Thursday, December 3, 2009

Formation Flying

On the left
A formation of Eagle 150s performing at an air show over Kluang, Malaysia.

Formation flying is  one of the more enjoyable aspects of flying and may or may not involve aerobatics. A group of two or more aircraft usually of the same type fly close together, changing the pattern of the formation as they display the flying skills of the pilots. In this picture they are in a right echelon formation.

What does it take for a pilot to fly formation safely and precisely?

The leader must know fully well not only his own aircraft's performance but also the other aircraft's capability in following his own aircraft's manoeuvres. He must also know if, by following his own aircraft's maneouvres, the other aircraft will be put in an unsafe position. More importantly, he must know if it is difficult for his team members to anticipate and follow his movements. This is one classic example where one must learn to follow before one can lead.

For the team members, the same requirements will apply but they do not have the responsibility of leading. They must concentrate on what the leader is doing and fly their aircraft in harmony with him while maintaining their relative posiition in the formation. Knowing one's aircraft intimately is therefore  mandatory.

Formation flying is easier said than done but it sure is a great sport.

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