Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week Eighteen: Form

Well, it's been everything I thought it would be and more.

I love formation flying, it's the coolest thing I've ever done and I can't wait to keep doing it. I can't really describe the adrenaline rush you get from being THAT close to another plane while flying your own. It's amazing. Both flying wing and lead are fun, in their own way, but you really have to adjust your mindset when you're flying form.

As lead, you are responsible for the flight. So all of the radio calls, navigation, and decision-making are on you. Since Number 2 is flying off of your wing, you have to also be sure that you are flying a stable platform. Basically you need to be smooth and controlled when you start a turn or anything like that, so #2 isn't thrown wide/high/low without enough time to react. You're also very directive as #1. One of the funniest things you say as #1 is the call to tell #2 to get away from you as if he had lost you in the weather. It goes: "Axle, go practice lost wingman." I like it because it's basically like "Get the f*** outta here" haha. Axle is just one of the formation callsigns. We have to sign them out the day of our flight, so that no one else can use it. Otherwise it'd be disastrously confusing if there were two Axle flights flying at the same time. But the lost wingman thing is pretty important. On my first form ride (the form dollar ride, because we didn't fly too much) we quickly got into the weather. We STILL have to fly in formation, even in the clouds, so you've got to be really diligent and not lose your wingman in the grey haze. It's pretty crazy to see.

As Number 2, your biggest job is to not hit number 1! Your other jobs are backing up #1 on the radios, helping to clear for other planes, and trusting #1. I like flying wing more than leading actually. Your skills are really tested when you have to stay in a position that's set for you. It's difficult, because you have to adjust your spacing in three dimensions using the stick and power control lever (PCL). The stick moves you laterally and vertically with respect to #1, and the PCL moves you forward and aft. You are constantly moving them; there is no rest or break in adjusting the controls. As lead, you just set your power and trim up the aircraft to fly level (or whatever), but as #2 you are constantly fighting to get into position and keep it there.

At first it's a bit discouraging because you suck and you're flying all over the place. But as you get better and better, you get more stable and start to stay right in position.

The comms are a bit difficult at first, because you not only have to communicate with outside controlling agencies, but also with your wingman. So there are just more things to say. We also use a lot of visual hand signals which are pretty cool. You are so close to them that hand signals work really well. Think about that!! Some of the signals involve individual fingers sticking up to indicate numbers and such. Think about how close to someone you have to be to see individual fingers. Now imagine that distance but now you're both in two different aircraft!

Anyway it's amazing. It's also really cool to be up there with my fellow flight-mates and classmates. I've only been up with an IP in the backseat, but now it's another student and his IP. I think it's really cool to see that.

I also got thrown into an instrument ride, my first one ever. You have to wear a little hood thing while flying to restrict your vision of the outside. So you just have to fly off your instruments and hope you know what you're doing. Overall I didn't do too badly, but seeing as how it was my first one ever I was happy even with the mistakes I did make. But you have to sit in the back seat, you don't get to land at all, and you barely do any maneuvers. So form is much better!

That's it for this week, we're getting close now! September 26th is our track select and I'm getting stoked for the end of T-6s and the beginning of bigger and better things.

~ Dakota


  1. What happened to the rest of your posts! I'm headed to OTS in Nov. and then UPT afterwards.... was enjoying getting a feel for the day to day grind.

  2. I'll get on it, Mike. Let it slip from my list of pressing concerns, but definitely need to keep updating every week. Thanks!

  3. Awesome, yes there are more important things. Understandable.