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5 Answers

Formation Flight

Asked by: 4487 views
General Aviation, Private Pilot

A couple of fellow pilots and I are planning a cross-country together and would like some practical advice on formation flight. We aren't wanting to go "Blue Angels" and fly really close formations with tight precision, but just fly close enough to keep our group together. We are aware of FAR 91.111, and just want some tips to see how to/if we could do this in a safe, practical manner.


Any suggestions for a specific "formation"? Vertical, horizontal, and lateral separation between planes? Should we submit a flight plan with formation flight in the remarks (especially to cover us per FAR 91.111.b)? Suggestions for coordinating with ATC? Should we specify a "lead" and other  Maybe have all aircraft file/open a flight plan and one "lead" aircraft request flight following with all others monitoring the center freq?


Have you flown with a friend to Oshkosh, Sun'n'Fun, or any number of other fly-ins? Any stories or ideas on what did/didn't work are gladly welcomed. Thanks in advance!


And just for reference....

FAR 91.111

“Operating near other aircraft. (a) No person may operate an aircraft so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard. (b) No person may operate an aircraft in formation flight except by arrangement with the pilot in command of each aircraft in the formation. (c) No person may operate an aircraft, carrying passengers for hire, in formation flight.”

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5 Answers

  1. Kris Kortokrax on Feb 27, 2012

    I’ve flown a T-6 in formation with a Mustang, a Corsair, a T-28 and other T-6’s.
    I’ve also flown many antique biplanes in formation for photo flights, both as camera ship and subject ship.
    How similar are your aircraft in terms of performance?
    Of course, you need a “lead”.  Lead is responsible for navigation, communication and the formation.
    Best advice I can give you is find someone who has done it and get some instruction.

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  2. Jim Foley on Feb 28, 2012

    Ufortunately I have not done it, but I too have been looking into it for photo ops and such.  From talking to some ATC people I know, it seems the lead pilot is responsible for all communications with ATC.  That being said, the only expeirience they have with it is havin an excort for an aircraft coming in for avionics work.  In that situation, the second aircraft, obviously, didn’t have comms.  From listening to the ATC transmissions, there was really nothing out of the ordinary, except that sometimes they might add ‘flight’ or ‘flight of two’ on to the transmission.  As far as ATC is concerned, it’s one aircraft, even for takeoff/landing and ground ops.
    Once agian, just some observations I’ve made working at a Class C airport, and talking with some ATC; Nothing official.

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  3. John D. Collins on Feb 28, 2012

    I agree with Kris, get some instruction before you try this.  Several of the type clubs do formation flying into Oshkosh and require their participating pilots to receive tranining including initial and recurrent in formation flying.  You might want to contact them for when and where they do their training.  In the case of Bonanza’s to Oshosh, they provide a video and a manual for formation flight and do training each year prior to Oshkosh.  This is not something that is wise to be done without training.

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  4. LaPointe on Feb 29, 2012

    Transport Canada offers some informal advice on formation flight planning and the essential pre-flight briefing:

    Did the briefing cover how the flight is to be conducted in both normal and emergency situations?
    What is your role in the event of an emergency?
    Are your formation skills good enough that you won’t pose a risk of collision? How do you know?
    Is the pilot on your wing good enough? How do you know?

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  5. MaggotCFII on Mar 03, 2012

    Google for this, can’t copy it to here:
    Naval Air Training Command, Flight Training Instruction, Primary Formation T-34C, 2006
    And as noted above obtain solid instruction before trying.

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