Debriefing Pointers for the Deputy Lead and Wingmen 38
Common Debrief Errors 38
The Debrief Plan 38
Formation flying, by its very definition, is not a solo activity. Webster’s Dictionary defines formation as “…an arrangement of a…group…in some prescribed manner…” It is this “prescribed manner” that forms the building blocks of formation flight and becomes the foundation of standardization.
Because two or more pilots must function as one unit under the direction of a leader, it is imperative that each participant possess a common understanding of how the flight is to be conducted and how it will progress. Each individual pilot must have a thorough understanding of what he may reasonably expect of the others, and in turn, what the others expect of him. This common understanding, this standardization, is fundamental and is the very cornerstone of safe formation flight. It is this necessity for standardization that makes formation training crucial.
As a specialized activity, formation flying calls for specific knowledge, precision flying skills, and the utmost attention to all safety considerations. Although the skills are not difficult to learn for an experienced pilot, formation flying is not an activity for everyone. To do it safely it requires a commitment to mastering those skills and regular practice to maintain proficiency.
When approached from the proper perspective, a well planned, properly briefed, and skillfully executed formation flight can be eminently safe and bring a great deal of satisfaction to all participants. When approached from the wrong perspective – without standardization training, a thorough preflight briefing, practiced skills, or with a cavalier or arrogant attitude – it can be deadly. In the interest of everyone’s safety, from the participating pilots’ to people on the ground below, it is incumbent upon all involved to undertake standardization training from personnel who are qualified to teach the needed skills and procedures.
DEFINITION OF FORMATION FLIGHT
Formation flight may be defined in two ways:
Flight by more than one aircraft which, by prior arrangement between the pilots, operates as a single aircraft with regard to navigation and position reporting.
A flight wherein each (other than the lead) pilot’s visual attitude reference is another aircraft.
The FAA considers a “standard formation” one in which all aircraft maintain a proximity of no greater that one mile of lateral separation and 100 feet of vertical separation. A formation flight may not operate outside of those parameters and still be considered a formation flight without the specific approval of ATC, or unless operating in specially designated airspace.
Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 91.111, relating to operating near other aircraft, places further restrictions on the activity by dictating that:
(a) No person may operate an aircraft so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard.
(b) No person may operate an aircraft in formation flight except by arrangement with the pilot in command of each aircraft in the formation.
(c) No person may operate an aircraft, carrying passengers for hire, in formation flight.
Pilots who chose to engage in formation flight must be cognizant of these restrictions and limitations.
The most basic unit in a formation flight consists of two aircraft and is referred to as an Element or Section (the two terms are interchangeable). Within the Element one pilot is designated the Lead and the Element is under his command and direction. The second pilot, designated the Wingman, is pilot in command of his own aircraft and ultimately responsible for its safe operation, but in the context of the formation is subordinate to the Lead.