity data – how many tails are available at a base at a certain time,” Hansen said. “The software will alert you if there are too many tasks for each day and you need to adjust crew or tails. It informs decision makers and the teams are better able to collaborate.”

The tool can also provide increased flexibility when last-minute scheduling conflicts occur, or changes are needed, he added.

Hansen leads the Magellan development effort for the 375th Communications Support Squadron, working side-by-side with Airmen and contractors in designing, coding, and updating the software. When the effort kicked off in April 2019, the team of approximately 15 Airmen traveled to Pivotal Software’s Chicago offices on a rotating basis to receive comprehensive training in software engineering. As they’ve completed training, the airmen have returned to Scott Air Force Base to finish developing the product.

“With Magellan, the Air Force will able to make decisions better and faster. They can fly more missions with the same amount of aircraft, and less required planning time,” stated Tim Niehoff, Product Manager and Delivery Lead for Pivotal Labs, who has been overseeing the project since October 2019. Niehoff and his team provide hands-on training to Airmen developing the application, who can then use their skills for future Air Force projects.

“Projects like this really show people what we’re are capable of,” Hansen said. “We’ve created a useful tool that saves Airmen time and effort, and we can use what we’ve learned to develop other applications.”

Since its release, the team has continued to update the tool’s capabilities, often allowing for broader use outside of its original scope. For example, the tool originally brought in requests for assets only, but now allocators can take those requests and build allocation plans with an innovative new interface called “Timeline 2.0,” an interactive display that can rebalance aircraft and crews in real-time.

In April, Magellan was used to brief AMC senior leaders on how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact operations, giving them real-time data to make informed decisions, the team said.

“This is a great example of how technology can improve processes for the Air Force,” continued Niehoff.

To date, the tool has nearly 200 users worldwide and the team will continue to expand its utility and provide any needed maintenance. They estimate Magellan will be available for classified data starting this coming June.

The project is part of Air Force Operational Energy’s greater strategy to introduce technology, data, and innovative processes to optimize Air Force operations.