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Flight planner keeps KC-135 mission moving ‘Forward’

Flight planner goes over mission with pilot.

Glen Forward, 92nd Operational Support Squadron dispatch flight planner and Capt. Steve Suhrie, 92nd Operations Group Training instructor pilot go over a flight plan October 29, 2018, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. As a flight planner, Forward plans routes, how much fuel the aircraft will need and any restrictions there may be for a flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- It takes more than starting engines and taking off to accomplish a flight mission. There are many processes to create a flight plan and Glen Forward, 92nd Operational Support Squadron dispatch flight planner, does just that. From working with the weather flight to the aircrew, Forward’s efforts make flying possible.

Forward joined the Air Force in 1979 as a boom operator before becoming a flight planner his last three years of duty. After serving 20 years active duty, he has continued serving as a civilian flight planner the last 17 years.

It takes time and careful planning to guarantee a safe flight, to include fuel needs, wind conditions and more. This requires diligent attention-to-detail.

“I have a list of tasks that have to be completed in a specific order to ensure the mission can be accomplished,” Forward said. “I look at the weather to see how much fuel the aircraft needs for each mission because head or tail winds make a difference to aircraft [fuel loads]. I have a library of flight plans… I pick the route an aircraft will fly and have to get prior permission for the aircraft to land.”

Coordination is very important as a flight planner. Forward has to determine fuel load and times of takeoff and the duration of the flight, then work with the scheduling office in order to get the proper flight and land time for the aircrews.

“Glen’s details on missions and his calculations for flight planning are precise,” said Timothy Davis, 92nd Air Refueling Wing scheduler. “When he sends us mission details it helps everyone involved, including our aircrews and the receiver crews, to know the flight time and time for air refueling.”

Not only are these items important, they help Forward provide critical mission details to crews for successful execution.

“His job is important because he is the one who plans our missions, enabling us to do our job,” said Capt. Steve Suhrie, 92nd Operations Group Training instructor pilot. “He saves us a lot of time that we otherwise would not have.”

Forward gets to provide hands-on-training and offers instructions and assistance to combat tactics, aircrew training and operational support, and helps pilots sharpen their mission planning skills.

He also helps arrange strange operating airfield missions, which are unfamiliar airfields. These missions allow aircrews to fly into an airfield and do transition pattern work, which can range from instrument or visual approaches to touch and go landings.

“It’s a young force right now, and we want the aircrews to have experience going into an unfamiliar airfield,” Forward said. “When the time comes and they have to fly somewhere new, they’ll know what they need to do.”

Aircrews also support fly overs and static displays which Forward plans through the Air Mobility Command. Along with these, he also studies terrain because any high points, like towers, need to be known so the aircraft flies over them at a safe distance.

Not only does he support the flying mission, he also reduces the time it takes for aircrews to conduct a mission brief before each flight, allowing them to have a smoother process.

During his time at Fairchild, Forward has helped plan many missions, but has enjoyed working with the aircrews the most.

“I can give the crews continuity. They’re always gone and things change; they can come back with a sense of understanding of what they need to do,” Forward said. “It’s not fun when you arrive somewhere and don’t know where you’re going, what you’re doing or how much fuel you need. I’m able to give them that information.”

The way I look at it, if everyone is going forward in one direction and are knowledgeable on what we need to get done, we win the war, Forward said.