Formation flying

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A Gloster Meteor flies in formation with a Hawker Hunter at an airshow in 2009
RA-5C Vigilantes in formation.

Formation flying is the disciplined flight of two or more aircraft under the command of a flight leader.[1]

Military pilots use formations for mutual defense and concentration of firepower.[2]

In civil aviation, formation flying is performed at air shows and is also flown for recreation. Formation flying also has been discussed as a means to reduce fuel use by minimizing drag.[3]

Studies of birds have shown that the V formation can greatly enhance the overall aerodynamic efficiency by reducing the drag and thereby increasing the flight range.[4]

Unmanned aerial vehicle formation flight[edit]

The challenge of achieving safe formation flight by unmanned aerial vehicles has been extensively investigated in the 21st century with aircraft and spacecraft systems. For aerial vehicles the advantages of performing formation flight include fuel saving, improved efficiency in air traffic control and cooperative task allocation. For space vehicles precise control of formation flight may enable future large aperture space telescopes, variable baseline space interferometers, autonomous rendezvous and docking and robotic assembly of space structures.[5] One of the simplest formations used is where autonomous aircraft maintain formation with a lead aircraft which may itself be autonomous.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ T-34 Association Formation Flight Manual
  2. ^ Pilot's Manual for Basic Flying Training, Royal Canadian Air Force TC-44, 1962
  3. ^ Kroo, Ilan. "Future Air Transportation and the Environment". Woods Energy Seminar. Stanford University. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Effects of Leader’s Position and Shape on Aerodynamic Performances of V Flight Formation"
  5. ^ Gu, Yu; et al. (2011). "Formation Flight Control". Article ID 798981. International Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 2011. 2011: 1–2. doi:10.1155/2011/798981.
  6. ^ "3 YF-22 UAV Formation Flight Control Experiment". 2004.