Agility Prime lead talks about career and flying cars
By Brian Brackens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center
/ Published May 04, 2021
What is your name and job title? Natasha Tolentino, lead Program Manager for Agility Prime, within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate.
What experience and education do you have? I’ve been working for the U.S. Air Force since high school. I originally started out working in human resources at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then transitioned to the Base Realignment and Closure Office, where I helped facilitate incoming missions. From there, I served as the exec for the 88th Air Base Wing and Installation Commander. Eventually I became a PALACE Acquire intern and worked as a program manager in what was then the Aeronautical Systems Center. For education, I have a bachelor’s degree from Park University and master’s from Central Michigan University.
What is Agility Prime? Agility Prime is a non-traditional program seeking to accelerate the commercial market for advanced air mobility vehicles. We are trying to create market maturity [for flying cars] in the commercial world, and we are working outside of the normal requirement structure. I don’t know if you know this, but in the research and development realm, commercial industry outspends government four to one. So we are capitalizing on that, and instead of us relying on one company to fit our needs, we will allow the market to mature and then we’ll decide how we can better utilize the technology.
How close are we to getting flying cars? We actually had our first flight - the first government sponsored flight of three companies - within the last couple of months, and they were extremely successful. This is going to be a real technology we are hoping by 2023 and then we’ll see it in large amounts by 2030.
Is the intention to use those cars or vehicles for resupply? Absolutely. We’ve segmented the market into three different areas. The first is the people mover or people taxi, which is a 3-5 person manned variant. The second variant is for 1-2 passengers. Then we have a cargo-only variant, which we are targeting payloads of at least 500 pounds. While the vehicles could be used for resupply, there are so many other potential uses.
In the Air Force Pararescue world, there’s something called the golden hour, meaning if we can reach the patient with urgent medical attention within that hour, they are much more likely to survive. If we can remove the barriers on the ground and transport [via these vehicles] someone back and forth a fraction of the time it would take to spin up an aircraft and get people out, it would save time and lives.
What attracted you to the Agility Prime team? Before Agility Prime, I was working in the C-5 Program Office, and I was at a crossroads. I was thinking about leaving the government to get a little more experience and to understand what I was capable of outside of DoD. My mentor at the time told me about Agile Prime and how it would satisfy my need to be progressive and draw outside of the lines. Agility Prime allows me to enable change of that Air Force culture by changing how we do business and acquisitions.
What other projects are you working on? On any given day, it can change. Because of the fact that we do not turn away companies, we just have a specific criteria that they have to meet, and then we invite them to collaborate with us. We help set up test resources, we help provide subject matter expertise in areas they [companies] may be lacking, and so my day can range from having an airworthiness discussion, to setting up ground vibration testing, or cyber testing. I’m focused on the cost, schedule and performance of at least 27 different companies. Fortunately, I have a really great team and, I’m here to facilitate everyone else’s work.
How do you measure success? For me, success is truly seeing the buy in, seeing the number of individuals who are willing to give their time to us and then seeing the number of companies who have interest, or are calling out our blind spots and saying, “Hey you need this.”
What’s the next milestone for Agility Prime? We are heavy into mission design where we are trying to pair capabilities with end users. Our next milestone is to get major command sponsorship.
What career advice would you give to someone interested in an Air Force acquisition career? I would recommend that they figure out what they want to do, do their research. There are so many different specialties within the acquisition career field, that if you don’t like one, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself. More importantly, it’s about your personality and how you want to do your job.