Formation flying – how to fly really close to another plane (on purpose)

After getting in a bit of a rut with my flying (see this video for more on that) I decided the way to spark my interest again was to stop being such a loner pilot and go flying with friends. So a group of us decided to fly together to get our formation flying endorsement.

Wait, you need an endorsement to fly in formation? Yes, in Australia we do. Same as how we need a separate rating to be able to fly VFR at night time, not like some other countries.

The formation flying training was done through Learn To Fly Melbourne across the apron from Blue Demon (where EYZ lives) at Moorabbin Airport. Instructors Nick and Josh took us through a ground briefing session before four flights introducing us to all of the formation flying stations (where you position your aircraft), emergency manoeuvres, turns, breaks, and the really fun formation take offs and landings.

Nick (left) and Josh (right) from Learn To Fly Melbourne

We did the formation training in two Cirrus SR22 G3 aircraft – VH-EYZ and VH-KJN – which made matching speeds and performance nice and simple.

VH-EYZ (me) off the wing taken from VH-KJN (Steven)

The formation training was not only a lot of fun of course, but hands-on (side)stick and rudder skills when flying aircraft with lots of automation like a Cirrus can degrade over time. So it was really beneficial getting some practise at holding attitudes by hand and managing pitch/power combinations to position yourself accurately alongside another aircraft when climbing and turning at the same time.

Formation landing on the left of the runway with VH-KJN landing on the right

Formation takeoffs and landings were a lot of fun. The take-off was actually pretty straightforward with us briefing power settings and speeds before departure, holding both aircraft on the brakes then releasing at the same time to rollout and rotate together. Landings take a lot more work to keep the aircraft in tight formation in the circuit, onto final and touching down on the runway at the same time. We would land on Moorabbin’s Eastern runway which is the widest of the two mains to give ourselves as much room as possible.

Watch the formation flying video

I made a video of the whole experience including lots of air to air sequences, training from Nick and Josh and those formation take offs and landings as well. It was a lot of fun flying with friends again, and this video is a good insight into how you can also get your formation flying endorsement.

Note: I paid full rate for my flight training and this is in no way associated with or sponsored by Learn To Fly Melbourne. However if you are looking to do some formation flying in Melbourne I’d definitely recommend giving them a call.

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