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Young pilot sets Air Force standard

The newest C-130J Super Hercules to be delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off from Lockheed Martin’s headquarters May 3, 2012, at Marietta, Georgia. This is Dyess’ 19th of 28 C-130J Super Hercules to be delivered, replacing the current legacy fleet. (Courtesy Photo)

The newest C-130J Super Hercules to be delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off from Lockheed Martin’s headquarters May 3, 2012, at Marietta, Georgia. This is Dyess’ 19th of 28 C-130J Super Hercules to be delivered, replacing the current legacy fleet. (Courtesy Photo)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said "every airman is an innovator" he was talking about airmen like Capt. Kyle Alderman. What was once considered the young pilot's "pet-project" has now become the Air Force standard.

Alderman consolidated multiple map displays including killbox keypads, satellite and drop zone imagery and probability ellipses into one heads-up digital map, providing C-130J aircrews one-look situational awareness and enhanced digital map capabilities.

"The J-model already had the capability to display map information, however, when we would operate in Afghanistan or in large-scale exercises, there was so much tactical information we needed multiple maps and displays," Alderman said. "It was very task saturating for pilots to sort through several items, while still trying to operate the aircraft, especially at night or in hostile environments."

Alderman noticed the issue while attending C-130J school at Little Rock AFB, Ark., in early 2010 and began researching and educating himself on programming the aircraft would need to make his "digi-map" possible.

That's when he came across a software called ERDAS and figured out he could build his own map that the plane could read, while incorporating the several displays into one consolidated moving map.

"Once I was able to create the format I needed, I got it on the plane, saw that it worked, proved it was possible and then tried to get it approved through the Air Force," he said.

Shortly after putting the finishing touches on his project, Alderman deployed and decided to take the new software with him.

"I showed my deployed commander that we can give our pilots the capability to display this information in a consolidated format. He loved it and pushed it up the chain of command, which exponentially increased the process," the pilot said.

After the new software was effectively tested on aircraft in January 2011, Alderman's innovative part-time project was then flown for the first time during combat operations that summer.

What potentially saved the Air Force millions of dollars, took the ingenuity of only a single airman who never sought recognition, but instead just wanted to contribute anyway he could to the mission.

"If I can save one brain byte, and let the pilots focus on something else during their mission because they could see the information quickly on the digital map, it was well worth the time spent trying to get it designed and approved," he said.

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