Formation Flight Rewards Lots of Hard Work

March 19, 2017

In-flight photograph of a P-51 Mustang, shot from the back seat of a T-28 Trojan trainer. The two are in formation flight with each other.By Lynn Hunt, Director of Flight Operations

What a day! Yesterday was one of those that we live for. One that makes all of the climbing around, the hard concrete floors, all the nicks and stabs from working on these things, all the back-orders, dead-ends and missed connections shrink to insignificance. Yesterday was a day when opportunity, weather and two complex machines all cooperated and we were blessed to spend precious minutes plying the skies in formation flight.

Formation flight is both a lot of hard work and a lot of fun when done right. First it’s a contract between a lead and a wing that both will perform their responsibilities to the very best of their abilities. No day-dreaming on this flight. It consists of a lead who is responsible for the safety of all concerned, who takes situational awareness to the extreme and can communicate, navigate and keep the sky free from danger. It also takes a wingman who can watch over the lead, who spends 90% of their time trying to get back in position, who doesn’t lag very far behind with the situational awareness part and who can step up in a heartbeat to lead if needed.

When it all comes together and is done right it has its very own personal reward. It builds a bond unlike any other between those who have entrusted their lives to one another. It also has a unique grace and beauty found nowhere else in flying and it can humble even the most experienced to know that on that day, in that time and place, they were chosen to be there. What a day!


There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.