Formation Flying

I’ve had the good fortune to meet and share the skies with many pilots during my flying career. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been gradually learning about formation flying under the tutelage of several experts when I visit Boulder City, NV (61B) to fly my Extra 300L. I recently enjoyed a refresher as part of a four-ship fight. I was in my Extra 300L with two RV-6As and an RV-8.

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Our lead (in his RV-6A) was Mark DuLaney, an experienced Air Force fighter pilot and instructor (his last assignment was as commander of an aggressor squadron at Nellis AFB). "Dula" has been an excellent and patient instructor, and I’ve also benefited from the generosity, experience, and skill of several other former Air Force pilots (including Mike Smith, below in his RV-6A painted in Air Force colors) who have baby-sat me while I fumbled through the fundamentals of flying in close proximity to other aircraft. It’s a demanding–and rewarding–discipline. Like aerobatics, it requires careful preparation (including thorough briefings before and after each flight), concentration, a fine touch on the controls, and a keen understanding of aerial geometry. I learn much from each flight, and I’ve gained new respect for the folks who do this type of flying "for real," when they have to combine the challenges of formation flying with all of the other demands of flying combat missions.

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Glenn Smith, a retired airline pilot, has often volunteered to fly lead in his beautiful RV-8 (above) so that I could practice basic formation skills.

More Pictures and Video

You can find photos (the big, clear ones are courtesy of Pat DuLaney) and video from that practice flight in one of my SkyDrive folders. The videos are in Windows Media Player format (available for various versions of Windows and Mac OSX).

To see the area we were flying in, visit Skyvector.com

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