Formation (doing it together)

This site conceptually joins the words “aviator” and “writer” with  an essential fighter pilot skill: formation flying.

Of all the differences between civilian and military aviation, the intentional act of reducing the distance between airplanes to a few feet is without question one of the most significant. This is not to say that civilian pilots don’t fly in formation, because they most certainly do. The key distinction, however, is that of purpose, because I’m not talking about the exotic show formations of demonstration teams.

Practical demands of daily operations force military aircraft into close proximity, which fundamentally changes the risks already inherent in the profession. During my career, the statistical reality was this: 85% of all mid-air collisions occurred between members of the same flight. Making light of the danger, fighter pilot jargon typically referred to any formation flying as, “Same way, same day.” There’s a lot more to it, of course. To illustrate the significance of formation to my blog, I’ll use the most common variation, called “fingertip.”

Reference either hand with the fingers extended and together, the tips represent the relative positions of each member of a four-ship formation flight: the middle finger is #1 (the flight leader); the index finger is #2 (a wingman); the third finger is #3 (the element leader), and the pinkie (although no fighter pilot would ever call it that) is #4 (also called a wingman). Split into two parts, the four-ship formation becomes two elements, each with a leader and a wingman.

I have established seven post “logbooks” within this blog to illustrate the underlying concept that captures the differences in the subject matter I use to write the posts. Please see the Blog and Logbook Pages for an explanation of each.

4 Responses to Formation (doing it together)

  1. Ray Fuentez says:

    In the Navy, aviators are known as “brown shoes,” (among other things.) I’ve never begrudged the brown shoes their flight pay — God knows they earn it. It’s their base pay I question. Why should taxpayers pay for them to have fun?
    Seriously, this is a great site, great blog! Congratulations!

  2. John Cyrier says:

    fun site. I have been involved with two Stearman Flight formation clinics since last year and it has increased my passion for flying. (never thought that would happen) I received my FAST card on the last ride and was #49 to do so in the Stearman since it is a new designation. I get to practice about once a month with another friend of mine which is not enough to stay truly proficient and to feed my need.

    We just discovered a new “tool” that is fantastic for debriefing and training of formation flying. It is a pair of video eyewear called i-Kam Xtreme. It has a small camera at the bridge of the nose and can record 3 hrs of detailed digital video all in a pair of glasses! During debrief, you see exactly all the sight pictures and can “play back” all the flight for review. I plan on placing a flight on YouTube for other formation pilots to see. Take care and hope to see you soon. John

    • Tosh McIntosh says:

      Thanks for visiting the site, John. (adv: Please tell your friends!) Fantastic idea with the video. I’ll have to look into that. Hope to see you soon as well and we can catch up. Tosh

  3. Mal Emerson says:

    A quick story…. Got hit once. I was leading a 2 ship of F 106s. We were planning a formation landing. On downwind, I felt a strong roll away from my wingman. I looked and he was a bit forward and moving away. All he said was “it’s OK”. We made a nice formation landing. I didn’t know he hit me until I looked at the wing tip. It looked like something bit it. Nothing missing but chewed up pretty good. I don’t know who said what to who but I was blamed as much or more than he.

    The mistake he made was not getting too close and forward, though he did. The mistake was banking away to get away. His wing overlapped mine by maybe 6 feet and as he rolled, it hit the bottom of my wing and did damage to both wings as it slid off. I have been pushed by a close wingman so I thought it was just that.

    To extricate one from being too far forward, you have to do something counterintuitive, you have to push over and if banking, roll toward lead.

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