THE RISKS OF FOR­MA­TION FLY­ING

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In re­gard to the May 2018 Fly­ing ar­ti­cle “Learn to Fly For­ma­tion Like the Pros,” I noted mul­ti­ple ref­er­ences to lower risk in con­duct­ing for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions. I’d ar­gue that for­ma­tion fly­ing has in­her­ently more risk than rou­tine sin­gle-air­craft op­er­a­tions. We’re not talk­ing about mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions here. Although for­ma­tion is in­tended to be well-planned and ex­e­cuted in dis­ci­plined and co­or­di­nated fash­ion, lapses, er­rors and skill de­fi­cien­cies are of po­ten­tially higher con­se­quence.

Did I feel safer fly­ing in the Mooney Car­a­van to Oshkosh? Not par­tic­u­larly. Min­i­mally “qual­i­fied” for­ma­tion pi­lots (via a week­end clinic) de­part­ing Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, with (gen­er­ally) fully loaded, un­der­pow­ered air­planes in a mass for­ma­tion to the big­gest air­show in the world. What could pos­si­bly go wrong? Plenty, and thus your read­er­ship should un­der­stand that these types of op­er­a­tions as­sume sig­nif­i­cant risk and should be ap­proached with a very healthy dose of safety con­scious­ness.

The for­ma­tion groups do a fairly good job try­ing to in­fuse stan­dards and ac­cept­able/ grad­u­ated per­for­mance lev­els for their par­tic­i­pants. Granted, learn­ing for­ma­tion is chal­leng­ing, fun and will en­hance your fly­ing skill. How­ever, un­der­stand­ing the unique haz­ards and how to ap­pro­pri­ately man­age risk should be well un­der­stood be­fore “join­ing up.” Tom Huff, Spring­field, Ge­or­gia

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