Blogging in Formation

Aviators are a social lot. Spend any time around a small general aviation airport and you’ll learn that even the crabbiest old hangar rats among us is happier when there’s someone around to toss an insult to. Yes, we love doing things together, whether it’s fixing or building an aircraft, eating, sitting around the hangar telling lies, or even flying.

The ultimate airborne manifestation of this phenomenon is formation flying. Not just being in an aircraft with fellow pilots, but each person bringing their own airplane along for the ride as well. It can appear deceptively easy. After all, we drive our cars on the highway in “formation” for hours on end and think nothing of it, barely paying attention as we hurl along the interstate at 80 mph while mere inches from vehicles on both sides of us.

A large formation of RVs at the  2013 West Coast Formation Clinic.
A large formation of RVs at the 2013 West Coast Formation Clinic.

In reality, anyone who’s done it can tell you that quality formation flying takes a lot of work. You’re moving at a much higher speed, for one thing. There are no lane lines to guide you, no road for support, and so the aircraft must be controlled in all three dimensions. The air currents — much like a river — are constantly ebbing and flowing, bouncing the aircraft around.

The throttle alone gets a serious workout, as anyone who’s not the lead aircraft will find themselves needing to make constant power adjustments to hold “station”. And the stakes are much higher, because unlike an automobile, a collision between planes is far more likely to result in a funeral.

So far it doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? But in my experience, when it’s done with skill and precision, formation flying is a lot like aerobatics: incredibly demanding, rewarding, and just plain fun. If you’re a pilot, formation flying can be a wonderful cure for that “what now?” feeling you may get when you need something to reignite your passion for flying. And as I previously noted, it’s the ultimate social flying activity.

Here’s a video from the recent 2013 West Coast Formation clinic in Madera, CA that will give you a good sense of what this kind of flying is all about. The WCFC is a large training event specifically for the RV series of experimental aircraft. Note the constant adjustments by each pilot in order to hold their aircraft in just right position.

This reminds me of the flying I sometimes do for Skytypers, a formation skywriting team based at Chino. The five aircraft have to maintain a line-abreast formation of considerable (yet precise) distance while the smoke is on in order to make the sky typing look good from the ground while creating a message that can be several miles long.

The west coast SkyTypers team
The west coast SkyTypers team

Come to think of it, formation flying has played a role in quite a bit of my aviating. Whether it’s “on tow” during a glider flight or enroute to an aerobatic contest, there’s always a great feeling of camaraderie during formation flight, not to mention a feeling of safety. If I should suffer an engine failure or other problem, I’ve got someone right next to me that knows exactly where I am. Another set of eyes to look for traffic, weather, or just talk to on a long cross-country leg.

Speaking of flying together, a few aviation writers (myself included) have banded together to try a new concept: “blogging in formation”. The idea is that we’ll take a topic — in this case, how we got into flying — and write about it. There are six of us, each with a specific day to publish our post.

Taking the social aspect of flying online, one post at a time.
Taking the social aspect of flying online, one post at a time.

If this thing takes off, we might turn it into a regular series. Please do follow the various writers as it goes from one site to another and see how each of us ended up in this quirky little flying world of ours!

Series #1: How I Got Started

05/07/13 Flight to Success – “What Drew Me to Flying”
05/08/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Blogging in Formation”
05/09/13 House of Rapp – “Looking Back”
05/10/13 Airplanista – “How I Was Brought Into Aviation”
05/11/13 Smart Flight Training – “Why I Fly”
05/12/13 iFLYblog – “My Journey to Flight”

Series #2: My Most Memorable Flight

06/04/13 Flight to Success – “TWA 800”
06/05/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Launch My Career… or Die?”
06/06/13 House of Rapp – “Taming the Beast”
06/07/13 Airplanista – “Duggy”
06/08/13 Smart Flight Training – “The Flaming Ball”
06/09/13 iFLYblog – “First Flight of my RV-8”

Series #3: The Future of Aviation in the U.S.

06/29/13 Airplanista – “The Resiliency of the GA Family Will Be Tested”
06/30/13 Smart Flight Training – “The Future of Aviation in the USA”
07/01/13 iFLYblog – “We ARE the Future”
07/02/13 Flight to Success – “What Will Your Aviation Future Bring?”
07/03/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “The Future of U.S. Aviation”
07/04/13 The House of Rapp – “The Future is Already Here”

Series #4: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

08/02/13 Airplanista – “The Mother of All Hangar Flying Stories”
08/04/13 Smart Flight Training – “11 Insane Things About Aviation”
08/05/13 iFLYblog – “A Knight of the Air”
08/06/13 Flight to Success – “Truth is Stranger Than Fiction”
08/07/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “True Airplane Tales”
07/04/13 The House of Rapp – “A Story Like That’s Gotta Be True”

Series #5: My One Wish For Aviation

09/01/13 The House of Rapp – “The Spirit of 1903”
09/02/13 iFLYblog – “My One Wish for Aviation”
09/03/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
09/04/13 Flight to Success – “No More Airline Crashes”
09/05/13 Smart Flight Training – “King for a Day”
09/06/13 Airplanista – “GA Thrives Once Again”

Series #6: Best Instructional Moment

09/28/13 The House of Rapp – “The Third Rail”
09/29/13 iFLYblog – “My Most Instructional Moment”
09/30/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “There I Wuz…”
10/01/13 Flight to Success – “Secrets of Success”
10/02/13 Smart Flight Training – “Becoming a Pilot Can Help You Live a Better Life”
10/03/13 Airplanista – Post removed

Series #7: Aviation History Month

11/01/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Mary Grace Baloyo”
11/02/13 iFLYblog – “American Spitfire Recon Squadron”
11/03/13 Airplanista – “A Genderless Sky”
11/04/13 Smart Flight Training – “The Hawaii Clipper”
11/05/13 Flight to Success – “My Husband”
11/06/13 The House of Rapp – “The Ultimate Endurance Record”

Series #8: What I Want Under the Christmas Tree

12/01/13 iFLYblog – “What I Want Is… Electrifying”
12/02/13 Airplanista – “A GA Power Collective”
12/03/13 Smart Flight Training – “The Charity Gift List”
12/04/13 Flight to Success – “Giving, Not Getting”
12/05/13 The House of Rapp – “Motoart Under the Tree”
12/06/13 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Top Ten Rides”

Series #9: New Year’s Resolutions

01/01/14 Smart Flight Training – “Twelve Aviation Resolutions”
01/01/14 Flight to Success – “Happy New Year”
01/02/14 The House of Rapp – “Year of the Tailwheel”
01/02/14 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Turn off the *&^% and Fly!”
01/03/14 iFLYblog – “My New Year’s Resolutions”
01/03/14 Mark L. Berry – “My New Year’s Resolution”

Series #10: Favorite Destinations

02/01/14 The House of Rapp – “Santa Catalina”
02/01/14 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “A Tiny Dirt Strip”
02/02/14 iFLYblog – “Oshkosh”
02/02/14 Mark L. Berry – “Nepal & the Greek Isles”
02/03/14 Smart Flight Training – “Books”
02/03/14 Tally One – “Nellis Air Force Base”
02/04/14 Flight to Safety – “No Place Like Home”
02/04/14 Smart Flight Training – “Books”
02/03/14 Leland Shanle – “Gulf Shores in the Muskateer”

Series #11: Passenger Tales

03/01/14 iFLYblog – “My Most Memorable Passenger”
03/01/14 Mark L. Berry – “Dealing with Passengers”
03/02/14 Smart Flight Training – “Wynnie”
03/02/14 Tally One – “Wingman/Passenger”
03/03/14 Flight to Success – “Passengers: My Favorite People”
03/03/14 Leland Shanle – “Passengers… in a Fighter Jet”
03/04/14 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Dealing with Passengers, Part I”
03/04/14 The House of Rapp – “Passengers: Keeping Things Interesting”

Series #12: Solo Flying

04/01/14 Smart Flight Training – “The Meaning of Solo”
04/01/14 Flight to Success – “A Near Midair”
04/02/14 The House of Rapp – “The Abandoned Column”
04/02/14 Tally One – “Flying Solo vs. Flying Alone”
04/03/14 Leland Shanle – “Solo Flight”
04/03/14 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “My First Solo”
04/04/14 iFLYblog – “Solo Flow”
04/04/14 Mark L. Berry – “ERAU Solo”

Series #13: BIF Mash-Up!

05/01/14 Flight to Success – “Battle on Safety” (guest post by Andrew Hartley)
05/01/14 Leland Shanle – “Old Friends and New Hires” (guest post by Mark Berry)
05/02/14 The House of Rapp – “Our Flying Family” (guest post by Rob Burgon)
05/02/14 Adventures of Cap’n Aux – “Mother Goose Day” (guest post by Karlene Petitt)
05/03/14 iFLYblog – “User Fees for All” (guest post by Ron Rapp)
05/04/14 Tally One – “Flying a Fallen Hero” (guest post by Eric Auxier)
05/04/14 Smart Flight Training – “Consider Ownership” (guest post by Brent Owens)

  3 comments for “Blogging in Formation

  1. May 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I have been anxiously waiting for this. I look forward to it as people’s stories are one of my favorite things about aviation.

    • May 8, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Same here, David. I could write a book about the endlessly fascinating people I’ve met through aviation. The flying stories are great, of course, but at the end of the day it’s the human aspect of aviation that I’m most drawn to.

Leave a Reply


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: