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Formation Flight

Why would anyone in his right mind intentionally fly so close to another aircraft? Well, it looks pretty cool - I guess that's enough to try it out. The real reason, I now think, is the challenge of it all. I went to All Red Star fly in at Porterville, CA in 2008 to learn to fly in formation. The Red Star Pilot Association puts on a great clinic. The ground school goes into the reasons to fly in formation: mutual support, it's the safest way to get two or more aircraft to the same place at the same time, etc. Safety is the key to it all and the training the RPA provides a way to learn to do it safely. This is the real stuff - just like the Thunderbirds (but not so close or so aerobatic). This isn't puttering along near your buddy in a C172! There's pictures on the Flying Photo Page.

Off I went with an instructor in the back seat. Formation flight for the rookie requires an enormous amount of concentration - there's a lot going on. I was wore out after only about 40 minutes or so of flying. Each flight consisted of a pre-flight briefing, the flight and a debrief. As the student, I received a debrief from the instructor as well. The flight debrief allows for everyone's perspective - no room for egos here! These are a great group of pilots to fly with. Everyone is willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

I got a little closer to learning what the airplane is capable of. Formation flying requires a much higher level of precision that most of us are used to at the Private Pilot level.


I'm continuing formation training and having a blast. As soon as I get the required flight time under my belt, I'm going to do the check ride to be FAST qualified - meaning I can fly in formation at airshows.

I now have a FAST Rating! The hardest part was waiting to get the required 350 hours Total Time to take the check ride. A review of my log book showed more than 50 hours of formation flight over the last two years - every moment of it was exhilarating!
All Red Star is a great event for all aviators - warbird pilots or not!