Tom's Flight Dreams
I've topped the winds-swept heights where never Lark or even Eagle flew...
Formation is one of the most enjoyable, rewarding types of flying I know of, for it requires not just your own expertise, but that of others, as well as the ability to understand and anticipate the actions of others. For the same reason that an entire orchestra works together to create a work of beauty, so too does a formation of planes.
Flying formation can be fun, but it is challenging, dangerous, and complicated and should never be attempted without adequate training and practice. Although I have been able to find some canard pilots willing to undertake the classroom preparation and in-flight instruction necessary to safely fly formation, most have been unwilling to dedicate the amount of time necessary to do it correctly and safely.
Once you the participants have undergone detailed classroom discussions about formation flying, it is time to go out and practice. Although I have tried to teach people to fly formation with me in one plane and the student in the other, it didn't work. I now believe that the only way to safely learn formation is with an experienced formation pilot in the lead, and the student flying on their wing with an instructor in the back seat.
If you are contemplating flying formation, please get with experienced pilots, preferably those with a military background, to learn how to do it right. Failure to do so could kill not only you, but others as well.
Additionally, joining up on other pilots in flight without specifically asking their permission to do so is not only unsafe, but rude.
Something else to keep in mind is that the more dissimilar the planes in terms of their performance, the more difficult it is to safely fly formation.
Done correctly, formation flying is a fantastic experience. If anyone has the time and inclination to go about learning it correctly, I would be glad to participate and teach.
For additional information about formation flying, I would recommend contacting the following groups or using the linked resources:
The T-34 Association is one of the best-recognized trainers of formation pilots. I strongly endorse their book and video as part of any formation training syllabus. Their Formation website, including information about the FAST program, is found at:
“Remember, it’s a wingman’s job to make their lead look good, so shut up and hang on, and do what I do.”
Lt “Spots” Leppla
Formation Instructor in T-2C Buckeyes
January 11, 1988
Flying the slot under a 1929 Travelair Biplane ©john altberg
Tom leading a flight of EZ’s during the Arlington Fly-In. That’s Jim Price’s pastel-colored Long-EZ off Tom’s left wing
Mike Sabourin leading Tom in their Long-EZ’s over central Wyoming
Eric Westland in his Cozy IV and Mike Sabourin in his Long-EZ fly formation over Mount St. Helens
Mike Sabourin in the lead with Ken Koskella flying a proper parade position