As we say at AF Cyberworx, “If it doesn’t work for people, it doesn’t work.” Recently, a team of cadets working on a Flight Scheduling App visited a fighter squadron at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) in North Carolina. This trip to Seymour-Johnson helped the team shape their understanding of the problem, which will enable them to create a deliverable that drives to save flight schedulers time and effort, and results in fewer aborted flights. The project is in collaboration with Air Combat Command, Defense Innovation Unit, US Marine Corps, US Navy, and Microsoft.
While at Seymour-Johnson, the team interviewed some of the key actors in the flight scheduling process — schedulers, trainers, maintenance crew, etc. — to gain insights that will hopefully help them improve the user experience, build better profiles, and create a better solution with their app than they are currently using.
Understanding the Right Lingo & Functions
Before the team could jump into their interviews, tour, or simulations, they had to learn the correct language and use of acronyms. The Captain leading them on their educational journey introduced them to the basic flow of the syllabus and acronyms that would most likely be used through the day. Priority of the different squadrons and their functions were also explained in detail to the cadets. This included the yearly flight overlay, different types of flights that take place during training time, and even a history of the F-15E. All of this is important information for the team to learn before digging into the difficult task at hand: learning how an app can maximize flight schedulers’ time and user experience.
The team learned how to schedule airspace with a SSgt who had previously worked with four F-15E squadrons on base. A map provided showed the usable airspace available for the Seymour-Johnson AFB pilots and how it is allocated and distributed. The SSgt told the team about the typical challenges he deals with and a provided them a walkthrough on how to schedule airspace.
The team then took a tour through the hangars and F-15Es while chatting with the maintainers. A MSgt maintainer explained the requirements he must meet, what happens when they are not met, how he receives his information and where he must send it next. The team also learned about maintenance timelines for the F-15E fleet.
Lastly, the team had the chance to go to a Virtual Reality (VR)/Flight Simulator Lab where they were able to experience being in the cockpit of an F-15E during different flying scenarios through VR. Some scenarios included the jet being refueled from within the cockpit, an F-15E takeoff, crash, and landing.
The Problem to be Solved
Getting to know the current process for flight schedulers was a key component for the project team. Some key takeaways involved the arduous manual scheduling process, weather-related challenges, and human factors considerations. The team will rigorously research these obstacles and design a solution to either eliminate or improve the experience.
After having the chance to research the scheduling process and interview flight schedulers and maintainers, the team now has a better understanding of what their future app should aim to improve. Understanding the needs of the users is an important first step in building a solution that will fit the needs of the human using them. Be sure to follow future blog updates on the Flight Scheduling App!