Two-Ship Formation Practice

I recently flew the Extra 300L south to its winter home. After several months without opportunity to practice formation flight, I had a chance to run through the basics with my mentor, who flies an RV-6A.

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Photos from a Formation Flight

For the first time in many months, I participated in a four-ship formation flight earlier this week. A gallery of photos is here. The high-quality photos are by Pat DuLaney, wife of the primary lead (we switched leads, as briefed, halfway through the flight so that I could practice flying both as #4 and later as #2). Some of the pictures are still captured from video that I shot during the flight.

All of the other airplanes are RVs; I’m in my Extra 300L.

To learn more about formation flying, see these articles:

Up Close and Personal: Formation Flying (AvVWeb)
Formation Flying (Plane & Pilot)

I’m flying as #2 behind lead in close trail formation.

Video of a Formation Practice Flight

Here’s a link to a video of a two-ship formation practice flight out of Boulder City, NV (KBVU).

Two-ship formation practice flight

I hadn’t flown formation in several months, so this was an opportunity to run through the basics, including:

  • Station-keeping in fingertip position during maneuvers
  • Cross-unders
  • Echelon turns
  • Pitch-outs and rejoins
  • Close trail
  • Extended trail

Lead, as usual, is in his RV-6A. He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and instructor well-versed in the art of formation flying. (Here’s an article about one organization that trains civilian pilots in formation flying.) I am in my Extra 300L.

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Video of a Practice Formation Flight

Here’s another YouTube video of a formation practice flight last week near KBVU. I captured the video with a ContourHD camera attached to my headset. I cleaned up the audio on this video and added narration to describe what’s going on at key points.

This was a two-ship flight with my primary formation-flying mentor. He flew F-4s, F-5s, and F-16s in the Air Force after serving as a T-38 instructor. He has lots of experience teaching formation flying and leading formation flights.

Lead was in his RV-6A. Another Extra, this one a 330LX (the newest model and successor to the 300L that I fly), joined us. That red airplane was flown by another Air Force fighter pilot. He flies F-15s in a test squadron at Nellis AFB. We coordinated the rendezvous before the flight, and lead cleared him in after we established contact in the air. He stayed just a little while before he headed off for the rest of his planned flight.

Formation Practice Flight

A group of pilots at Boulder City, NV is preparing for a missing-man fly-by next week at the veterans home in town. I joined them today for a formation training flight. Here’s the video.

Because I haven’t flown formation in a while, I first flew in a two-ship with our lead to knock off some rust (and keen observers will note that I could benefit from further practice). We then joined a three-ship and flew as a five-ship for a couple of practice fly-bys of the veterans home, where they’ll do a missing-man formation fly-by next week.

The other airplanes in the group are all variants of the RV series of homebuilts.

You will notice a few jiggles of the ContourHD camera, which is mounted on my headset. That’s when I’m nodding to acknowledge hand signals from lead. At other times, lead gives signals with his airplane (e.g., rocking his wings to tell us to close up from route formation). We use a standard set of hand and airplane signals for most formation changes; only a few instructions (e.g., changing from close trail to extended trail) typically require verbal orders and acknowledgements.

The wide-angle lens distorts distances a bit, and the camera is a few inches above my eye level, but it still gives a realistic view from the cockpit.