Formation flying is an acquired skill set which needs to be taken very seriously. Flying a GA airplane is inherently dangerous and during flight training it is stressed that pilot’s need to make sure that they keep their aircraft well clear of other planes. Formation flight turns this advice up side down - the aim being to fly one’s aircraft in the close proximity to one or more other airplanes, pre-briefed of course.
Flying in close proximity to another aircraft requires an exceptionally high level of pilot skill; it's demanding, disciplined, rewarding, and a lot of fun . . .
The most important first step is for the flight to be fully briefed by the flight lead - which could include a walk through of the formation, depending on the complexity of the flight. Once fully briefed it is essential that all pilots FLY THE BRIEF. If in any doubt don’t be shy - ask - and that includes using the radio to clarify matters with lead, and lead alone. Then after the flight is complete there should be a full de-brief.
The brief should include safety aspects relating to the flight, what to do during an abort, what to do during an in flight emergency and a full discussion of what is called ‘abnormals’.
In this section of the website we are setting out a number of ‘What If’ scenarios. Remember, you are a fully experienced and competent pilot - otherwise you would not be considering formation flying. You are not being trained to fly during this FAST program, you are being mentored. Your mentors may or may not be flight instructors, but all are widely experienced and FAST qualified formation pilots. Some have wing experience and others have both wing and lead time. The aim is to make you a safe and competent formation pilot and to have fun doing so . . .
Remember, as a formation pilot you need to have your ‘brain in gear’ at all times. You need to be constantly assessing your situation in the flight, and that of your team members around you. What do the letters ‘FAST’ stand for - Formation and Safety Team. Flying in a formation you are part of a team, and you have a ‘contract’ with each member of your team during the flight to ensure the safety of the team. The flight lead is in overall charge of the flight, but relies on his team to fly the brief as competently and safely as possible.
But the unexpected can sometimes happen. Far better to discuss potential WHAT IF scenarios on the ground with your team before the flight than create an action during the flight which other members of your team may not be expecting.
The following WHAT IF scenarios have been put together to encourage thought and discussion about all aspects of formation flight. They have been arranged into separate pages dealing with various aspects of a formation flight so that they can be easily added to and expanded for the benefit of all. Please note that they do not cover every single WHAT IF situation . . .